Top ten things you should know about taking part in an OCR

Participation is all about FUN!

Yes, I know, fun WTF? What’s fun about crawling through/under barbed wire (roll!), trying to make it across 150 metres of monkey bars, carrying logs or sandbags up and down a hill or doing burpees until you want to die… The elite athletes are a breed apart, and those of us who hope one day to stand toe to toe with them will say we want to improve out time, get a place or qualify for the Euro’ or World Champs etc.; but just look at the faces of those taking part, even those crying are actually smiling inside! We are all children getting older and this is the opportunity to regress back to the best bits of childhood! For me this is personified by one of the fastest OCR athletes currently competing, you will soon recognise him, not because he wins nearly every race he enters, but by his pink unicorn tights; like I said, children getting older!

You will test your limits, or in reality, you move them

If it’s just getting around your first ever 5Km or 20-miles, climbing a wall/rope, heights – jumping over things, swimming or just getting wet we all have our limits, mental or physical. And we all have that little monkey on our back saying we will fail… for me its heights, I flipping hate them! Anything more than 2 foot off the floor and my parts of my anatomy shrivel up and I get that coppery taste of adrenaline in the back of my throat! But little by little I have learnt I can climb that rope (it’s all about using your legs not arms!!!), or get over that frame or get over those monkey bars. Challenge yourself and you will quickly discover you are better than you think, don’t get me wrong, it still hard, you will still want to cry or give up, but every time you try (even if you fail) you get a little better, a little stronger and a little faster. Get ready to meet the new you!

You have achieved more than most just by starting

What did I just say about improving yourself? You are there at the start line about to try something new! You are already better than the old you and you are one of the few who have … whether it’s for charity or for giggles you have got off that couch, out of that rut, and you have taken the hardest step. Yes, you will wonder what the hell you were doing thinking you could ever succeed, but just keep putting one foot in front of the other, you can do it. If you don’t start, you can’t finish, and there is that moment as you cross the line, clear the final obstacle where you know you won your own little battle that day! Be proud and enjoy it!

Despite the hype, you do not have to do every obstacle

Please try, you will only improve if you challenge those fears, so please try! BUT nothing is worth a long term or life changing injury! I recently took part in the Rat Race Dirty Weekend, I was running it with one of my best friends (she got me into this game) but she picked up an injury early that meant she would not be able to go as quickly as she normally would, and she knew that with the prevailing weather conditions maintaining her pace was the only way to stay warm. Therefore, we made the decision not to do any of the obstacles that required immersion in water! I know that this will upset some of the purist’s out there but we both knew that there is pushing yourself, and then there is needlessly putting your (and likely other people’s) life at risk. There are events that sell themselves on being the biggest and the hardest and that every obstacle must be completed; In truth, organisers want you to attempt it, if you fail you may have to give up a band or do a penalty (burpees are a favourite) but even this is tongue in cheek and if some are offended by that, get over yourself!

Whilst the big events have the kudos, it’s the smaller events where you will learn what OCR is actually about.
OCR has grown massively over that last decade, and the huge marketing potential this brings has been realised. SPARTAN, NUCLEAR, NUTS and even the infamous TOUGH GUY bring with them all of the razzmatazz (and price) you’d expect; you can pretty much find everything you want at these events, pizza/burger bars, branded clothing including Dryrobes (a waterproof onesie for OCR) or even beer! But it is the smaller events where you get to really see the true spirit of OCR. It’s these little events where you meet the likes of Marc and his mucca’s, Papa Smurf and Tony “Bigfoot” Campbell who mentor you and help you overcome your fears and nerves! It’s the likes of Bootneck Challenge that takes you back to (allows you the opportunity to) pay your respects to the military origins of this great sport!

We are one big family, this brings all the squabbles you’d expect; but at the end of the day we all roll in the same mud.
There is always rivalry, be it between races/event, or team’s, magazines et al. Some take this too far, we all know “that guy/gal”, but I would like to think that out on the course we will always support and push each other; after all those marshals at check points or each obstacle, there is you, another racer who is giving their time to make sure these events happen! Yes, this is a good way of reducing the costs involved, but it brings a community spirit to even the biggest events that I love! So, don’t forget to give out as many muddy hugs along the way as you can.

Oh yeah, you should know – there is mud!

Yep, you’re going to get wet, and muddy, it’s going to stink and there is a reason it smells the way it does! But as I said at the start of all this, we are all children getting older; and who as a kid did we not all enjoy rolling about in the mud? Whether it’s the thick cloying clay that sticks to your shoes and makes you feel like you are carrying half of Shropshire with you, to the soup-like puddles that threaten to swallow you (if not your boots) whole you are most likely going to find mud; in fact there is a whole sub-set of OCR dedicated to “mud runs”, I think these are the most fun, and I for one am disappointed if I don’t resemble RAMBO and his mud monster impression (the 2nd movie) by the end!

It can/will become addictive!

For some, once will be enough, for others who see the light a whole new life awaits! And your OCR family will welcome you with open arms! You will want to beat that time, finish without stopping/walking, or do the next bigger/longer race! And soon you are hooked; but this is one high you will not regret.

There may be nudity!

Okay, any pubescent types out there getting all excited just stop! But yes, you will be sliding about in mud, over rocks and next to barbed wire, along with the obstacle kisses (bruises) these bring, clothing will get caught, displaced or ripped, or at the very least clingy; so, there is a fair chance the odd nipple, willy, bottom and the such may make an unexpected appearance; it’s all very PG, and unless you have very selective (sploshing I believe) proclivities there is no titillation intended. Furthermore, most events will offer showers, and sometimes these are either communal or not as secluded/private as some may be used to… but sometimes there is no way to get all that mud out without disrobing; just throw yourself into the whole experience we all look the same under 2 inches of mud anyway!

Do not be afraid to stop and withdraw!

Okay, this is the big one! There is the elephant in the room within the OCR culture that we don’t quit! We pride ourselves in battling through and finishing at all costs, we show off our battle scars on social media and demand/expect and receive the appropriate levels of respect and admiration. But there will be times when you just need to listen to your body or understand you have gone too far and just stop. One of best known, veteran OCR leaders recently wrote an article which I will not try to outdo, find it and read it, please!