Can You Run An Obstacle Course Race Alone?

For those looking to get involved in obstacle course racing for the first time, one of the most intimidating aspects can be not being part of a team. If you’ve asked friends or even family to join on your adventure and their answer is “no” – don’t lose heart. For someone that’s run many events solo, including some night races, here is some useful advice and proper encouragement.

At an obstacle course race, you can enter as an individual or as part of a team. However, some obstacles will require some teamwork such as Tough Mudder’s Pyramid Scheme or Hero Walls. Depending on the rules of the race, most people on the course are friendly and will help you. Some teams will have odd numbers and may require another person if the next challenge needs to be done in pairs. You may feel that you’re running alone, as you get through the course, you’ll feel part of a community.

How to overcome those solo pre-race obstacle course nerves

The first Tough Mudder I went to was at Midlands 2018, I had nobody to run with and no spectators. Sometimes, it helps to focus on the race at hand. Driving to Belvoir Castle, listening to my determination running playlist helped me to stay focused. The top of the list was Slayer’s “Raining Blood” it’s such a therapeutic tune. (Depends if you like Death Metal).

As daft as it seems, I’ve been to concerts such as Metallica and Iron Maiden on my own and had a blast. It’s essential to focus on the experience of being there and living in the moment. There’s nothing like obstacle course racing to help you live in the present. When you’re on top of a cargo net that’s over 25 feet high (aka “Mudderhorn”) you forget about everything else.

Life is about having experiences. Doing obstacle course races alone will no-doubt test your mental grit and perseverance. At the end of the event, you’ll feel proud, accomplished, and not feel guilty about having that supersized MacDonald’s meal on the way home!

Here’s why you should do an obstacle course race – even if you’re not in a team.

Lots of other people run OCR races alone

Every year, thousands of people sign up to do their first obstacle course race. We all must start somewhere on our OCR Racer journey. At times, it’s a case of buying your ticket and rocking up to the event. Sometimes the motivation of losing the money for the race is enough to do it. The reward for getting out of your comfort zone and signing up to your first obstacle race can be the start of a new journey or passion for you. Thousands of others globally run multiple events annually.

You’ll have amazing stories and memories to look back on!
Whenever I do an obstacle course race, there’s always been something amusing, exciting, wacky, or silly happened, and that’s the fun of getting involved.

I’ll give you an example, in September 2019, I signed up to do Tough Mudder Northwest for the Saturday afternoon. It’s a 3-hour drive at best to Chester from Hull. I got there, got the tent sorted and chilled out with a fantastic team called the “Mudbro’s and MudHoe’s”. Saturday night around the campfire, I got gently persuaded to do the Sunday morning run. Others were staying had a five or six-hour drive home, so I thought “what the hell”.

The following morning, I was ready for bang-on 9 am. Getting ready for the next wave was the infamous annual Tough Mudder “Granny Run”.

Tough Mudder is a family affair – don’t forget to invite granny. #ToughMudder #TougherTogether — Tough Mudder (@ToughMudder) February 5, 2018

The granny run is where Tough Mudder runners dress up as grannies. They have the wigs, granny dresses, and some of them have inflatable zimmer frames. It’s so comical to see!

There are a lot of characters and people having fun at these events. Some of the stories you’ll hear and see at the event are hilarious. So just by being there, you’ll experience some outrageous stories and have a great time.

You’ll develop more mental and physical resilience

Signing up for your first obstacle course race and going solo is a great achievement; especially before getting to the start line. It takes a lot of guts to do a new sport, especially on your own.
So, by doing something that is going to challenge you mentally or physically, you do have an opportunity to work on yourself.

By doing things on your own and going to these events, you will build an immense amount of personal confidence, self-worth and appreciate how much fun you can have. You don’t always need friends and people around you all the time. Put it this way – it’s your friends that are missing out.

Sometimes, if you’re very competitive person such as myself and you want to carry on running, it can be challenging to find someone who can always match your pace.

There’s lots of support available through social media

Before doing Europe’s Toughest Mudder in May 2019, I knew this was going to be a mammoth task. Running this event alone was going to test my very being. A 12-hour race that starts at 8:00 pm and goes throughout the night. I didn’t know anybody that was doing this race, not a single soul. So, I managed to find a Facebook group called the Toughest Mudder Community and introduced myself. Then started to get to know people on social media. Finding others helped to build confidence going into the event. There’s also a group on Facebook called OCR Solo Mudders. So, you may feel alone, but you never are.

People will help you

It’s almost impossible to finish a Tough Mudder alone. If you plan to complete every obstacle on the course, you will need some help. There are at least five to six obstacles that I can think of; that I’ve needed help to get over.

Everybody on the course is in the same position. Runners want to complete the obstacles to the best of their ability. You’ll be surprised how many people you don’t know that’ll help you. When it comes to climbing over 10 foot plus walls, everyone needs to help each other. Without help on these high walls, you’re more prone to injury.

Another Tough Mudder favourite of mine is the “Block Ness Monster”. This obstacle needs the support of everyone to get through it – this is teamwork at its best.

I will try to describe Block Ness Monster to you, but it might be best to watch the video down below.

Block Ness Monster has giant rotating blocks surrounded by water. The challenge is to climb over the rotating blocks across to the dry land. This obstacle requires teamwork and to use people’s body weight to get the blocks to rotate. (Watch the video).

Another example of teamwork is the “Pyramid Scheme”. This obstacle is usually close to the end of any Tough Mudder event. To complete this obstacle, you’ll rely on others to create a human chain to get up to the top of the pyramid. (Watch the video).

Again, everybody helps each other on these obstacles. It’s not always about coming in first place. Obstacle course races like Tough Mudder encourage people to work together and help each other through the challenges. I can assure you at the end of an obstacle course race; you will have grown mentally and physically and come away from an event a stronger person from this experience.

If you’re still think about running your first race alone

To summarise, if you’re seriously thinking of doing an obstacle course race and don’t have anybody to run with – don’t worry about it!

But seriously encourage yourself to sign up and try one. I learnt many years ago that if you wait on other people to do things with, it’s likely not to happen.

Life is about living! If your friends don’t want to do what you want, don’t worry. You’ll make plenty of new friends and memories at an obstacle course race event! As a result, people will come back and do more OCR events.

If you want to do something that’s out of your comfort zone, I recommend getting on with it!

It takes courage and determination to try a race on your own. Some people like to run on their own, and others struggle. I’d say about 90% of my races I’ve done have been solo.

Everyone is different. Some people might want to be part of a team; some people like to run alone and beat their personal best.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to be brave and try new things. There’s always going to be like-minded people at these events, and many people do show up alone!

I do appreciate it’s a case of getting out of your comfort zone, but once you do, you’ll never look back!

James King has competed in multiple OCR events including Europe's Toughest Mudder from 2019 to 2022, multiple mud events, 10k runs and currently for his first marathon. James includes useful tips and experiences about OCR on his blog

James King has competed in multiple OCR events including Europe's Toughest Mudder from 2019 to 2022, multiple mud events, 10k runs and currently for his first marathon. James includes useful tips and experiences about OCR on his blog