Obstacle etiquette

In the final 50 meters of a sprint race, is it ok to overtake a team on a novelty obstacle course? This is a question that came out at a recent sprint race when two equally strong and competitive teams reached the inflatable obstacle course, the one slightly ahead of the other. The first obstacle had two lines running up the front; the later two obstacles had only one line. Should the team from behind have overtaken the team ahead, to claim victory?

Despite my teasing of the winning team over ‘obstacle etiquette’, there are actually two right answers here.

Yes, it is ok for them to overtake

Although the start of the obstacle course is very much considered the end of the race, with teams patiently waiting for team ahead (even if they’re slower on the obstacles) to take their turn, the race is still on. The first obstacle had two lines and the generally rule is ‘one line per team’. The team coming from behind evidently had better strength here and they went ahead of the leading team. If I got to this obstacle at the same time as another team (it was deflated when we got there), I’d also take the other line, ascending the obstacle at the same time – and certainly hoping to beat them.

The next obstacle had one line, which accommodates one person at a time. So, after the first obstacle, it would be one-one-one until the finish line; the team behind has to wait, even if the team ahead is slower and struggling on the obstacles.

If the other obstacles also had two lines I’d be tempted to say it is fair game to keep racing through this section; team work comes into play on the obstacle course and with one line per team, two teams can be accommodated at one time. There is no rule that says, ‘the race stops at the start of the obstacle section’, so, the race is still on.

No, the obstacle course is a novelty activity; the race ‘stops’ at the start of this section

These inflatable obstacles don’t handle multiple people scrambling up them at the same time; the obstacle course doesn’t have two lines on all inflatables – so people have to wait for each other; and this section is just for fun. Also, if a team beats you over the length of the course, it is not really etiquette to pip them at the post over a section that really is non-competitive.


I’m swayed to saying it is not ok in this situation purely because there are not two lines on every obstacle. But, you don’t necessarily know this starting the section, afterall, there were two lines on the first obstacle, which made it fair game for both teams.

So, there is no right and wrong – it just comes down to an unwritten etiquette perhaps. The members of both teams in this situation are wonderful athletes, people and sportsman so there was definitely no pushing and shoving for position – the race was still underway. They both happen to be very good and the one leveraged their better obstacle abilities to put them ahead on that first obstacle.

1 Comment

  1. Surely the race organisers should provide multiple lines on all obstacles. Don’t competitors deserve good value for money? After all, adventure racing is not just about fitness with novelty special stages – it’s about all-round skill and tenacity.

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