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The Obstacle Course Racing Association and the UK Championship

by Paul Hayward
Tuesday 1st September 2015

Interview: Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward speaks to the new Obstacle Course Racing Association's Marketing Director, Mr Gino Meriano, about the role of the organisation and the OCR UK Championship

The success of Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) has been unprecedented in the last three years, with more than 250 events taking place in this calendar year in the United Kingdom and with the average weekend playing host to at least two races. It was only matter of time before people started calling out for a governing body and an association where both race directors and competitors are members.

Out of this the Obstacle Course Racing Association (OCRA) was born and has not only sought to offer a minimum standard of safety at all races and training for marshals, but has also taken over the United Kingdom’s OCR Championship.

2015 UK OCR Championship

I decided to catch up with OCRA’s Marketing Director,Mr Gino Meriano, ahead of the UK Championship on 14 November:

Question Paul Hayward (PH): Gino please tell us a little about OCRA, their aims and what they have achieved?

Answer Gino Meriano (GM): It took a long time to put together an association for OCR due to not yet being a recognised sport and trying to achieve a balance between the perceptions of the OCR community and the competitors as to what they would want compared to the other side of the fence and the OCR race directors’ needs.

Essentially our objective was to help anyone and everyone involved with OCR, which was no mean feat. To this end we originally had 8 / 10 “crucial members” but that has now expanded to 20. These members cover everything from the promotion of OCR across the United Kingdom to Health and Safety advice before or during a race.

Each of our members have a skill set and can genuinely add value to a race director’s OCR or to someone taking on an OCR.

We are a “not for profit” organisation our aim is to support everyone on OCR, be it an individual athlete, a marshal or a race director and provide education and progression. For example we were contacted recently by a new race provider and they wanted advice on everything from obstacle build quality to insurance and we were pleased to help out.

Another real benefit of having the association is that competitors or individuals now have someone to speak to when they need to, they can feel that they now have a voice. For example if a race takes place and a competitor has a bad experience or they want to put forward suggestions to make the race better - they can do that now through us. We are able to take on board their comments and make representations to the race director or bring their concerns to the relevant parties.

We have come so far with 14 different race providers signed up as part of our association and with presence at our qualifier races and across OCR, I am proud to say we are really gathering momentum.

Question PH: Talk us through how the OCR UK Championship came about please?

Answer GM: A lot of people saw what was happening within our sport, that different races were holding the UK Championship and said to us “you should be responsible for this, you are the association” and it was built from there. We did have the initial dilemma of our sport being really new and wondered whether we could pull it off in this country or even do it justice. If we were to do it, we wanted a championship that could change each year, including going to Scotland and Wales, and not be generic or tied to the same location.

We started looking at our 14 members and what races they had on offer for a championship. The OCRA is spoilt in that we have some of the best races the United Kingdom has to offer in Judgment Day and the Nuts Challenge. However we have the “golden jewel” of OCR in our ranks in the form of Nuclear Races (see Run247's review from last year HERE) and on speaking to them, in particular their race director James, they were really keen to work with us and do something special for the Championship, essentially to provide a 'benchmark of UK OCR'.

We knew then that we could do it and offer something really special. We have had some criticism from some sectors of OCR for taking this step and putting on the UK OCR Championship. For example comments were made to us such as “who are OCRA” and “they are going to take the fun out of OCR”. However this is balanced with what we can genuinely offer to OCR; our championship will have trained marshals, the obstacles will be to a high standard and these factors are no bad thing and the excitement is building.

2015 UK OCR Championship

Photos: Rather special medals and trophy for the 2015 OCR UK Championship

Question PH: So tell us a little bit about the UK Championships?

Answer GM: This has to be the OCR of the year and we need to deliver on it, we want it to have the 'wow factor'. We feel we can achieve a perfect mix with 50 gallons of mud alongside some really good obstacles, with inspiration and ideas drawn from all over the world, that will provide us with the chance to host  and provide something special.

Importantly there will be prizes, for winners and on the spot awards, as well as really good medals that will ensure everyone feels that they are part of something special. We had a real goosebumps moment recently when the finisher’s shirts, which competitors will get at the finish line, went live. We wanted to create some excitement and fortunately it went through the roof with people sharing the images, talking about it and signing up to compete.

We have released teasers of some of the obstacles on our facebook page (www.facebook.com/ocrauk ) and these have been received well. The take up has been excellent with 200-300 competitors per age group, who are in my view the special people that have fought and trained to get to the start line, and with over 500 entries to the elite field, including household names in the United Kingdom such as Conor Hancock and Ross Macdonald, it is really shaping up to be a big race.

OCRA want people to leave the UK Championships saying “great fun, great day and great race”. We want people to feel that they are attending a UK Championship race and not just another OCR.

Question PH: There has been a lot of concerns about athletes 'obstacle skipping', can you assure competitors that this will not be happening at the UK Championships?

Answer GM: Yes. For a start we will have a lot of trained marshals at this event and the rules will be no different from what you can expect to see at the World OCR Championships, with bands taken off or time being added for obstacle skipping. We are still looking at the finer details but it will be policed and we will ensure it is fair. This is after all the championship!

Question PH: Thanks Gino, I look forward to seeing you and the team come November at the OCR UK Championship!

More details on OCRA can be found here: http://ocrauk.org.uk/

Run247 will be reporting live from the UK Championships.


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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