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Dirty Dozen races

by Paul Hayward
Wednesday 10th August 2016
One of the real selling points for Obstacle Course Racing (“OCR”) is the diversity of the terrain and the difference in obstacles that the United Kingdom has to offer to competitors. With over 300 OCR races this year alone, the competition for the public’s money has never been so intense and it is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the needs of first timers, hardened competitors and athletes all wanting to take on their own challenges but get value for money, enjoyment and be challenged. 
Regular readers will be aware of my thoughts on Dirty Dozen Races’ races and their impressive climb to becoming one of the United Kingdom’s best OCR providers. I have previously commented that Dirty Dozen Races, and their Usk race in particular, “was up there with the best our sport has to offer” (here).  On thinking back to 2015 as I walked into the event village on 9 July 2016; I found myself smiling and remembering the horrendous hills, the boggy terrain and the mix of excellent obstacles that underlined Dirty Dozen Races’ ability to hold a fantastic OCR. 
With so much on offer these days in an OCR, from technical obstacles to gruelling terrain, it is hard to sum up what amounts to a “great” OCR and why this is. However, if you consider Dirty Dozen Races’ Usk effort then you would not be far off the mark. Held within the grounds of Usk castle in South Wales the terrain is, to put mildly, explosive. If competitors had any doubts about the terrain, through the journey over the hills to the car park, then the start line provided a welcome shock with a short 10 metre jog before shooting up a 20% gradient hill, or lung buster, from the off. The Welsh terrain does not give up and you would not be considered mad for thinking you were either running up a hill or down a hill at most points of the race. 
Whilst the terrain can sound off-putting, to those that are not attracted to hills, Doug Spence (Dirty Dozen Races’ race director) is able to get the balance of this challenging terrain just right for all camps of competitors. Although there are hills (note the absence of “few”) that can lead to a few profanities being shared between competitors, there are also descents and “flat” breaks that mean competitors get a welcome reprieve and chance to catch their breath allowing those to let of the pace if they like, or steam ahead. 
This reprieve does, to many, come in handy when you consider that this is an obstacle course race and competitors would not only face whatever terrain was thrown at them, the course would also be sprinkled with hanging walls, cargo net crawls (with tied down nets) and other obstacles all intent on breaking up your rhythm should the terrain not be able to do this.


Dirty Dozen Races has the enviable position of having some of the best, in terms of build and quality, obstacles that you can find in OCR and Wales did not disappoint. Usk contained many favourites such as the trademark “Tarzan bars”, a set of monkey bars across a river, and the brilliant “floater” (a floating rig containing an 8ft wall expecting competitors to swim out to it then not only scale the platform but then the wall!). Pleasingly new, more technical, obstacles featured such as “slackline” (a trapeze at height) and “Jacob's ladder” (a small rope ladder to the top of an A frame) and proved that Dirty Dozen Races is alive to the sport and offering some of the best obstacles you can find. 
Though none of these really compared with the “traditional” obstacle “Hurtles II” coupled with experienced strategic placing. Think a long rectangle split into numerous little squares requiring competitors to climb into each one individually and jump over them from one end to the other. This does not sound too onerous (but actually is) but placed on the top third of a hill, it comes into its own and ensured many (if not most) competitors were gasping for air from the start. Despite the simplicity of the obstacle Doug managed to add value to a seemingly traditional obstacle, through effective use of both the terrain and obstacle, and ensure it was one of the “talked about” obstacles of the day.


This thinking and experience is representative of why Dirty Dozen Races offer such a good OCR. With the competition becoming tougher and tougher, and with providers from abroad now entering the fray, Dirty Dozen Races served a timely reminder that they not only offer one of the best OCR events there is, they are able to do so in a clever and challenging way (through astute use of the terrain and strategic obstacles) that shows that they are at the top of their game.
More information and Dirty Dozen Races’ full race schedule can be found at: https://www.dirtydozenraces.com/events
Images kindly supplied with permission of Epic Action Imagery.

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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