10 Years In OCR – An Overview

10 Years In OCR – An Overview

They say it takes 10 years to become an expert in a skill, so as an official expert I figured it would be fun to look at how things have developed over the last decade – from the amount of races I’ve personally done, to the races that have come and gone, to how OCR itself has changed.

This isn’t exactly a comprehensive timeline (by the way that might be fun if anyone wants to come up with one with me) but more like how 2019 started with the 10 year challenge – here’s mine.

This is all ignoring trail runs, road runs etc, just obstacle course races to stop it being ridiculously long. Also they’re not in correct order, just lumped in the year they happened (getting that right was hard enough).

ENJOY.

2009

Obstacle Climb

– Men’s Health Survival Of The Fittest Cardiff – I found this in Men’s Health magazine and entered as I figured it would be a way to mix strength training and running. I chose a wave around 11am to not have to wake up early and happened to be in the same wave as Dean Macey! He’s a super nice guy by the way. I struggled but felt amazing – the assault course mid-race pretty much winded me.

Other notes from this year: 

I was doing a bit of running, a bit of strength training but never felt like I had ‘a sport’. When I entered this race I started running lengths of a football pitch – doing pushups and pullups on the goal crossbar every 10 lengths or so. Thinking about it this is still a pretty good way to train.

2010

Banzai Charge
Apologies for the stolen photo – I was young and reckless

– Men’s Health Survival Of The Fittest Cardiff

– Kamikaze Dorset

Other notes from this year:

I saw a tiny advert in Men’s Health or Men’s Fitness mag about ‘crazy challenges’ which featured Kamikaze Challenge/Banzai Charge so entered with my mate. Check out my shoes in the picture above! I came 33rd and loved it – running the hills here felt like the hardest thing I’d ever done and still think they’re some of the most unforgiving that I’ve seen in a race.

2011

banzai charge slide
Sorry again Charles Whitton

– Men’s Health Survival Of The Fittest Cardiff

– Kamikaze Dorset

Other notes from this year: 

I don’t really remember much about these to be honest.

2012

MHSOTF

– Men’s Health Survival Of The Fittest Cardiff

– Kamikaze Dorset

Other notes from this year: 

I don’t really remember much about these either.

2013

running

– XTreme Challenge

– Men’s Health Survival Of The Fittest Cardiff

– Kamikaze Dorset

– X Runner Winter Wipeout (I think that’s what it was called)

– Zombie Survival Bristol – I met a guy here who wrote about different challenges which made me realise I wanted to be more involved in these events.

– Survival Running 20k – A sort of local run with ‘natural obstacles’ – tree stumps, hills, fences etc. Basically it wouldn’t fly these days. This was the first race I ever wrote a review for!

Other notes from this year:

My wife wanted to do a couple of races this year which is why we did a couple more than usual – we found two that were based near her sister’s university so they became a whole trip, and a couple more were fairly local to us so we gave them a go! I started doing pretty well at them as well, placing in the top 3 or 4 (including a win at the Zombie Race) at each race I did. 

After Zombie Survival Race I did a bit of online reading and contacted Muddy Race rather than Mudstacle as I perceived Mudstacle to be run by a few mates whereas Muddy Race looked a bit more pro. This amuses me greatly now. I got a very keen reply about helping out, getting free races, writing reviews etc and a new chapter began.

Little did I know there was a whole scene brewing at early Spartan Races and other mud runs.

After Survival Run I was convinced to get my first pair of trail shoes (Inov-8 Trailroc) which I loved dearly. The decision was made because a guy  said to me something like “I saw you were a good runner but then I noticed your shoes and knew I could beat you”. This killed me.

Interestingly, after my wife and I were first male & female finishers at the Zombie race we got sent our trophies in 2018 after years of whinging to their ever-changing customer services team.

2014

Urban Attack MIT Tough Team Karin Karlsson

– Xtreme Challenge – I had an awkward first meeting with Conor Hancock and met Rob from Muddy Race properly after being in contact for the last few months.

