Obstacle Course Racing.. expect the unexpected
Obstacle Course Races have become one of the fastest growing type of events in the UK.
Combining the unique challenges of course design, distance. mud, obstacles, teamwork and racing, they are generally in great locations, providing a fun filled day out as well as a tough physical challenge.
My first experience of OCR was in 1990... when I took part in an iconic event called Tough Guy.
Based at a Horse Sanctuary in the midlands, it was a course over 12 miles, where the initial long loop took you through the countryside, zigging up and down hills, through woods, streams, huge concrete basins and a variety of surfaces before you came back round to the main "arena".
This was a set of fields, criss crossed by drainage channels and ponds, and a number of huge manmade obstacles had been built - Cargo nets, hay bale pyramids, balances across ponds, climb and slides.
The week of the race was characterised by freezing conditions and fog and on the day of the race it remained sub-zero and the organisers had to break the ice in all the arena ponds and channels. The VHS video of the event is like cloud watching as the thick fog remained through the day and it remains one of the coldest experiences I've ever had.
I followed the race instructions and wore plastic bags inside and over my gloves which saved my hands from getting completely frozen - but one of the clearest memories of the days is having to wade into the freezing water, clinking ice as you go through and then the comical attempts to try and run on frozen legs as you start to come back out onto dry land.. They would just about warm up before you'd be back in the water again.
Tough Guy held their last race this year http://www.toughguy.co.uk/ but I think the legacy lives on as it undoubtably will have inspired a number of other events and organisers.
My next experience was a number of years later, when my brother and I started some of the basic adventure races (picture is from the Helly Hansen series 19xx) and roped in friends/training partners.
They tended to be a combination of running, scrambling, mountain biking, inflatable kayaks and some smaller obstacles thrown in.. again great fun. They were mainly held on Army land, so you were racing across some great trails, hilly tracks, and tank training areas. Catering for elite athletes to people taking part for the fun day out, they were a great introduction into the different types of racing you can do.
Today there are huge number of event organisers running obstacle races of different scales and distances.
The OCR now has a world championship series: http://ocrworldchampionships.com/
There is a dedicated magazine now produced for the UK: http://www.obstacleracemagazine.com/
A guide to the races in the UK: http://www.mudrunguide.com/directory/uk/
and multiple organisers and events to pick from, including: Tough Mudder, Nuclear Races, Muddyrace, Mudstacle, Xrunner, Spartanrace, TotalWarrior
Event Level: All Levels