Fear, Hope, and an OCR Hipster: Thoughts on the future of obstacle racing

I will never forget my first race. The butterflies in the stomach, the rush at the starting gun. The cold, wet, nasty grueling experience that caused total strangers to work together, and even to help those who we knew could not help us in return. The joy at crossing the finish line, and the limp that I went home with. And that plain pewter medal, still with mud on it, that still hangs on my wall. It was the start of an incredible journey, and I loved every second of it.

Since then, there has been a continuous debate on what needed to change to make this into a “real” sport. I never knew how many of the poorer qualities of a traditional sport we would pick up along the way. We now have big-money purses, professional sponsored athletes. We also have new racers that now think they don’t deserve to be on the same course as the elites, and an emerging elitist jock mentality that looks down on newer racers. We also have voices becoming more common demanding that the harder events be made easier, because, “OCR shouldn’t be an endurance event.” Arguments over what event determines “The Best in the World” as if such a thing exists.

For quite some time, I have looked at every “improvement” being made in the course of making my beloved sport “real” and thought the old way was better. I heard the following jokes and had a sudden realization.

Both jokes start with “How many hipsters does it take to change a lightbulb?”

Answer one: Only one, but the rest will instantly start debating how the old lightbulb was better.

Answer two: Some odd obscure number that you probably have never heard of.

I have somehow become the hipster of the OCR world. It was better how it was done “before it was cool” and the events that I love the best will almost always be the ones that are farthest from mainstream, things that I have to explain what it is.

The OCR world will get what it asked for, but not necessarily what they wanted. OCR will become a mainstream sport, not by shifting the masses out of the mainstream, but by shifting themselves into the mainstream. They will lose the soul of the event that brought us in, but they will be standard, uniform, official.

This could easily turn into me muttering into my drink over what could have been, if it were not for one thing that the birth of OCR has given me and all the other crazy mud warriors who think along similar lines: We know now that we are not alone. And in that is hope that the crazy, tough, knock-you-to-your-knees events that we love so much will continue.

We started with Spartan, Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash, but we found that edge of tougher, more grueling events, and we knew that was where we needed to go. As the mainstream events are standardized and sanitized, those of us that want more will keep finding more, and building it when we can’t find it.

OCR  may not be going where I had hoped it would. But I am still going there.

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