– Nuts Challenge – I entered 4 laps but quit after one. I could write a book on what I did wrong here from my mindset, to my kit, to my general performance after going in feeling like I could win it (!!!!!!).

– Judgement Day – Their first event. Copehill Down. Afterwards a lot of people said it was just a carbon copy of Spartan but I hadn’t done a Spartan so I enjoyed it. The FIBUA section was crazy fun. This was first emergence of Muddy Race t shirts but they looked awful, like a dark green with a black logo that you couldn’t even see.

– Rat Race Dirty Weekend – We pretty much didn’t know anybody here, my wife and I took part – I can’t even remember if we went to the party in the evening.

– Monster Race – Twice this year. I barely knew anyone at the first one (Thomas Blanc won it but I’d never heard of him). I knew almost everyone there at the second one in November.

– Kamikaze Pippingford Park – The day after Monster Race. I picked up a shin strain or something here which was agony.

– Pandemonium Race – First and last event of theirs. I had a luminous green prototype Muddy Race t shirt.

– Vision Wild Run

– Dirty Dozen South Wales – I don’t think this was their first event because they had one at London, but I think this race is what gained them their reputation.

– Spartan Beast – 1st Spartan for me, the Beast in Pippingford Park was good fun and a real taste of a larger Spartan-based community.

– Kamikaze Dorset – I think I got 2nd place here which was the best result I managed at this race.

– Rock Solid Race -Team Muddy Race day out – I met MMMT properly for first the time!

muddy race
wow

– Tough Mudder South West

– Suffering Legends weekend – I went there to meet a few people from MIT Tough Team. We hung out and ran parts of it together and the whole weekend was so much fun.

– Men’s Health Survival Of The Fittest London – Team Muddy Race fun day out.

– Urban Attack – An indoor OCR event, featuring Karin Karlsson’s intro to OCR!

– Men’s Health Survival Of The Fittest Cardiff – I came 1st this year, where was my parade? Literally this was huge for me as I worked so hard and of course it had been the first race I’d ever done but nobody else really gave a shit.

– Chepstow Stampede

– Judgement Day Team Event

Other notes from this year:

This was the first year of OCR World Championships (Ohio location) – I didn’t go, I had no idea about it really but this was the first year it was on.

Muddy Race as a group was pretty much unknown at the start of the year, but we grew it massively in a short amount of time and it became pretty much a leading force in OCR, almost going international. There was a perceived rivalry with Mudstacle as tends to happen with two popular and similar things but I was never really arsed about it. We made loads and loads of friends and did so much through these groups. I got free entry to a lot of races through Muddy Race this year.

A few competitive teams popped up as well, there was of course the legendary Team Inov-8, Obstacle Kit got a team, RPCC were still a thing. These teams were full of top racers – big names (at the time for most of them) that you knew would be hitting the top 3 if you saw them on the start line.

Jon Albon won the Spartan World Championships the day we were at Rock Solid with Team Muddy Race – we were all so proud and excited for him and then everyone changed their profile picture to one of him! Amazing!

I had some great results this year despite racing among some strong competitors – at the first Judgement Day I finished within the first few and was surrounded by Team Inov-8 and RPCC guys who were all chatting to each other and looking a bit confused at lonely old me. This with Survival of the Fittest and some others this year I was buzzing.

2015

muddy race team

– Judgement Day Copehill Down

– Forest Warrior & Cotswold Warrior – Two races the same but in a different location. Cotswold Warrior was the day after a Dirty Dozen race which made for a double race weekend.

– Spartan Wales – I had a cracking race here but Jon Albon turned up with Ross Macdonald and other mates for his stag do so they stormed it without effort. I came 4th which pissed me off. Just saying.

– Rat Race Dirty Weekend – As a contrast to last year, this time we knew what felt like everybody there, just huge groups of people who knew each other. This was the Hancock v Albon year.

– Superhuman Games

– Rough Runner

– Monster Race – Team Muddy Race fun day out.

– Ram Run – Their last race in the original location I think.

