ELECTRIC Shocks, ice baths, hurdles of burning tyres, all littering courses designed to break the very spirit of those hardy enough – or foolish enough – to attempt to finish them.
Welcome to the world of extreme obstacle racing.
Over the past three years it’s grown from a niche activity to a fully-fledged sport, complete with its own regular series of events and national rankings.
Currently ranked number one on the Australian Obstacle Course Racing League is Queanbeyan’s Will Lind.
The 28-year-old former public servant turned personal trainer recently returned from competing at the sport’s first ever world championships in the United States.
Dubbed “an obstacle race from hell” the 21km race required participants to engage in rope climbs, crawl under barbed wire and lug tyres and sandbags up hills among other tests of competitors’ strength of mind as well as body.
“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say they were trying to break people,” Lind says of the Vermont course which nearly 1000 of the 5500 competitors failed to complete.
“A third of the way through I really started struggling to hold my position. I started to get slower and slower and…I really went from trying to achieve a result to just wanting to survive the event.
“I was fighting some quiet, lonesome battles in my head through some parts of the course. But once you make that decision not to give up, the only action you can take is to put one foot in front of the other and never thinking ‘why’?
“’Why’ can be a very dangerous question to ask.”
Lind discovered obstacle racing earlier this year after falling out of love with the somewhat more sedate pursuit of road cycling.
For those on the outside looking in, the sport’s appeal may be difficult to discern.
After all, the idea of getting up at 4am to crawl through muddy creeks, jump through flames or carry rock filled buckets up steep slopes doesn’t necessarily appeal to everyone.
But Lind said the sport’s attraction was simple, “it’s all about the challenge”.
“As it’s gotten more attention in the media there’s been a lot of commentary as to why people feel this need to go out and punish themselves,” he said. “But I don’t see it like that at all.
“I don’t consider myself a masochist. Yes it’s uncomfortable but it’s never impossible.
“For me as well, what’s really drawn me in is the amazing community of people involved. Yes the guys at the top are competitive but maybe because it’s still such a young sport, there’s no malice to any of the rivalries.”
And Lind said he was currently looking forward to the first Extreme Obstacle Race to be staged in the ACT which will be held at Caloola Farm toward the end of November.