Insurance for Mud Run and Obstacle Course Events

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Accident Insurance for Mud Runs And Obstacle Courses

Medical limits available: $25,000 to $100,000

AD&D limits up to $10,000

Deductibles available: $100 to $5,000


Mud Runs and Obstacle Courses are Growing in popularity

Two sporting activities that are growing in popularity are mud runs and obstacle course races (OCRs). These are unique variations on the typical 5k walk/run, adding water or various strength and agility-challenging hurdles to the race course. Both draw their inspiration from military training exercises. 

Both also lend themselves to a certain level of organized chaos that, ironically, require  preplanning and organization. Therefore, before signing anyone up to dive through the mud, scale a rope wall or leap across flames, keep in mind the challenges and potential risks to participants and event organizers.

Distinct Challenges in Obstacle Course Races

An OCR is considered by the insurance industry to be  less safe than a traditional running event. The elements introduced into the race are also different from what people are used to encountering. Maneuvering over and through them while running increases the risk of injury. Obstacle Course Races also Insurance for mud run and obstacle course run eventsdiffer in varying degrees of difficulty.

Race organizations strive to come up with inventive and extreme obstacles to challenge participants. These obstacles include variations on climbing walls, monkey bars, barbed wire, firepits, ice baths and even electrical wires. Obviously, the risks of injuries to OCR increases insurance rates.

In 2015, 4.5 million people finished obstacle course races.  The running industry, which includes OCRs and mud runs, is estimated at $1.4 billion.  OCRs and mud runs make up a large percentage of such races. Therefore, the risk facing the organizers of these events is becoming more prevalent.

Varying degrees of OCR difficulty

We recommend every would-be OCR participant attend as a spectator first to observe they types of obstacles runners encounter. And it’s important to choose the OCR for which you are best suited and can train properly. There are many different styles and difficulty levels of OCRs, but below are three of the most popular:

  • The Warrior Dash is a beginner’s best option. The course is just over three miles and includes moderately difficult obstacles, which runners have the option of skipping without penalty. 
  • The Tough Mudder is definitely not for beginners. The course runs 10 to 12 miles and includes more than 25 obstacles. The final obstacle participants encounter is a field of hanging live electrical wires of as much as 10,000 volts.
  • Navy Seal-inspired Spartan races are not for the faint of heart.  Runners may choose from several different courses and degrees of difficulty from the Spartan Sprint to to the Super Spartan.

Risk of liability for Mud Runs and Obstacle Course Races

All mud run and OCR participants should be required to sign a waiver before registering. However, a waiver or liability release is not foolproof and does not take the place of insurance. A poorly-drafted waiver/liability release or adverse state case law or legislation may torpedo the waiver/release. Injuries and injury lawsuits are bound to occur, and race organizers risk severe losses if not properly protected. Please see our article “Are Waivers Worth the Paper on Which They’re Written?”

Injuries can occur in any type of race, but injuries in obstacle course racing can be more severe. Commonplace cuts and bruises rarely require medical attention. However, serious injuries requiring immediate care, such as bone fractures, concussions, paralysis, or burns may be rare, but their high severity is dangerous for race organizers.

Race organizers must also take into consideration unsafe obstacles, inadequate safety measures, and dangerous behavior by participants and spectators. While rare, fatalities have occurred.  

A participant drowned in a 2013 Tough Mudder. The obstacle course was apparently overcrowded and officials couldn’t see him in distress. He was submerged under water for more than seven minutes before divers reached him, but it was too late. The case settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. 

A climbing structure in a Louisiana Warrior Dash collapsed, sending 11 people to the hospital, three by air transport. Inadequate bracing caused the collapse. And in a Nevada Tough Mudder, 22 people were infected with Campylobacter coli from the mud pit.

Checklist for Mud Run or Obstacle Course Race Organizers

Organizers of mud runs and OCRs should be sure to use the following list of safety concerns. Doing so lowers the potential for injuries and liability. 

Event Course Safety

  • Participant waiver/release of liability
  • Participants required to wear proper footwear
  • Written safety plan for emergencies, including severe weather, active shooter, collapsed equipment, etc.
  • Man-made vs manufactured obstacles: consideration the qualifications of the builder/installer and the risks involved if something goes wrong.
  • Inflatables: Can deflate or be wind-swept causing serious injuries.
  • Inspect the course before and after the event
  • Maintain a list of injuries sustained on obstacles
  • Inspect obstacles for protruding nails, splinters, insecure screws and bolts, and signs of rot and warping
  • Ropes to be designed for climbing, showing no signs of rot or unraveling, with all ends securely tied or fastened
  • Fall Protection: Nets should meet load-bearing standards and be, secured with steel hooks
  • Review course map and description of obstacles
  • Adequate provision of water for participants

Water Safety

Water obstacles in OCRs are typically crowded with tired participants of varying degrees of swimming ability.  If including a water obstacle in your event, please incorporate the following:

  • Option for participants to skip the obstacle
  • Water 4’ and above requires presence of a certified lifeguard, preferably two 
  • Have floatation devices available
  • A safety line