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The 2014 OCR World Championships #OCRUnited

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 30th October 2014
Tags  Paul Hayward   |   OCR   |   OCR World Championships   |   Jonathan Albon   |   MuddyRace   |   Conor Hancock   |   Lucy Martlew

Race report: Our obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward reports from the OCR World Championships - October 25 & 26, 2014

OCR World Championships - October 25 & 26, 2014

A year ago the internet was awash with adverts and discussions about the inaugural OCR World Championships in America from an unknown provider. Promising to offer the first international championship where elite athletes could pit themselves against the best of the best from all over the globe; a massive opportunity for history to be created had arisen.

Many said however that there was a huge risk with such an ambitious plan. This risk was highlighted when Spartan Race confirmed that they would not recognise or support the event.

However, undeterred the OCR World Championship grew in stature, with the decision to hold the race at Cincinnati, the home to the legendary Mud Guts and Glory course.

The involvement of the Battlefrog series added kudos to the event and in the months leading up to race day a host of household names were confirmed for the event, including Canada's Ryan Atkins (previous winner of World's Toughest Mudder); the American legend Hobie Call and the 2014 Spartan Champion and the United Kingdom's most decorated racer Jonathan Albon, labelled previously as a 'dark horse'.

OCR World Championships - October 25 & 26, 2014

For the event to be taken seriously, the best of the best needed to be there and thankfully they were. With the offer of significant prize money for the elite field, prize money for age categories and a 14k course with 57 obstacles, athletes made the journey from as far afield as Europe and Australia, to challenge for honours.

The United Kingdom was no exception and sent a host of talent to join Jon, including the female Spartan champion Lucy Martlew and genuine elite title contender and the United Kingdom’s OCR Champion, Conor Hancock (HERE).

The stage was set for something really special.

As I walked round the course it hit me that this course had obstacles that we, as competitors in the United Kingdom, just did not see in our OCRs. Here at the World Championship each competitor was required to complete the obstacle. Should a fail at an obstacle, then they were stripped of their band and were not allowed to challenge for honours, although they could still finish the race.

OCR World Championships - October 25 & 26, 2014

It was clear the organisers had taken the challenge to really test the elite competitors very seriously. Even the monkey bars had added complexities, starting from height and requiring participants to go down before climbing back up, in the shape of a V, to the other side. There was also the rig, affectionately called the 'Platinum Rig', that looked like something on acid out of a CrossFit box. These were just the obstacles that you could see in the race village!

Competitors who had already walked the course were also talking about the "Weaver" or the "Trapeze", that would be the real test of this event. However it was clear that the Platinum Rig was the real show stopper, that would cause the most damage. This rig combined monkey bars, gymnastic rings and a rope with the challenge of crossing it without touching the floor. This was something new for a number of us, although someone forgot to tell this to Jon or Conor, as they skipped across the obstacle like it was second nature.

Whilst waiting for my wave I got the opportunity, for once, of watching Jon and Conor go head to head against the best in the world.  For the first time in many months I saw someone actually challenge Jon, Canada's hero Ryan, and it was simply incredible to watch the two of them chase each other, with Hobie in tow.

A surge of excitement filled me and I joined other members of the small 'Team UK' contingent in cheering on our elite athletes. When you watch some of OCR's best athletes compete, you cannot help but be amazed with just how fast and fit these guys are.  Had I been in any doubt of their ability, the dynamics of the course that unfolded as I myself ran in my age group rammed it home, as it was an absolute beast of a course.

Allegedly Ohio is not known for being hilly and being British I would have laughed at the claim when compared to Usk or Snowdon. However this course was anything but flat. It was eighty percent hills and the majority were vertical. Some kindly had ropes, to help you climb them, but the majority just let your legs scream and shudder as you went up and down them relentlessly.

Combine the intense terrain with some frightening obstacles from 12ft walls, the Weaver and a trapeze that was so high it made looking down dangerous - the OCR World Championship had provided a course that was worthy of the title, with brutal obstacles and sparkling innovation.

