Wednesday, 8th February 2023
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OCR2015 - a year in review

by Paul Hayward
Friday 8th January 2016
Tags  OCR   |   Paul Hayward   |   2015 OCR UK Championship   |   Jon Albon   |   Thomas Blanc   |   Ram Run   |   Devil Mud Run   |   The Reaper   |   Spartan   |   Tough Mudder   |   Dirty Dozen Races   |   Monster Race   |   The Suffering   |   Mens Health Survival of the Fittest   |   Rat Race   |   BG Survival Race   |   Red Bull Neptune Steps   |   ToughGuy   |   Royal British Legion Major Series

Run247's Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward looks back over a busy year

If there is one word to define Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) this year, it would be 'exceptional'. In short - the big boys really had to raise their game due to the emergence of some really good new providers who are snapping at their heels and luring OCR mompetitors.

2015 UK OCR Championship

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

In addition to some fantastic races, the United Kingdom finally held a legitimate UK OCR Championship race (HERE and HERE) through the newly formed and deeply pivotal UK OCR Association (HERE) and Jon Albon was once again crowned OCR World Champion.

With over 270 OCR events taking place through 2015, with some weekends seeing two or three races being held across the country, no providers could take anything for granted and I was pleasantly surprised to see events such as Ram Run (HERE) not only offering fantastic value at £35 per entry, but also providing some really challenging moments.

Two 'new-comers' that really stood out for me were Devil Mud Run and the Reaper. Devil Mud Run (HERE) proved that an OCR provider can do the simple things, like registration and marshals, really well and the harder things, like obstacles, better. The location, providing the views and the terrain were fantastic as were the obstacles and the event firmly established Gloucestershire on the map of OCR.

Devil Mud Run - February 21 & 22, 2015

Photos: Devil Mud Run - The final push to the finish © Reward PR

I was told in 2014 that the Reaper was 'an OCR to watch' but if I am honest, I was not expecting to be so impressed so quickly. Despite being 8.5k, thankfully, the quick succession of obstacles, through mixed terrain with some innovation, provided a masterclass of resolve versus challenge and proved that the newer races can match the big boys and do it well. (HERE)

So where did this leave OCR and the bigger boys? Two names that often cause mass controversy are Spartan Race and Tough Mudder. Ranging from the cost of attending these events and the T-shirts offered at the finish line, to the experience offered, these two events seem to lead the line for OCR in many ways.

I am often against the tag-line 'toughest race', as I want everyone to try OCR and not be put off from the start, but Spartan Race came of age in September this year (HERE). In 2 hours and 57 minutes the Spartan Sprint, and the team behind it, showed just what they are capable of and that they are worthy challengers to the crown of best OCR providers.

In comparison Tough Mudder, with over 13,000 people taking on the quest to earn an orange headband, decided to redefine their OCR offering and go back to basics in a way that screamed success (HERE). With new and improved versions of 'fan favourite' obstacles such as Everest 2.0 and Arctic Enigma 2.0, to the all new 'birth canal' and hugely entertaining 'King of the Swingers', Tough Mudder provided a welcome reminder of just how to hold an OCR.

This however did not deter last year’s challengers Dirty Dozen Races and Monster Race from clawing ever closer to that summit. Dirty Dozen Races, led by Doug Spence aka the Beard, proved in Usk in July that it was far from a forgone conclusion (HERE). Having already established in 2014 that Dirty Dozen Races can hold a fantastic OCR, they somehow sprinkled magic dust on an already brilliant offering by giving you obstacles that were 'pitched perfectly' and squeezed even more magic from the toughest terrain in OCR. On this evidence, Dirty Dozen Races sent a bolt across OCR that said this was their year.

Simon at Monster Race also showed that you can take a truly fantastic OCR and add the more 'difficult' obstacles, by making them friendly and less intimidating, to provide an exceptional OCR (HERE). OCR does not need to be expensive, as Monster Race routinely shows, but it needs to be inclusive and fun, two factors that Simon has nailed down. The question really is whether he can keep stepping it up?

Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward revisits the ever enjoyable Monster

Photos: OCR does not need to be expensive, as Monster Race routinely shows

Two series that firmly stepped up their longer distance offerings in OCR were the Suffering, with their 10 mile challenge (HERE) and Rat Race’s Men's Health Survival of the Fittest series, who provided the Super Survival half marathon (HERE). The Suffering offer one of the best value OCR weekends, with a 5k and 10k the day before the 10 mile event, and they provide one of the hardest challenges of doing all three distances in one weekend - but be prepared to collapse at the end!

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest took an already fantastic race series and added new obstacles, new experiences and a redesigned goodie bag (with new medals) that showed with some persuasion that you do not need to leave the city to experience OCR at its best. If their offering over the last few years had not been good enough, this year in Manchester they showed just how to hold a fantastic OCR.

If the challenge to survive was not set high enough, Bear Grylls decided to step up through the BG Survival Race (HERE) and provide moments of innovation that left a number of other OCRs scratching their heads and asking what had happened. By providing innovative shooting and fire making obstacles, Bear Grylls firmly placed himself in the reckoning for the race to watch in 2016.

OCR in 2015 was, however, completed redesigned, kicked about and supercharged by RedBull this year though as RedBull held the inaugural Neptune Steps (HERE). Through completely re-designing the box, RedBull gave you an OCR set in a lake through locks with a short distance, simple obstacles but an exceptional experience that brought OCR to a whole new audience.

2015 marked an exceptional year in OCR and showed, through the diversity if the OCR on offer, that there is a lot to be excited about as more and more people take on this fantastic sport and the races get better and better.

Run247’s OCR coverage has gone from strength to strength this year and we are really excited for 2016 including covering the “original” OCR ToughGuy, as emphatically covered by James Appleton here, and newly rebranded and hugely exciting the Royal British Legion Major Series. In addition we are pleased to continue to support Thomas Blanc’s OCR travels (HERE) and offering kit and nutrition reviews (HERE and HERE).

Thomas Blanc prepares himself to suffer for his success

Photos: Thomas Blanc is prepared to suffer for his success

If you would like to feature in our 2016 coverage or for further information, please do contact Paul Hayward at pablosquire@hotmail.com

Check out our review of 2014 HERE


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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