In November 2016, I shall be competing in the UK Obstacle Race Championships. I did my first obstacle race in May 2015 but this season has been 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 that particularly stuck a chord was this:
“I’m an obstacle racer not a runner. There was too much running and not enough obstacles.”
Unfortunately on this occasion, due to health and safety reasons there were less obstacles than advertised as some had to be closed on the day. Of course this wasn’t ideal but I felt the company handled the situation very well… I’ve already signed up to their next race.
I get the reviewers point, however, rather than slaying those who are perhaps better at running that your average obstacle racer (as it stands), why don’t we improve on our own running skills and try to equal their level? If you can’t beat them… Join them!
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. Lets not put down those who have honed their running skills, instead lets learn from them.
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 call myself a runner, too.
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