– Vision Wild Run – Twice this year.

– Mud7 – Their first one

– Saviour Race – Some race had been cancelled that weekend so this was put on just so everyone had a race to go to that weekend – that was what things were like in 2015.

judgement day

– Dirty Dozen South Wales – I think this was the year Jon Albon was challenged to complete in under 1 hour for £1000. He finished in something like 1hr 10secs – I came 10th and qualified for OCRWC which I didn’t even realise at the time, there were no thoughts of qualifying really.

– Suffering Legends weekend – I won the 10k race and was the overall weekend winner. I genuinely loved these races and felt like I was built for them.

– Toughsh!t – A fairly pointless race but it was a charity event for a good cause.

– Rat Race Man v Mountain Sort of review.

– Devil Mud Run – Twice this year. I came first at these as well y’know.

– Men’s Health Survival Of The Fittest Cardiff

– OCRWC – Ohio, we travelled for a very brief and intense weekend. It was incredible and an awesome race location, featuring the first rig I’d ever seen (failed it). Review here.

– UKOCR Champs – Based at Nuclear Races. Not a bad race to be fair.

Other notes from this year: 

I raced an awful lot this year and can’t imagine how it all managed to be fit in. A lot of races came to us for free through Muddy Race.

Seeing the popularity of Muddy Race and Mudstacle, everyone became obsessed with starting their own groups and ‘elite’ teams. This year is when all that took off and why nowadays all these random groups and OCR teams exist and every community group has an elite section!

I think Obstacle Kit closed proverbial doors this year and were taken over by Brockett Gear (anybody remember them??).

Rigs and grip-based obstacles really took off after the OCRWC in Ohio this year.

2016

– Judgement Day – Located somewhere near London. This was the last of their events I think before their recent attempted return.

– Toughest London

– Devil Mud Run

– Suffering Relentless – The challenge was to finish under 8 hours which only a few of us did. This was a crazy hard day but an incredible event nonetheless. I don’t think anything else I’ve seen has lived up to the challenge of this first Relentless and even the next couple of Relentless events didn’t seem to have it quite the same as this one.

– Vision Wild Run – Their last one.

– Scorpion Run – Their first and only race. This was fun and I got a MASSIVE trophy for winning.

– Spartan South West

– Man V Lakes – review.

– Mud7 – I sprained my ankle the week before this but figured I had recovered enough to run it. I had not.

– Rock Solid Race – This might have been the last Muddy Race event and team run that happened.

– OCRWC Canada – Another amazing location and race. Looks like I never bothered doing a writeup of this one which is a shame as it would have been nice to look back over.

– UKOCR Champs – Based in Pippingford Park. Oh dear.

Other notes from this year: 

For a while it felt like everything was based in Pippingford Park, OCR loved it.

I think Dirty Dozen died this year. So did Muddy Race though really despite the best efforts of a brave few. Crazy now when it was booming so much at the start of the year.

I performed fairly well at a lot of races again this year, a lot of wins or top 3 places and nearly a first or second age group place at the UK Champs, only to end up feeling screwed over by some confusing double-wristband rules.

This year rigs and similar obstacles really got popular and you started seeing them at almost every event, leading to the notorious occurrence at the UK Champs. Interestingly this rig was designed by the Judgement Day guys who were boasting beforehand that it was so hard that nobody would complete it, then afterwards when so many people failed it the blame of it being badly designed or ‘too hard’ shifted to the race organisers (OCRAUK) and nobody remembered all the chat leading up to the race. But I remembered. I remembered.

2017

log carry spartan salming

– Battle Of Lansdown

– Rat Race Dirty Weekend – I had a fairly good effort here, in case you were wondering. I was running pretty fast at the time and it served me well.

– Superhuman Games

– Furlong Fury

– Spartans: South East Sprint, Scotland Beast, South West Super & Sprint, Midlands Super & Sprint, Windsor Beast & Sprint – I think that was it. Basically I set myself the goal of doing all of them, which I did. I also had the goal of getting a trophy, which I did not. The Edinburgh Beast was the clear highlight for me and actually I think I missed a Sprint the next day to do holiday stuff instead and I was so buzzing off the fun of the Beast that was enough for me.

