Since the late 90s Obstacle Course races have been growing in popularity. The pandemic put a halt to them, as it did for most other live events, but they are back on now. Participants have enjoyed them for the unique challenge they provide, the group aspect of many races, as well as the marketing budgets of the major organizers.
This includes races like the Spartan series and Tough missed events, as well as others. Each has their own unique challenges, whether it is swimming in a big, climbing stadium steps, or hauling sand bags up a ski slope. Spartan races also are well marketed, especially since they focus on selling packs of multiple races. This allows them to develop unique Spartan race medals, which can be fun to display.
Because of the unpredictable nature of these races, tracking them is unlike road races and marathons where a GPS watch will keep you on pace. Let’s look at the best options for tracking an obstacle course race or event.
What device is best for tracking obstacle courses?
Most trackers that you use on a day to day basis will be fine for obstacle course. However, there are a few things to consider before strapping on.
Water Resistance: Many obstacle races include stations that can be water centric. This includes full submersible stations that may break the water rating of your device. Water will also make any chest strap heart rate monitors a bit more finicky.
Mud and Exposure: Similar to water, mud obstacles can be an issue. Often these won’t stop a device from working, but it may make them hard to access. If you are splashing through mud or other elements, don’t expect to be able to easily stop a lap timer or adjust the view.
Performance or Safety: The final major piece to consider is if wearing a device will be a risk to completing obstacles. With Spartan races known to have fires, light electrocution, wire crawls, throwing and carrying, and more, you don’t want a device to get in the way. Carrying a sandbag is hard enough, but if it catches on your watch you risk damaging the Watch or hurting your wrist. Not to mention that some rougher obstacles may take off a watch or Stryd tracker without you noticing. Entry fees for obstacle races are high enough, don’t get caught adding $200 to it for a replacement Apple Watch.
Check the course itself and see if there are any potential obstacles of concern. Everything from an Apple Watch, Garmin, or Stryd will work, but the course may dictate the best option.
Obstacle Course Race Average Calorie Burned
Tracking a personal time record is rarely the best way to review an obstacle course. Instead these workouts should be compared to other competitors on the same day in the same conditions, but for those challenging themselves it can just be about the workout.
From the perspective tracking calories is helpful. So how many calories will you burn on a Spartan Race or Tough Mudder event?
This should be about equivalent to a standard run, since your heart rate and movement will be that of a typical run. While there is downtime in between some stations, often their difficulty will make up for the time difference. Depending on your weight an hour long obstacle course race can burn 500-1000 calories.
Tracking A Spartan Stadium Race
As mentioned before the courses can vary widely for each event. One popular subset of Spartan events take place in popular urban areas, Stadiums including Angeles Stadium, Cowboys Stadium and more major league venues.
These types of events often supplement distance runs with tons of stairs. Tracking them with a GPS tracker might not have the same result since it’ll be a lot of back and forth through rows. The one upside is if you use Strava for the obstacle course you may be able to more easily find other who also ran be using flybys.
If you want to skip wearing a device, this is a great option. Anecdotal evidence also suggest these will have you running less in the open divisions. This is because it is harder to pass slower individuals in the tight quarters. Use the opportunity to enjoy the course and obstacles for themselves, and just skip the wearables.