Athlete Q&A: Spartan Racer Hunter McIntyre

OCR Spartan Race Mud Run Training

Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash—you know these mud runs for the headbands, fire pits, and beer, but obstacle course racing (OCR) is a rapidly growing sport which now even has its own U.S. sanctioning body. For an inside look at the future of the sport, Men’s Fitness caught up with Reebok-sponsored athlete Hunter McIntyre, one of the world’s top ranked competitors in the Reebok Spartan Race.

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Men’s Fitness: How long have you been competing in obstacle course racing?
Hunter McIntyre: I ran my first one in 2012 but I didn’t really start do anything serious until the summer of 2012.

What have been your most proud accomplishments?
Racing in the World Championships, which aired on NBC, was something I was really proud of. To be side by side Olympians, world record holders, and national champions was something I was really excited about.

How many obstacle races do you do a year?
I run about 15-20 races a year. I got seven first places this season.

What is your training routine like?
I follow a CrossFit Endurance model. My old coach, Brian Mackenzie, invented CrossFit Endurance, which is a pyramid where you focus on nutrition, strength, conditioning, skill, and sport. I try to get in peak physical shape year-round and then sharpen my skills leading up to an event. On average, I train twice a day and six days a week. 

How many miles do you run a week?
I run twice a week which adds up to less than 10 miles a week. One will be a sprint interval and the other will be a long distance endurance-building run.

What’s your favorite gear to wear on an obstacle course?
I often wear the Reebok All-Terrain series line and I love the All-Terrain series Super shoe. I’m also a big fan of wearing compression. Don’t wear cotton because it will hold a lot more liquid and stick to you.

What inspired you to enter OCR?
I was hanging out with my friends and they started yelling about doing a Spartan Race. We all signed up and I ended up being the only one to complete the race. I was like, “This is awesome. It’s a brutal, all out effort with climbing ropes and throwing things.” I was hooked right from the start and the sport blew up. I did research and started chasing the best athletes like Cody Moat and Hobie Call to see if I can go toe to toe with them.

What are your goals in OCR?
I love doing short-distance, high-intensity, heavy obstacles. Shorter courses that are skill- and strength-based are becoming more popular and hopefully that will continue. I’m arguably the best athlete in our sport in short distances, but if I want to be considered number one I have to win the long distance race, the 14-mile World Championships.

Where do you see OCR going as a sport?
As OCR becomes more of spectator/sponsor-friendly sport, it will become more of a short distance, heavy obstacle sport. Courses that are three miles or less and very physical will draw big-time athletes and sponsors. With that said, the World Championships will always be there.

What are people most unaware of when it comes to obstacle racing?
I think people are most unaware of how much upper body strength you really need to have. Many of the obstacles, like the rope climb and traverse wall, require a lot of upper body strength. My advice is to do as many pullups as possible and start running, biking, or swimming to boost your cardio.

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