– Chepstow Stampede

Other notes from this year: 

OCRWC was in Canada again, I qualified but didn’t make the trip.

At the start of the year a couple of us really tried to keep Muddy Race alive with training days, online community stuff, and other things because we had loved it and it was what brought us together as friends and as an extended community group but ultimately we couldn’t do enough and just gave it up to do our own thing eventually. Looking back now this was definitely for the best, a real shame but it was all just so badly managed and we had no real ability to do anything with it that it really held a lot of people back and we could have done with splitting from it a lot earlier.

2018

Spartan Ireland

– Battle Of Lansdown Review.

– Forest Warrior Review.

– Devil Mud Run Review.

– Spartans: Ireland Super & Sprint, South West Super & Sprint, Midlands Sprint, Windsor Beast

– Tough Mudder South WestReview.

– OCRWC UK Review.

– Hang On Run – Review.

Other notes from this year:

I did a lot of Spartans again, mixed between Elite and Age Group waves and saw mixed success.

It was really liberating focusing on doing my own thing all throughout this year, writing about events and other bits and bobs just because I find it fun. Setting up on my own also meant that I could write what I wanted and not have anyone edit or mess with any of my articles and that’s always a bonus.

2019

Weaver

– Battle Of LansdownReview.

– Forest Warrior

– WOLF RunReview.

Other notes from this year:

At the moment of writing this, the only other obstacle race I have planned this year is the final Devil Mud Run which I will be sad to see go. I haven’t (and likely won’t) qualify for the World Championships this year but I might go down to support some friends anyway as it’s in the UK!

There’s a clear difference in the amount of obstacle races that I’m doing these days compared to a few years back. A lot just aren’t around anymore but I find that at this point there has to be a real appeal to make me travel further than a couple of hours for an event, there’s still a few that I want to do but there’s definitely no reason to be racing every weekend! Not to mention I’m not getting them free anymore and that’s a real kick in the nuts.

I’m helping

So that’s 10 years – the rise and fall of races and communities. Personalities have come and gone, while new names and young folk are coming in seeing obstacle course racing as a sport from the get-go and annihilating new courses and challenges. OCR is undoubtedly a world apart from what it used to be and has developed so much in short amount of time – from a hugely competitive scene at every race across the UK to now pretty much Spartan being the place to be for people who want a race.

Things are still evolving and developing but it’s interesting to see what could have been – what if OCRA had been well managed and kept events organised? What if Muddy Race had kept growing and kept putting on events and fun weekends, promoting OCR as sport and fun activity for all sorts of new people? What if Tough Mudder had actually paid people who won their events the money they were meant to? What if some decent sponsorship actually made an effect on some athletes? What if the calendars hadn’t got over-filled and some of the races with more potential hadn’t suffered and shut down as a result? What if the people taking part in OCR regularly hadn’t become obsessed with making things harder, longer, or more extreme and then complaining when they failed them?

A lot of people seem to have been put off from taking part in OCR anymore due to it’s changing nature, too much grip-based obstacles etc but really there’s plenty out there with the spirit of the early days. I continue to love it and still want to give races like the Euro Championships a try. I’ve never ran a proper Nuclear Race, I haven’t done Mud Monsters, The Elements looks good, and Europe has plenty of nice looking races in great locations so while OCR grew a bit too fast for it’s own good in those early days – going full circle could be fairly good for the scene and hopefully now there’s enough breathing room for things to develop in a steadier, more natural way and time will tell if anybody is really interested in making this a professional sport or to keep it for the weekend warriors – racers and fun runners alike.



Written by me: Keith Fairburn

Personal Trainer, Sports Therapist, S&C Coach.

Ninja Warrior Semi-Finalist, Obstacle Racer, Trail Runner.

If you have any questions about anything I’ve written in this post or want to get in touch, contact me.