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OCR - A year in review

by Paul Hayward
Wednesday 7th January 2015
Tags  OCR   |   Paul Hayward   |   Judgement Day   |   looked forward to Mud n Madness   |   Spartan Race UK   |   RockSolidRace   |   Nuclear Races   |   Monster Race   |   Dirty Dozen Races   |   Nuts Challenge

Run247's obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward looks back on a busy 2014

This time in 2014 Paul did a preview on Judgement Day and their “secret obstacle course race” (HERE), looked forward to Mud 'n' Madness (HERE) and the small matter of RockSolidRace (HERE).  2014 turned out to be one of the best years in some time for Obstacle Course Racing (OCR):

OCR - A year in review

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

Coming into 2014 there was a lot of speculation over the future of Spartan Race after the Beast (HERE) and if they, and the likes of Tough Mudder, could retain their position at the top of the OCR tree. 2015 sees more than 250 obstacle course races vying for your money and time, so maybe 2014 can be considered “the year that the big boys had it taken to them”.

I regularly get asked what the hardest race is I have ever done. I think this question is very different to the one that they should be asking, which is “What is the best race you can do?”.  Although there are the hardcore OCR competitors that believe that believe OCR should push you to the edge, I believe that OCR is for everyone, from fun runners to the people that drive up and down the M25 every weekend and regularly challenge for the podium.

So lets say the question is “What is the best race you can do”? That is not an easy question to answer as OCR has become quite diverse, despite being such a new sport. I say the word sport as OCR now has a World Championship (HERE) and I think the time has come to say so; however there is a lot of variety within in our sport.

OCR - A year in review

Photos © Little Photo Company

Based on my experience of 2014, I would have to say it was and is RockSolidRace (HERE and HERE). They offer everything from wow-factor obstacles, such as a massive climbing wall and a base jump, to entertainment for all the family (from bands to tractors ferrying supporters around the course). Ashley Jardine, RockSolidRace’s Race Director, left no stone unturned in 2014 and I stand by my comment that if you are doing one race - it has to be RockSolidRace, it was excellent.

That is not to say that there are not close competitors. Nuclear Races (HERE) provided one of the best races I have done this year with their stonking race and party atmosphere. The inclusion of obstacles such as a zipwire, deathslide and bog full of black sewerage provided a rollercoaster of an experience. This is enhanced through their season tickets, which offer great value for money without the gifts - if they can offer more to the supporters, such as accessibility for the family, then they will be challenging.

I also thought Tough Mudder was cracking this year (HERE). The inclusion of new obstacles such as Hang Tough from America and the decision to offer different colour headbands meant that they will keep their supporters happy and no doubt remain one of the best Obstacle Course Races you can do. I just feel that for the money you are paying to race at Tough Mudder, it cannot compare to the value and experience offered by RockSolidRace.

OCR - A year in review

Photos © Epic Action Imagery

I know from talking to a lot of the OCR community and the public, that value for money is becoming a real issue, with the average race starting at £45.00, rising to a £100. For example my local bootcamp all wanted to do Tough Mudder, however due to the £120.00 entry fee they are all out already due to cost. So where does this leave the fun runner wanting to try OCR, but wanting to do so on a budget? Simple answer - go to Monster Race.

Simon and the team behind Monster Race offer one of the best value and fun obstacle course races you can do (HERE and HERE). I have to say that this is one of my favourite races, simply because the balance of value against fu /challenge is pitched perfectly and both times I took part in this event I came home beaming, wanting to do more. There are some complaints that they do not provide a finisher’s T-shirt (in lieu you get a very good medal) but if this is the only complaint about the race, then you know the team behind the Monster Race have the fundamentals tied down.

I was also surprised to see (and pleased to note) the excellent offering made by Dirty Dozen Races for their 5k race (HERE). Doug and his team are renowned for building sturdy and large obstacles and tend to attract the more “hardened” athletes; however their 5k offering was well pitched and provided an excellent step up from the Monster Race and introduction to OCR.

OCR - A year in review

Photos © The Nuclear Show

For those that want to discuss the “hardest race”, I think this year it came down to three very different experiences and challenges. Firstly, and notably, was Judgement Day in Salisbury Plain (HERE). Mark Buller and the team behind Judgement Day set out to change the way we think about OCR and to some degree I think they did. This OCR contained some of the most mentally challenging obstacles, including plunging into darkness and a vertical “confidence”  jump. The best experience I had this year would have to be screaming about lowering myself into darkness and finding out I could walk. I still smile now when I think about it and for a first race, Judgment Day made themselves instantly stand out from the crowd. In 2015 they are set to do this again by taking on Spartan Race’s “Death Race” with “the Unknown”.

For the purists out there, who like obstacle after obstacle, each getting bigger and harder than the last, Dirty Dozen Races’ 18k United Kingdom OCR Championship has to tick the boxes (HERE). This race offered a gruelling course with a fearsome array of obstacles that delivered an event worthy of the title “Championship”.

Finally, and by no means least, was the Nuts Challenge (preview HERE). The Nuts Challenge provided one of the hardest and most gruelling challenges that I have ever done. The combination of timed laps with cut off points and a succession of good obstacles saw participants pushing to beat the clock and go for the elusive “four laps”. Many tried and many failed, including myself, and were broken (in a happy way) by the experience.

OCR - A year in review

Photos © R and R Photos

So where does that leave us? Hopefully this “review of the year” has helped with your thought process for 2015.

I am really excited to say that OCR has grown in stature on Run247 with its own section (HERE) and a guest blog of elite athlete Thomas Blanc (HERE and HERE). It is going to be a cracking year and I am looking forward to covering it. Our coverage starts this weekend at the Ram Run (HERE) and I am pleased to confirm that we are covering a lot of the newer races coming into our sport, such as Dash of the Titan (HERE) and the Stunt Challenge (HERE).

2015 is going to be an exciting year and I look forward to sharing it with you.

If you are interested in your race being covered; please get in touch by email to pablosquire@hotmail.com.


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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