Profile: Obstacle Course Racer David Magida

David Magida was a conference champion cross country runner in high school. Photo: Courtesy of Spartan Race

The former cross country runner is now one of the top competitors on the obstacle racing scene.

David Magida, 28, is not only one of the top obstacle course racers in the world, he’s an ambassador for the sport and has worked countless hours to legitimatize and unify it. He’s a pro Spartan racer who’s won a dozen obstacle races, including six in the past year, and finished on the podium of a dozen more. He finished fifth in the Spartan national rankings in 2013.

How did you get into obstacle racing? 

For as long as I can remember, I was an athlete. Soccer, swimming, wrestling, basketball, football. I played it all. But it was running that was my true love as a kid. I wasn’t a star but I was good enough to win a conference title in cross country in high school.

After a brief career running collegiately, I ended up taking about five years off from running. During that time I became a gym rat. Flash forward a few years and I see an ad for some event called Spartan Race pop up online. The race was eight miles long and littered with obstacles. Despite not having run for years I went out, raced it, won my heat and collapsed at the finish line. From that moment I was hooked, and the next day I began a rigorous training regimen.

Why do you prefer obstacle racing as opposed to running or another sport?

The first is the excitement. Every race is dramatically different. The obstacles don’t give you a chance to get bored or even zone out. You can’t afford to make mistakes. And mountains generally do a good job of leveling the playing field.

Also contributing both to my love of the sport and to the excitement is the diverse set of skills the sport requires. Strength, speed, endurance, stamina, power, balance and grace. OCR is for the true hybrid athlete. For example, a faster runner might be ahead until a strength obstacle, like a heavy carry, where I’ll pass him. Then his legs are shot from all the heavy lifting and his speed is neutralized. At that point the battle comes down to pure guts.

RELATED: Q&A With Obstacle Racing Star Deanna Blegg

Do you have another job to supplement your career or are you a full-time racer?

I am actually in the process of opening up a group training facility in Washington, D.C. known as Elevate Interval Fitness. We focus on high-intensity interval training. In addition to our daily programming, I also teach outdoor obstacle racing classes. We are opening our doors at the end of the summer. It’s a huge step for me because I was previously working a desk job. If you’re interested in more information you can check out TrainAtElevate.com.

How often do you race?

Honestly, I race way too much. Often two or three weekends a month. With such tough events it really can take a toll on the body. I’m trying to scale back so I can focus on my training as well as my business and really peak for races appropriately. If you look at triathletes and top-notch runners, they generally don’t even do half as many races in a year as we do.

What events do you do? 

I’m happy racing a variety of different obstacle races. I prefer some mountains in the race to keep the speedy runners from just running away with it. It takes their legs and turns the race into a bit more of a dogfight.

There’s certainly more to life than just running events put on by the “Big 3.” I tend to lean toward events that are actually races over just challenges. If the event is untimed, I generally won’t even look at it. Spartan Race is generally my go-to event. Spartan Races also generally have the most competitive field of athletes.

If you want a real hidden diamond check out the Bone Frog Challenge. I ran their second event up at Berkshire East Ski Resort and loved it.

RELATED: Spartan Race’s Challenging Obstacles

What does your training schedule look like every week? 

I try to double about three to four days per week. I run five days per week with three of those runs being speed work, hill work or a race and one true long run. In addition to my run training, I do a lot of work on the rowing machine and with circuit training. That’s dumbbell, kettlebell and body weight work, generally very high intensity for 10-40 minute circuits. I ruck or hike with 40-90 pounds once or twice a week and bike and swim often, depending on the season. But I’m a big believer in active recovery, so I tend to follow my brutally hard workouts with light jogs, swimming or easy bike rides.

Could you elaborate on unifying the sport?

I believe that the only way the sport not only becomes legitimate in the eyes of the masses, but also survives, is if race companies band together to help grow it from the ground up.

I’ve been collaborating with United States Obstacle Course Racing (USOCR) for a few months now and I believe they have the appropriate vision and minds in place to take the sport in a very positive direction. We have a lot of work to do in terms of ensuring quality control, safety and logistics, but I think if the big companies buy into USOCR they will all benefit greatly from it.

My dream is to see OCR blossom as a collegiate sport. Maybe as a club sport first. But eventually there should be permanent race sites all over the country where high school races and invitationals could be held. If the sport continues to grow, everyone benefits.

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