In November 2016, I competed in the UK Obstacle Race Championships. I did my first obstacle race in May 2015 but the season of 2016 was the year I really got stuck in (the mud), racing at least once a month.
As the popularity of obstacle course races (OCR) rises, the people who take part diversify. Runners, with little background in OCR, are noticeably finishing with top times in obstacle races more and more frequently. To make sure obstacle races don’t just become long runs, some companies are including more strength and technique based obstacles. It’s great that OCR can be accessible to everyone however, in my eyes it still needs to be challenging, as thats the beauty of it and also what sets it apart from generic long runs.
Each OCR, I have improved on my time. I can feel within my body that I am getting fitter, stronger and more resilient to the terrain and conditions of an obstacle race. To keep that up, I have to train harder than ever and be constantly improving my strengths and especially my weaknesses. My weakness was running.
I could clamber up an 8ft wall but it was the running where I fell short. It’s hard to improve on your time if you struggle with the run, obviously a slower pace = longer finish time.
The OCR community attracts a great group of dedicated people but I’d noticed a small percentage complaining that “runners” were winning. “Runners” being, people who run 10Ks or marathons more frequently than they participate in obstacle races. One comment from a review of a race I took part in went like this:
“I’m an obstacle racer not a runner. There was too much running and not enough obstacles.”
I get the reviewers point, however, rather than berating those who run more regularly, lets accept that running is a big part of OCR and improve on our own running skills.
The distances within OCR keep creeping up with more 48km races and beyond popping up. You need be able to run safely and efficiently in order to do this kind of distance, especially when there are obstacles involved.
In order to improve my running, I joined a local running club. On the group runs, I feel inspired by those around me, push myself harder and go longer distances in shorter time. This is exactly how I feel at an obstacle race. Training with others has hugely increased my running performance and therefore my OCRs.
Interestingly, I noticed some of the runners struggled with the rocky terrain and hills at my running club. This is where my obstacle racing experience came into play. The rolling hills did not daunt me like they used too. I sprinted up them and splashed through the mud… with great joy! My obstacle training skills became transferable so now I’d like my running skills to be as well.
I will always be an obstacle racer at heart but now I am happy to also be a runner.