The Obstacle Racing World Championships held at the Mud, Guts and Glory course in Oregonia, Ohio was the 71st obstacle race I have completed. It was the greatest obstacle racing experience I have had to date, period.
As soon as I got on site, the event had the feeling of no other race I have ever been to. That is because there hasn’t been anything like it before. When you are at a Spartan Race, there is no doubt, you are at a Spartan. It’s pumping hard in the DNA of every piece of signage and every human being on that piece of land. When you arrive on the grounds of a Tough Mudder. Tough Mudder is crammed into your every orifice. This is how it should be, by the way. Those companies have spent many years and millions of dollars to give us those very specific feelings. However, when me and my crew arrived at Mud, Guts, and Glory, that feeling of familiarity was missing. It was replaced by this entirely new feeling, that I doubt I can accurately describe. I doubt anyone will truly understand unless they were there. The feeling was so many things at once. It was knowing I was at something historic. It was hearing new accents, and new languages and seeing flags from all over the world. It was the seeing familiar faces, but in a entirely new way because we all knew this was historic, and cool, and fun, and interesting, and bad ass.
I walked right up to Adrian Bijanada, the visionary behing OCRWC, and said “This is the real world championships.” I would repeat that statement about 100 times over the next two days. I also said “This is what our sport needs”. And it is. If we are going to grow, we can’t have a championship decided by a particular brand. It needs to be an independent company who’s top priorities are to bring everyone together and unify the sport.
The Other Ones
The Spartan World Championship is the Vermont Beast held in September. It does bring together many of the world’s best. The problem is, it brings those athletes to an obstacle race that is unlike 99% of the rest of the races we all do, all year long. The race covers a distance of 15-17 miles. There are four to six thousand difficult feet of gain and descent. It’s an awesome test to show us how we do against each other, and how we do against ourselves and that mountain. I consider it the Spartan Championship race, not the obstacle racing championship race. It is an experience I have enjoyed being a part of the last 3 years and will continue to do so in the future. However , it should NOT decide the world’s best obstacle racer.
The Warrior Dash World Championship is also not a predictor of who is the best in our sport. Warrior Dash is widely known as the gate-way drug for obstacle racing. Many of you reading this did a Warrior Dash as your first mud run or obstacle event. Red Frog events do an outstanding job and provide an extremely well produced all day experience. It’s a fantastic first time out and the best post race party anywhere. The vibe of Warrior Dash, is not “Let’s crush this race!”, but rather “Let’s have a great time!”. The obstacles are easy enough for almost anyone to complete and the distance is often 3.2 miles or less. In the first ever WDWC, the winners were not known for obstacle racing, and that really wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Ryan Atkins has beaten everyone in the world (except Champ Jon Albon) at every obstacle race he has entered including World’s Toughest Mudder, the Spartan Vermont Beast Championship, and now the OCRWC. He was 10th at the Warrior Dash event. Ryan said it was not his best race day, but even if he got the chance to do it over again, he may not finish higher than 5th or 6th. If we took the top 10 finishers, male and female, and had them race a street 5k, I am pretty sure the results would have read the same. The Warrior Dash winning time was 22 minutes and 34 seconds. This alone speaks volumes. It let’s us know who the best Warrior Dasher is. It does not let us know who the best obstacle racer is.
Mud, Guts and Glory
MGG, the name of the venue that was home to the OCRWC, was already known as fantastic race experience. The first event was well documented by several pre-eminent blogs including ORM. Subsequent events had similar feedback of awesome terrain, challenging obstacles, cash prizes for elite racers, and world class volunteers. For the Championships last weekend, OCRWC and MGG decided to improve upon an already awesome experience. The course was extended to 8 plus miles and several obstacles were added and/or improved upon. Many of these additional obstacles were easily seen in an extremely expansive viewing area and festival location. These included a second Sternum Checker, Battlefrog’s Tip Of The Spear, a “Wreck Bag” carry which included two “under wire” crawls. In addition, there was The Platinum Rig making only its 2nd USA appearance ever, and a huge slide made even bigger and out of control. I also found the event producers extremely creative in their use of course design and obstacles. They found some of the steepest grade hills to go up and down, many which made you use ropes for assistance. They also added a high wire obstacle that tested your fear and balance. The photo below shows a very basic obstacle of going under some tires. However, the mud made participants use muscles rarely used in an obstacle race, plus, if you were claustrophobic, you wanted to get out from under this thing real quick.
In future years, I can see OCRWC becoming the once a year event that everyone in the industry wants to be a part of. Everyone I spoke with this past weekend said it was the best race they have ever done. Days later, many can still not stop raving about it their experiences on Facebook.
One person suggested to me that it has all the makings of becoming a 3-4 day OCR Festival. It seems a very logical next step. Races could participate in a variety of ways including but not limited to: becoming an OCRWC qualifier, building and/or donating obstacles to the race (as ABF, and Battle Frog did this time around), and/or having a tent display in the festival area. In addition, any vendor that is, or wants to be a part of the OCR space could get their own tents and/or sponsor obstacles throughout the race. Yet, another way to expand this event would be for OCRWC to offer a shorter “Sprint” course on one of the days to add another level of competition.
Last, I want to give a shout out to a post race bonus I experienced. Many races go the lazy route of serving overpriced, and unhealthy BBQ or hot dogs and hamburgers. It is always refreshing when there are healthy reasonably priced choices. I had The Eggman sandwich from The Shakery Food Truck. It hit the spot after a long race, was delicious, and only cost me 5 bucks.
Click Matt’s Strava photo above or here for link for additional mileage and elevation data.
Click here for complete OCR World Championship Results.
Photos courtesy of ORM and OCRWC.