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Monster Race: putting the fun back into OCR

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 23rd June 2016
I find Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) is in danger at times of taking itself too seriously. I often hear arguments of “what is the best OCR?” or “what has the toughest obstacles?” and this seems to divide opinion. Whenever I am asked by these people, or by individuals that have never even done an OCR, “what race would you recommend?” I often find myself saying “Monster Race”. Those that do race OCR often ask me why do I say this? After all the Monster Race shies away from appealing to the ‘mainstream’ obstacle course racers, who often look for ‘tough challenges’ such as the platinum rig or long sandbag carries, and seems to focus firmly on the forgotten element of OCR, ‘fun’. 
Don’t get me wrong there are some fantastic races (world beating, even), challenges and innovation out there - Dirty Dozen Races, Rat Race and Nuclear Races to name but a few - but there is something special with the Monster Race through its ability to make me (and those that race it) smile time and time again. But how and why does this happen? Well if we ignore my previous reviews of the event (here and here) and consider the Spring Monster back in April this year for a moment. 
The course contained ‘race favourites’, such as the ‘toilet seat’ (imagine climbing out of a toilet) and the ‘meat grinder’ (an obstacle that squeezes you with tyres as you go through it), and neither of these obstacles could be considered ‘tough’ or ‘technical’. Yes they required some effort, and to first timers probably some sense of dread, but all of them are not only possible, but also enjoyable as you laugh as you come out of them. Now mix this with an obstacle such as “stepping stones”, a number of wooden tiles across the river requiring you to run across them without falling in, and the Monster seems to be onto a winner. 


It was through the stepping stones that something magical happened to me, and made me feel that I needed to write this piece. As I ran across the river jumping from stone to stone I found myself laughing and smiling; On making it to the other side I even jumped for joy. This obstacle was not challenging, in the size stakes or technical ability, but provided a magical moment of fun. On making it to the end I found myself wanting to do it again. Suddenly times, placings etc were all out of the window (and despite having a second lap) I thought “I have to do that again”. 
It was a magic moment and one that I have not felt in a long time. The Monster Race offers something special to the 2500 runners (mostly women, mostly taking on an OCR for the first time) that line up to take on the race. Somehow Simon (the Monster Race’s race director) is able to sprinkle some magic over the course and get the balance between fun and challenge just right. Every year I have reviewed the Monster Race I have found myself walking away from the event, smiling and remembering why I started taking on this sport in the first place, the ‘fun factor’. 
The Monster Race seems perfectly pitched for those taking on OCR for the first time, it seems to offer something so different to running, triathlon etc, But more importantly it offers something special to everyone, the chance to have some fun. Sadly this being said on talking to some of the hardened competitors that race OCR week in week out (you could even say I am in this category), the Monster Race seems to be down on the list to attend. 

Monster 2

This mindset is a travesty and must be due to some of us taking OCR too seriously, but why do we travel the country every weekend to race? It has to be for the fun factor, in between the challenge, and for a moment back in April I forgot that this was a race and just had some fun. That has to be about why we do this surely? 
The Monster Race returns in November and more details can be found here: http://www.monsterrace.co.uk/ 
All photos with kind permission of The Little Photo Company Limited.

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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