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Off Course: Inside the Mad, Muddy World of Obstacle Course Racing Hardcover – October 14, 2014

4.3 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Beresini uncovers the growing sport's most compelling characters and provides the most authoritative insiders' guide to date.” --Outside Magazine


"Beresini chronicles her personal journey as she prepares for her race, detailing the regimen and questioning, in an engaging, self-deprecating style, what such a sadistic undertaking says about the participants’ sanity. A fascinating insider’s view of endurance racing’s latest craze." --Booklist


"Funny, fast-paced" --American Way Magazine


"Obstacle course racing has taken the endurance world by storm and in OFF COURSE Erin Beresini gives us an insider perspective into the conflict and appeal of these masochistic suffer-fests, culminating in her quest to complete the granddaddy of them all, the Spartan Ultra Beast. A must read for anyone currently competing in, or considering taking on, one of these newfangled racing events." --Dean Karnazes, bestselling author of Ultramarathon Man and 50/50


"Erin Beresini has gone gonzo. In OFF COURSE, she puts herself to the ultimate test in an obstacle racer’s world of alphas and ultras, and Tough Mudders. Her narrative has humor and heart, and a carnival of characters. Her sharp reporting puts the reader there. By the end of her riotous narrative, I had to wipe mud from my glasses at least twenty-six times." --Gary M. Pomerantz, author of Their Life’s Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970’s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now


Book Description

HMH hardcover, 2014; previous ISBN 978-0-544-05532-2
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (October 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544055322
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544055322
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #886,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joel Avrunin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As an amateur runner who aspires to greater distance and speed, I have never understood the subculture of OCR (obstacle course racing). I went from 5k to 10k to half-marathon to marathon. I am now looking to tackle ultras and triathalons. Occasionally I hear mention of "alternative" 5k's with some sort of twist. But I never really understood what would drive someone to want to run a Tough Mudder or Spartan Race. I didn't know the politics and business issues that surrounded both those races (and the countless imitators), nor about the possibly emerging OCR subculture.

Beresini gives us an insight in this book, explaining how the emerging sport of OCR appealed to her, a triathalete and ultra-runner who found after injury that she couldn't put 4 hours+ on her feet anymore. Anyone who has trained for a marathon can tell you the time commitment is huge, Beresini notes that less time on the feet but more focus on strength training characterizes many of those who train for OCR events. At the same time, OCR was perfectly timed with the popularity of Cross-Fit. Cross-Fit trained up thousands of people who had no clue what "event" they were training to do - OCR gave them a target for training.

What makes Beresini's book stand out more than most is that she personalizes the sport. It reminded me of "Born to Run" in that it not only discussed the sport, but the people behind both running and participating in the sport. You'll meet the founder of Tough Mudder, Will Dean. You'll read about his conflicts with Tough Guy UK who alleges he stole the idea (yes, another HBS student steals million dollar idea story), and about the controversy regarding deaths at Tough Mudder events. You'll read about the competing Spartan Races.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Author, Erin Beresini, is a well known endurance athlete and journalist who has written for many sports and fitness magazines. I had read about the grisly "Death Race" by Mark Jenkins in "Outside" magazine and was eager to learn more about the world of obstacle course racing. This book certainly delivered the inside track on the world of obstacle course races made famous by events such as "Tough Mudder", "Death Race", "Spartan Race", etc.. Particularly engrossing to me was the legal battle between "Tough Mudder" founder Will Dean, and "Tough Guy" founder William Wilson. Wilson alleged that Dean breached a confidentiality agreement that he signed when he a student at Harvard Business School, and was conducting a field study on obstacle course races around the world. Instead Dean used his findings to start his own "Tough Mudder" business.

This book isn't just about a bunch of masochistic ultra-endurance athletes trying out a new game, it's about the tough characters and participants behind the origins, and rapid global development/popularity of obstacle course racing. Beresini has done a commendable job of bringing that world alive in a vividly descriptive, side-splittingly funny, and humble, self-deprecating firsthand account that most readers will enjoy.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I read a lot of books about running, and I'm pretty obsessed about running myself, but I'm not really into obstacle course racing (OCR); I much prefer straight road racing (except for those zombie vs survivor races). That said, I really loved this book! As other reviewers have noted, it's kind of like Christopher McDougall's "Born to Run," except about OCR, which is to say, a melding of the author's own sporting experience with gonzo journalism about colorful, almost mythic characters in that same sport. And while the subject matter of "Born to Run" is more to my liking, I think this book is even better than "Born to Run."

Author Erin Beresini really gets into the guys who basically started the whole OCR craze, the founders of Tough Mudder and the Spartan Race. Neither is perfect, and she lays out the good and the bad so that you get a good sense of who they are. She also profiles a couple of the famous participants, including one guy who got his entire back tattooed with the Tough Mudder logo in exchange for a lifetime pass to Tough Mudder events. Beresini doesn't shy away from the high-profile wrongful death litigation over participants who died during OCR events, though she also puts the fatality risk in context by comparing the number of triathlon deaths over the same number of participants (triathlons are riskier?!?).

She's a charming writer, and also I never felt like I was being sold the "perfect" way to do something, unlike "Born to Run," which I think makes some implausible claims about the benefits of forefoot striking. (I run with a midfoot strike, not the dreaded heel strike, and I indeed don't have any knee or hip problems, but I have had minor lower leg/foot injuries which are consistent with the medical research about front/mid-foot striking.) I don't have the urge to do any Tough Mudder or Spartan Race events, though.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a dedicated couch potato, I did not think I'd get much out of reading this... but it succeeds in being more about the people and history of the sport, rather than a training manual. The author succeeded nicely at drawing me in to accounts of personalities and events that I normally wouldn't be remotely interested in, which is no mean feat. I'd definitely recommend it if you're in to running and obstacle courses at all, but you'll probably enjoy it even if you aren't.
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