It's impossible to work at dryrobe and not learn about OCR. When I first started working here, I had a vague idea of what Obstacle Course Racing was about, but I'll be honest - I thought it was something that only a few nutters who loved mud did every now and then.
Since then, I've learnt that there's so very much more to it. Millions of people across the globe have taken part in an obstacle course of some kind and there are now thousands of regular hardcore OCR participants. There's now a real cross-section of people enjoying obstacle course racing - from the first-timers (like myself) who take on an OCR as a personal challenge, or to raise money for charity, or for a bit of fun, all the way through to the elite athletes who run competitively at events such as the OCR World Championships.
So what's the dryrobe connection and why did I want to take on an obstacle course race? Since it's creation, dryrobe has been embraced by the OCR community and become an almost essential piece of kit. In the UK especially (where we're used to unpredictable weather) being able to keep warm before and after a race is a lifesaver - especially if you've just been dunking yourself in icy water and battling through thigh-deep mud for the last few hours. dryrobe does that perfectly, as well as being a personal changing room - meaning you can change in a muddy field while staying warm and dry.
While working for dryrobe, I see every day the love that the OCR runners show to the brand, as well as the strong sense of community that you can see clearly in the many online groups. Seeing all this from behind a computer screen just wasn't enough any more - I wanted to get out there and get muddy myself! For my first ever OCR, I decided to go for one that I'd been interested in for a while - a Spartan Race. Born in Vermont in the United States - Spartan was founded by Joe De Sena, a world class adventure racer and entrepreneur, whose mission is to rip people off their couches and get outside and active.
So that's how I found myself at the start line of a Spartan Sprint just down the road from Windsor on a grey October morning. Along with about 30 others in my wave, I was practising my burpees in the warm up, eager to get out on the course and take on the obstacles ahead of me. The rule at Spartan races is that if you can't complete an obstacle, that's OK, but you do 30 burpees in the mud to make up for it. No one likes burpees - I was going to do my best to complete those obstacles.
Just over an hour later, I scaled the final 8 foot wall of the course, ran the last few metres and leapt over a blazing fire before crossing the finish line and catching my breath. The Spartan motto is - "you'll know at the finish line." Sounds a little cheesy, but I did. I'd just had an awesome time, taking on just under 6km of running through the woods, battling through plenty of mud and conquering obstacles I never thought I would be able to until now. (Admittedly I missed the spear throw, but let's not talk about that.)
The best thing for me though was all the people along the way. Out on the course everyone was in it together - helping strangers over obstacles, cheering each other, shouting encouragement as well as plenty of trademark Spartan AROOs echoing around the trees. The strong community that I'd heard so much about was definitely there, from the volunteer marshals giving out high fives after a muddy set of burpees to the stranger I met near the final obstacles that discussed wall climbing technique with me.
So what was next? After receiving my finishers medal I headed off the course, found my patient girlfriend, got my dryrobe straight on and started giving her a detailed obstacle by obstacle account of the course. About halfway down the motorway home, I was still talking and came to the realisation I was hooked - OCR had got me. Better start planning my next race.