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The first UK Obstacle Course Racing Championship

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 2nd October 2014

Race report: Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward reports from the UK OCR Championships - September 27 & 28, 2014

UK OCR Championships - September 27 & 28, 2014

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

27 and 28 September marked a very special moment in the Obstacle Course Racing (“OCR”) calendar; it marked the first United Kingdom Obstacle Course Racing Championship. It seemed fitting that one of OCR's most impressive providers; Dirty Dozen Races, would be asked to provide the challenge to a number of hopeful competitors all vying for the coveted crown.

After scoring accolade after accolade (HERE and HERE), Dirty Dozen Race director Doug Spencer (affectionately  known as the Beard), returned to Hop Farm in Kent with the promise of his trademark sunshine and impressive portfolio of obstacles and set out to provide one of the best courses OCR has to offer. With a lot of the United Kingdom's media and more importantly athletes making the journey, this was one event that had to deliver.

Having never had the pleasure of visiting Hop Farm, I naively expected a huge field with a few tents. On arriving at the car park (tarmac!), I was met by a huge coffee shop and public house. This gave me the feeling that this would not just be any event and if I was still in any doubt, this was confirmed when I reached the race village and saw the finish line.

There, in all its glory, was a trademark obstacle from the Beard, and my arch nemesis, a 10ft wall. It was literally blocking the finish line, mocking the onlookers and there did not appear to be anyway around it. It made me wonder what - if this was the end - we would have to get through to reach it?

At the start line, with the sun literally beaming down, the Beard was hugging everyone and wishing them luck. I quickly forgot that wall and the fact this was an 18k race and a Spartan Beast "killer" and instead enjoyed seeing the field of elites racers, mixed with competitors dressed as superheroes and cavemen, all competing for the coveted UK OCR championship title.

On being released, through a number of smoke grenades, the race came alive and I was soon wading thorough ravaged mud trails. Whilst crossing this terrain and being made to jump in and out of the lakes and ditches, the fcompetitors started to scatter a little and began to space out as people lost their rhythm.

The first obstacle came in the form of some mud hills that were, surprisingly, quite easy to navigate, although taking far more breath from you than they should. These were shortly followed by the first set of walls, "the hangover" or, to you and me, sloping walls.

UK OCR Championships - September 27 & 28, 2014

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

These walls, whilst not at as tall as the others, always provide difficultly as they can be quite tough to navigate, due to being slanted, and the Beard was nice enough to put two in a row. Thankfully I was over and across these with ease and on my way.

I was struggling a little with the heat and I was pleased to see the Sheep Dip. This is a "traditional" obstacle that places mental pressure on you in addition to physical pressure, by requiring you to jump in a container filled with murky water with a wall blocking your route; the only way out is to go through the water and under the wall.

It sounds easy writing this and explaining this obstacle, but the amount of times that I have, along with my fellow competitors, ran up to this obstacle and then stood there for five minutes, counting to three before going under the wall, is ridiculous. Although providing a refreshing break, it always throws me mentally and I clearly was not alone.

After navigating the monkey bars (and falling off half way and made to do burpees) and a further swim under the “two smoking barrels”; I came to the "spider wall". This is a wall across a ditch, filled with water, with various ledges to grab.

I am not normally bothered by this obstacle but half way across, the ledge to grab sloped away from me and I just could not reach it. I have always thought that I need to be taller and when I attempted to jump across, trying to grab the ledge, I fell straight into the water this was confirmed to me! Sadly it was more burpees before I could go on.

On reaching the last 4k the Beard kindly put in place a succession of walls from the famous Irish Table, that is just a pain to get over (but great), to the 10 foot monsters near the finish line. On reaching the second but last wall, and hoisting myself up, my leg cramped and I fell back down. The marshal excitedly told me that I had to do burpees, but I could not bend down with my leg in agony, I had to stretch it off.

Knowing the next wall, aptly named "Deja Vu", was close, I thought I could stretch out to there and then do them. Reaching the wall the cramp was gone and I bolted over the wall with some ease. The next marshal shouted "hold on, burpees" and the smile on my face was too big. I thought I would take the wall again, in lieu of burpees, and go to the line!

UK OCR Championships - September 27 & 28, 2014

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

I crossed the line into the warm arms of Doug; I had done it. I had finished the Destroyer; that was described by Doug as a course that “will test people to the limit”. After pretty much collapsing in his arms at the finish line; I can testify that this course has been brutal and had pushed me harder than I had been pushed in a while.

The decision for Dirty Dozen Races to hold the UK OCR Championships put a lot of pressure on Doug and his team to deliver a first class event, that set the stable out for OCR. I believe he delivered an event worthy of the UK OCR Championships and did so with some style.

Locating the event at Hope Farm was a clever move, as it provided a whole host of facilities outside of the race village such as a pub, a restaurant and a children's playground. Importantly simple things like parking, bag drop and registration were all seamless and put a lot of the bigger, better known events to shame.

Regular readers will have heard me comment that the obstacles at a Dirty Dozen Race are fantastic, huge and well built. On watching some of my fellow competitors later on, it was clear that Doug had not disappointed as the army of well built, huge obstacles caught a lot of people off guard and had provided them with a tough challenge.

It was challenging, it was tough and I certainly felt the aftermath all afternoon and on Monday. However Doug and his team have excelled this year in providing an excellent OCR experience from the 6k Dirty Dash to the 18K Dirty Destroyer and from start to finish this race was a belter of an experience.

This race series is only going from strength to strength and I am hopeful that they will attract the numbers of competitors that they deserve; and with a bit more investment they could be challenging at the top.

Find out more about the UK OCR Champs at: www.dirtydozenraces.com/uk-ocr-championships/

The 2015 season pass is on sale now at www.dirtydozenraces.com, as are the individual races, starting with the return to Usk

Men's 18km results

1 Conor Hancock 1:20:17
2 Stuart Parsons 1:20:52
3 Alex Money 1:23:11


Women's 18km results

1 Claire Miller 1:37:03
2 Beth Albon 1:42:41
3 Jessica Davidsson 1:51:12



Men's 12km results

1 Sam Cherry 52:51
2 Ross Brackley 52:58
3 Chris Lightburn 54:59


Women's 12km results

1 Clare Miller 1:07:28
2 Lucy Martlow 1:12:48
3 Natalie White 1:14:46



Men's 6km results

1 Chris Lamb 29:45
2 Lee Pickering 31:21
3 Jordan Longmire 32:24


Women's 6km results

1 Beth Albon 37:04
2 Christie Wright 42:38
3 Faye Caley 45:57


Click here for full results


About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 

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