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Why I Started Obstacle Course Racing

Updated: May 24, 2021

OCR is a sport of many different disciplines, it tests every aspect of your physical ability from agility, strength, speed and technique. You can sign-up for a local mud run of 3 miles to your 24hr World Championships. It has seen a sharp increase in interest and participation since 2012 where more exposure to races and more brands such as Spartan Race and Tough Mudder have invested heavily in marketing and catering to spectators.

Back in 2012 I was a keen football player with an interest in staying fit and always looking for the next challenge. I'm a competitive person with others and myself and when I saw a race called The Nuts Challenge advertised on Facebook I knew I had to enter, it looked cold, scary and physically demanding. It was going to be a perfect way to test me mentally and physically, even though I didn't fully understand what it was.

The Nuts Challenge consisted of a lapped course of 4.5miles with rivers, mud and obstacles based on an army assault course. You either do 1,2,3, or 4 laps. You could do limitless laps but I wasn't ready for that. I chose the 2 laps which was enough for me at the time.

Training consisted of functional stuff in the gym like pull-ups, press-ups and your standard movements like bench press and squats. I also went running twice a week to get up to the 9miles for the race. This was all I knew to do at the time as I had never done an obstacle course race. I just tried my best to get into better shape so that I could lift and pull my own body weight.

What I started to realise was that OCR is something everyone can do, yes it will be hard and you might not be able to do everything, but by giving it a go you will see you're more capable than you first thought. The best thing to do is to remind yourself why you signed up, if its to test yourself physically then train hard and give it your best shot, if its to test yourself mentally then sign-up, get out there and get round as much as you possibility can. OCR offers you an achievement every step of the way unlike any other sport, get over a wall; feel strong, get to the top of a hill; feel motivated, wade through a river; feel mentally tough. You will feel every emotion through an OCR but most of all you would have stepped outside your comfort zone and tried a new upcoming sport.

One thing I wish I knew more about was clothing, I rocked up with gym gear which wasn't all bad, but I had road running shoes on. Now i'm not saying you need to buy new shoes if this is your first time, but I honestly wish I had. I had no grip on obstacles so slipped everywhere and not to mention the amount of water they soaked up. I got round the course in a respectable 02:16:00 which I'm happy with since I was racing on the same day as a certain man called Jon Albon (You will soon know who he is, he's a big deal in the OCR world).

Skipping from 2012 to 2020 we are now lucky enough to have training facilities offering taster sessions to give that OCR feel without having to sign up to race. You can also train for OCR in the right way with qualified OCR coaches. I have trained at a few places around the UK which have helped me with all aspects of my knowledge and skills for OCR. Below are a selection of them and I will talk about them in more detail soon.

After the Nuts Challenge I was hooked and I carried on to try and complete as many challenges I could find. I entered a race called Rat Race Man v Mountain, Rat Race Dirty Weekend, The Suffering Race and then the London Marathon. I have improved year after year and this is how I then found my way into the competitive side of OCR where I have been to the European Championships, World Championships and won the 2019 Spartan Regional series for my age. I continue to compete and train daily. Training now is very different from when I started, I now focus my training on each aspect of OCR and have a coach guiding me on what to train for and how to achieve my goals, which is important as ever given the current climate.

In September of last year I returned to The Nuts Challenge and competed in the 4 lapped race and managed to get 2nd place. This shows that with training and dedication you can return with more knowledge, physical ability and the right shoes and smash the course!!!

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