Over the past half decade, obstacle-course racing has taken the fitness world by storm, adding handfuls of physical challenges to a normal running race course to create intense endurance hybrids like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and The Warrior Dash.
The recipe clicked and has continued to grow in popularity year after year, with a reported 4.5 million participants in 2015 alone according to USA Today.
The forward momentum has been so swift that many have suggested obstacle-course racing could be in line for an Olympic nomination by 2020.
In fact, obstacle racing has already established an official governing body, the International Obstacle Racing Federation (IORF) the first step in gaining legitimacy in the eyes of the International Olympic Committee, with its appointed leader, and adventure racing icon, Ian Adamson.
While the movement still has a long way to go before it can really vie for Olympic inclusion, many might not realize that the Olympics has a history with obstacle-course racing that predates the sport’s recent rise in popularity.
Before Michael Phelps was demolishing world records and Ryan Lochte was destroying his credibility, the 200-meter swimming obstacle race was an official Olympic sport included in the swimming disciplines.
Featured in 1900 (and 1900 alone) the combination swimming and obstacle event saw participants climb a pole, scramble over a pile of boats and then swim under a pair of boats en route to the finish line. All of this took place in the swift waters of Paris’ River Seine, adding an additional variable for competitors.
In obstacle swimming’s Olympic debut and conclusion, Australian Frederick Lane took gold, followed by Switzerland’s Otto Wahl, and Great Britain’s Peter Kemp.
Interestingly, Lane went on to win the 200-meter freestyle event later in the Games with a time that was only 13 seconds faster than his obstacle course time.
The event was considered a crowd favorite by Olympic organizers, but the fact that it didn’t enjoy a second running at any Olympics following is not the best of signs for modern-day obstacle-course advocates.
Still, if the IORF does make its expected push over the next few years and gets obstacle-course racing into the Games, let us all hope that they follow their Olympic ancestors when it comes to the sport’s ultimate prize.
After all, instead of a gold medal for his efforts, Lane walked away from obstacle swimming with a 50-pound bronze horse.
More from GrindTV