OCR World Championships - October 25 & 26, 2014

As Jon returned to the race village, via one of the biggest death slides I have ever seen, that threw you in the muddy pool at some pace, that famous grin, that we all love, was on show. James Appleton had commented on Twitter that if his team mate was smiling, then the elite field should be worried and this could not be nearer the truth. There was no one near him and he was coasting to a second world title!

The lead up to the finish had a sandbag carry, slanted walls that were just about achievable and some form of balancing obstacle with chains, from the team at Bull Frog. Once again Jon took these with ease and with some grace before crossing the line, to the announcement of an Ironman style compadre that the new OCR World Champion had arrived.

OCR has, in such a short space of time, come so far and when the United Kingdom’s Jon Albon crossed the finish line as World Champion, it was really a magical moment. On this day it was clear to see that we have some great athletes and we are leading the field here in the United Kingdom.

On speaking to Jon after the race; he felt the course was really fun; "I think if there is any race that should have been the World Championship’s race, to sum up what Obstacle Course Racing is about, it was this one. I think they have done really well. I was just glad to get through some of the obstacles unscathed.”

OCR World Championships - October 25 & 26, 2014

The sun continued to blaze all day on the competitors, with stories being exchanged of how competitors qualified or how they got there, and each one was met with a cheer by the compadre and the crowd on finishing. Mixing freely you would be mistaken for thinking they all knew each other before the race and it was a real sense that there is a community in our sport.

The hugely impressive Lucy Martlew, fresh from coming in the top 30 at the Spartan World Champs, smashed the female elite race and finished twelfth. In a massive year for her, she is pushing hard to be considered in contention with Clare Miller as the best UK female athlete out there at the moment.

On speaking to Lucy, who was clearly caught up with emotion,  she beamed as she stated “the course was amazing. Oh my word the slide, how good was the slide” which was contrasted with the Platinum Rig which she described, whilst shaking her head, as  “horrible, there are no words to describe the Platinum Rig - it was hard but I feel amazing, twelfth lady is awesome and I am really happy”.

Conor Hancock, quoted before the race as someone who had "exploded onto the United Kingdom's OCR scene”, came eighth and in this proved that nothing is impossible. In just one year, the star from Sheffield has proven he is one of our most exciting prospects and is now ranked with the best.

Conor’s happiness at this result was clear when he smiled and said “top ten was what I wanted - top three next year; I am really pleased. There were a lot of bodyweight obstacles, but I absolutely loved it. The hills were hard, but it was a really good course”.

OCR World Championships - October 25 & 26, 2014

From a personal level, I would have to agree - it was an amazing course. It was far from easy and was like nothing I have ever seen or done before in OCR. The hills were horrendous and were only outdone by the obstacles which, whilst innovative and pleasing, were brutal at times.

The tag line for the OCR World Championships is #OCRUnited. I thought this was cheesy to start, but actually it summed up the event perfectly. The OCR World Championships had united competitors from around the world. The best of the best did battle on this day and it was simply magical for our sport and for our country. I doubt the course or atmosphere will be beaten for a long time, it was really something special.

Thanks go to Rob Foulkes at MuddyRace.co.uk for the invitation and the company.

OCR World Championships - October 25 & 26, 2014

Photos (clockwise from left): Second placed Ryan Atkins, World Champion Jonathan Albon and third placed Hobie Call. Jon and Lucy. Jonathan's winnings

More information, including details of how to qualify, are found at: ocrworldchampionships.com

More information on Jon Albon can be found at: www.jonathanalbon.com

For information on Conor Hancock; please see www.muddyrace.co.uk/my-account/conorlh93/ or his Facebook page www.facebook.com/conorhancockuk?ref=bookmarks

OCR World Championships - October 25 & 26, 2014

Photos (clockwise from top left): Paul with Jon. OCR Team UK. The medals


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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