In many ways, adventure races and obstacle courses are like popular HBO shows. What do we mean by that? We're talking about spoilers. Spoiler alert, guys: some people don't like spoilers. It spoils their fun, and removes any sense of surprise from the thing they've been anticipating. On the flip-side, some people don't mind spoilers. These people are the people you hear about who will read the final page of a book before buying it, just to make sure that the ending is to their liking.
Why are we talking about spoilers? We're talking about them because we're about to serve you up multiple bowls of spoiler-flavoured broth. So if you've got an obstacle course event on the horizon but just can't stand the not-knowing any longer, here's some of the obstacles you'll probably be facing. When it comes to this particular sub-genre of outdoor fitness, the challenges listed here are as common as the muck you'll be crawling through.
1) Electrocution Thing
Getting electrocuted isn't most peoples' idea of fun. You don't need to be an electrician or a people-person to know this, it's just one of those things that's basically common knowledge. With that in mind, you might be surprised to discover that many obstacle course enthusiasts kind-of-sort-of enjoy it. We don't, you understand, mean they enjoy it in a kinky sex way. That's not what we're saying. All we're doing here is highlighting how year after year people get electrocuted at events like Tough Mudder and then, rather amazingly, come back the next year to go through it all again. Talk about shocking behaviour.
2) Fire Jump
"Woooaaaaaaah....this course is on fire," sings Caleb Followill on that famous Kings of Leon track that we can't be bothered to google the lyrics for. Now, we're not really sure if Nashville's most famous shaggy-haired rock and/or roll sex demons have ticked off all the events on our 10 Hardcore Alternatives To Tough Mudder list. However, what we do know is that 99.99999999% of every obstacle course adventure event ever has involved some sort of fire-jumping shenanigans. Flamin' hell.
3) Ice Bath
Because, let's face it, it wouldn't be right to just burn and electrocute adventure racers as they make their way around an obstacle course. No. No. No. This isn't some sort of creche for toddlers. It's an extreme test of physical and mental strength, and its going to hit you with every type of pain there is. The ice obstacles, for what this information is worth, usually involves swimming through water that's almost freezing. It will turn your nipples into daggers, and your skin a hue of Papa Smurf.
You know why climbing stuff is difficult? It's because gravity doesn't want you to do it, that's why. Whenever people try to climb stuff, the force of gravity is like "woah, woah, woah, where are you going? Stay down in the dirt where you belong." Obstacle courses have a different attitude to climbing stuff. In fact, they pretty much openly encourage it.
Whatever sort of adventure race or obstacle course you end up going pound for pound with, you'll almost certainly be climbing something at some point or other. The massive quarter-pipe at Tough Mudder known as Everest has a legendary reputation on the scene, and is a fine example of this type of obstacle. A note of caution: the muddier these obstacles get, the more challenging they become.
5) Monkey Bars
Remember monkey bars? Monkey bars were great. Getting a rhythm going on a set of monkey bars was the ultimate feeling; enough to make anyone feel like a suburban Tarzan. Back when we were children, monkey bars were a permanent fixture in all of the parks we used to knock about in. Wherever you went, whoever you went there with, you could bet your fingers that they'd be a set of monkey bars to test out your strength on.
If you're now a fully-grown adult and worry people might judge you if you randomly went to a children's park and started playing with the equipment again, worry not because obstacle coursing will give you the chance to do it all (entirely free of judgement). Obstacle courses and monkey bars go together like peas and carrot, like Ant and Dec, like coffee shops and Dalston.
6) Mud! Mud! Glorious Mud!
Not really an obstacle as such. Mud is mud, and almost a rule in and of itself. That being said, when the mud quantities hit the levels seen at most adventure races and obstacle course events it does take on a kind of villainous personality; haunting you wherever your adventuring takes you.
Mud. Mud. Mud. Mud will weigh down your clothes, weigh down your shoes and even, in terms of willpower, weigh down your heart. After coming into contact with so much mud, your bathroom will basically never be the same again.
7) Barbed Wire Challenge
Nothing says brutal obstacle course like rolls upon rolls of barbed wire stretched out across a dirty field. Barbed wire is frightening to look at, frightening to crawl through, and frightening to listen to when it makes hate-speeches in your nightmares. Barbed wire is out there now, waiting for you to take it on, waiting to hurt you like a curled-up spiky worm of pain. You've been warned.
8) Other Adventurers
You might have heard about the great camaraderie at events like Tough Mudder, heard about how everyone helps each other out; both physically and with words of encouragment. And yes, for the most part, this is true. In between all the pornography, funny cat videos, and photos of gourmet burgers, the internet has plenty of examples of muddy outdoorsy people working as a team to get the chubby guy from accounts up the climbing wall and across the finishing line.
However, you should be aware that at times the other competitors will feel like an obstacle. Their flailing limbs a potentially black-eye inducing weapon of doom, and their slips backwards a shin-breaking hazard. Be aware that your obstacle course comrades can just as easily hurt you as help you.
Ropes are like snakes. They haven't got legs and, when you haven't got your contact lenses in, they sort of resemble them physically. Ropes are, admittedly, marginally less terrifying than snakes. However, when you're halfway round an obstacle course and more tired than you've ever been in your entire life, you won't necessarily feel like that. In those moments, you'll look at the rope hanging before you and cry tears of pity for your aching arms and blistered hands. Ropes, man. Ropes are horrible.
10) Your Own Mind
The biggest obstacle of all will be the part of your brain that tells you to sack it off, pack it all in, throw in the towel, wave the white flag, and just give up. You don't need this phyiscal exertion. You could be at home, curled up on the sofa, watching Netflix; or down the pub, with a pint, watching Norwich vs Crystal Palace. Ignore this temptation. If you can overcome this obstacle of the mind, you can achieve anything. Go team! You can do it!