Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to obstacle racing I do OK. In the nearly 9 years I’ve been racing I’ve had some very good results, I have a shelf with plenty of trophies ranging from first places to anywhere in the top 3, while I’ve also had some top 5/top 10s which I hold in high regard due to the difficulty of the race and the competition taking part. What I’m saying is I could do a lot worse, just more often than not there are some real stand-out parts of racing to me which I feel have held me back from progressing to the next step, and from potentially achieving more at a higher level.
These are just some self-reflections on areas that I could really tighten up and potentially make a massive difference to, definitely not a cry for help. Definitely*
I Don’t Go Race-Specific Enough
The beauty of obstacle racing is that every course is different, however you generally know what to expect from a race that you are going into. Despite really enjoying Spartan races and the competition that goes along with them, I definitely do not go specific enough for them. I do a little bit of carrying, but nowhere near enough, I never spear throw, and I definitely don’t do enough burpees despite what I tell myself. I then don’t switch it up enough if a more rig-focused or ‘technical’ obstacle race is coming up. It’s not that I don’t prepare for any of these at all, it’s more that I always do a little mixture of everything. Realistically my training needs more specificity to see progressions on particular focuses.
I like the word ‘technical’ for obstacles. I know how to ‘technically’ get over a 4ft wall and crawl under a cargo net but they usually don’t fall into the same category as mile-long climbing frames with all sorts of ropes, cannonballs, and wobbly pipes hanging from them.
I Train Alone (Mostly)
99% of my training is just me by myself. I really enjoy the time alone when training and the freedom that comes with it, but by training alone I have nobody else to push me, nobody else to work against in a bit of friendly competition, nobody to bounce training ideas off, and nobody to mix up sessions and input ideas or offer alternative suggestions. Occasionally I run with a group or attend classes and I do see the benefit, not only socially but from the spur of having other people encouraging each other. However by having gym partners or running partners at a similar or higher ability, or with similar training goals or focuses then training can be stepped up a gear. Instead it’s always just lonely old me.
I Train Myself
This is the problem with being a PT & not letting someone else take hold of my training. Quite simply I don’t push myself sometimes where I could do with a little extra ‘oomph’. On the flip side I don’t hold back when sometimes I might need to. Training-wise I do OK and I definitely don’t struggle for motivation but it’s very easy to just cruise through a session sometimes. The funny thing is that any time I have worked with a coach or trainer I’ve learned loads and always come away with big differences being made. I guess it’s part arrogance and part distrust that I can’t let another PT tell me what to do without giving input myself. Silly me.
I Don’t Have A Favoured Distance
When it comes down to running, training is always a bit of speed here and there, a bit of distance here and there. Essentially it’s far too generalised and rather than focus on bettering a particular distance and smashing it, I’ll work towards always being prepared for any distance race that might be coming up. This really is unnecessary because surely if I want to do well and succeed in racing – then I need to pick a distance which know I can run with strength and speed, only enter races of that distance(!), and focus on whatever obstacles that race involves.
As a regular obstacle racer it seemed mad even writing that, let alone how it would feel actually putting it into practice.
I’m Not An Aggressive Racer
When on the majority of startlines, I just can’t seem elbow my way to the front – the crowd is tightly packed, often with the best runners (as you would expect), but mostly with runners who have just managed to push their way through first and are holding steady. Despite knowing that some are definitely not in contention (and I’m sure they know it themselves too), the startline is packed out, as it’s clear that it’s a huge advantage to be as close to the front as possible in a crowd like this.
Immediately following on, I’m not a huge fan of running the first KM of a race at 100mph – usually aiming for a pace that I’d either like to keep or build upon. This is pretty stupid as I’m then reduced to always playing catch up, or stuck behind people who have shot off then immediately slow down or can’t navigate a course when it narrows. I’ve had some very frustrating races and results because of this.
This whole issue was a big factor in a UK Championship race a couple of years ago where I found myself stuck in queues, with runners catching up behind me then either pushing through to reach the obstacle first or being ushered through by marshals, while I stood awkwardly by watching my placing slip away. This, along with some confusing rules and on-the-spot rule changes, took away an almost solidified 2nd place and potential 1st place in my age category. Oops!
Written by me: Keith Fairburn
Personal Trainer, Sports Therapist, S&C Coach.
Ninja Warrior Semi-Finalist, Obstacle Racer, Salming Running Ambassador.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve written in this post or want to get in touch, contact me.