Racing for free is fun and easy…just follow these simple steps:

1 – Whenever you feel like it, stop by the (fill-in-the-blank) race

2 – Chat it up with some friends then head out on the course when it’s most convenient for you

3 – Take your ‘I did it’ photo in front of the race logo

4 – Chat it up some more with your friends about your feats of strength and determination

5 – Finish your free beer.  Have another, you’ve earned it!

6 – Leave

7 – At some point…again, when it’s most convenient for you…jot something down and send it to the publication

8 – Bask in the glory of a job well done

9 – Plan your next free race

10 – Rinse and repeat (No really…rinse…a lot. You’re covered in mud and you’ve GOT to look good for that next ‘before’ photo!)

Most people probably think this is how it goes when we cover races for an Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) publication like Mud Run Guide (MRG). I’m also convinced that more than a few race promoters think the same thing. It reminds me of a story I wrote years ago. When everyone with some undeveloped property and a power saw thought they could be the next big OCR race. Millions in profit…just waiting for you!

So what do promoters get out of this, to make offering a free race even worth the effort? After all, they may think, if I can build a good course, I can promote it…that just makes sense right??!! Well, how about this, outside a few of the very largest promoters, few can match the reach of the top online publications. The publications have around 999,000 more hits on their sites than the races do every month. People go there for independent OCR race reviews. The publications also have like a billion people following on Instagram…and have I mentioned FB, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, etc, etc. And we haven’t even started talking about analytics or SEO and maximizing exposure, something MRG lives and breathes. No…we haven’t even started talking…you get the point though.

So, now that we know why promoters want their races covered, you may be wondering, what does a real race assignment look like? Well, it actually goes more like this:

1 – Depending on the distance to the race, you’re likely out by 3am, which means sleep the night before ends up being more of a nap than sleep.

2 – If you’re lucky, you may run into some friends before having to sprint over to catch the elites going off and jogging around for photos at obstacles before meeting them at the finish.

3 – So by the time you do finish getting their photos and names, sharing photos of the course, festival and teeming throngs of racers, on many days you’ll be exhausted before even starting. So the before picture looks a lot like the ‘I did it’ picture, without the mud

4 – Sorry…your friends all left while you were still on the course…catch ‘em on FB later I guess.

5 – Ok, this one you DO get…provided they haven’t run out of beer, which occasionally happens…and absolutely makes it into my race review

6 – Whoa…hold up there, you still have some coverage to finish up, so no leaving just yet. Obstacle and festival shots you were too busy to get earlier. Chats with the crew and racers. You’ve got work to do.

7 – Now comes the real challenge…writing a complete, coherent, interesting, honest assessment in your race review. Ohhh…and have it ready by Monday after the race. Sound easy? Try it after your next race…and leave it here in the comments. [Actually, I’d love to see it. If it’s good, maybe you can become part of the team here at MRG!] [Editor’s note and disclaimer…the author has no legal authority to offer MRG race contributor positions. Although we may consider trading him in for the right person!!]

8 – YES!! You absolutely get to bask in the glory of your task well done…in fact you get to bask twice. For your review and for your race.

9 – Actually, you get to do this too…plan your next race that is. Well, who isn’t doing that??!!

10 – For most, rinse and repeat is fine too. Although admittedly, no amount of rinsing seems to make me look any better for the before photos…or the after photo for that matter. Then again, I don’t have to look at me. I mean, when was the last time you saw a mirror at an OCR race?!

So, if that’s what it takes to race for free, why do it?

For one, we get to meet a lot of great people who love OCR as much as we do…racers and volunteers. Not to mention getting to know some great build and support crews, and getting a look behind the scenes. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet and talk with a number of elite racers, often before they became household names. And besides having a chance to experience different races, if you’re lucky, someone may even ask you to run the first ever national championship course…just for some feedback. [Yes, that did happen…but does take a certain amount of skill to place yourself in just the right spot, at just the right time!] Then of course, there are the people behind (and not so behind) the scenes at MRG. The editor, staff and fellow racers/writers that make what we do so much easier, look so good and offer perspectives we haven’t considered.


The grass always seems to look greener on the other side of the fence. Or in this case,  maybe the mud looks browner on the other side of the barbed wire. Perhaps though, you’ll have a new perspective on what goes into those race reviews MRG keeps pumping out for your enjoyment. I know that it certainly has given one to me.


Tell us what you think!

Do you check out race reviews before signing up for an event?  What do you most want to know about a race…the obstacles, course difficulty, extra fees, ease of parking/registration?  Let us know!


Wondering what’s going on in OCR these days? Be sure to check out our series on OCR in 2018!


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Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of Mud Run Guide LLC, or their staff. The comments posted on this Website are solely the opinions of the posters.