I'll say right off the bat, that I'm personally not a fan of electricity in obstacles, or of getting shocked in general for that matter. Even way back in high school when everyone else was playing with static shocks from the Van de Graaf generator; I wasn't keen.
My First Electrified Obstacle
The first time I came across an electrified obstacle was the Electric Eel in a Tough Mudder. This consisted of crawling through about 10m of shallow puddles and mud, with many electrified wires hanging down that you couldn't really avoid. Every 2-3 secs the wires would let out a quick 10,000 volts pulse of electricity.
What made this obstacle even worse was the claustrophobic nature of it. Due to the number of people and the terrain, you couldn't go fast, and would get stuck if the people in front of you stopped. So it was inevitable that you were going to get shocked, if not several times.
When I did it, I received a minor shock at first which wasn't too bad, but then another just before the end which was quite painful. It was right on my bum, and seemed to shoot right through my body! It was painful, it was certainly not enjoyable, and my body took several minutes to return to feeling "normal".
In the same Tough Mudder, electricity featured in another obstacle at the end of the race: the infamous Electroshock Therapy. I sprinted through it, pretty much terrified after what had happened during the electric eel, and fortunately only received a couple very minor nips.
After that experience, I have pretty much dreaded any obstacles that feature electricity, and have actually actively avoided entering any races in the first place if I know they contain electricity.
What's the Point?
I just don't see the point. They don't require any skill to get past and you can't train for it. They are basically included as a gimmick with the sole purpose of scaring people and inflicting pain. Yes, I can appreciate that part of the challenge is overcoming your fear, and you might get a solid hit of endorphins when you're about face a scary electrified obstacle.
However I don't find that "enjoyable" fear. For example, the fear you experience when you're standing at the top of a giant platform about to jump into the water below or about to attempt climbing a huge wall; that's fun and enjoyable fear. For overcoming it, you're rewarded with a fun experience and sense of achievement.
Electrified obstacles on the other hand, all you get in return for overcoming your fear is a nasty painful electric shock.
There have been many cases in the past year, both in the media as well as random accounts, of people being knocked out and/or injured due to an electrified obstacle. I hope that it doesn't come to someone being killed before these obstacles are completely removed.
Fortunately some races are taking notice of this, and an article a couple weeks back (OutsideOnline.com) stated that Swedish OCR Tough Viking were removing all electrified obstacles from their races. Tough Mudder are also phasing out Electric Eel and have introduced an option to skip the final ElectroShock Therapy obstacle for returning Mudders who have previously already completed it.
There is however still support for these obstacles. Only yesterday, Tough Guy published a photo on Facebook for one of their electrified obstacles featuring in Tough Guy: The Original next weekend. The comments against the post were full of people saying they couldn't wait to face this electric obstacle.
Whether this is just a vocal minority I'm not sure, but I am sure that the inclusion of these types of obstacles certainly puts some people off.
Pros and Cons
Trying to be objective for a minute, as I know I've been pretty one-sided so far :P I've put together a quick list of pros and cons from what I can gather that electricity brings to an obstacle course race. Here they are:
- They are scary, and so can cause your body to release endorphins that feel great and can be addictive
- Bragging rights from getting through them
- Most races allow them to be skipped if the participant really doesn't want to do it (though if anything like myself, skipping an obstacle is not an option).
- They can cause painful electric shocks and injuries
- Can be seen as gimmicky, and detract from the legitimacy of the race
- They don't really require any skill and you can't train for them.
These are just my own views. I would be keen to hear what other people think, particularly any other reasons why people do actually enjoy these. So please feel free to sound off in the comments below.