In the light of the recent demise of another UK OCR favourite, The Suffering Race, Doug Spence discusses the state of the sport in the UK...

If you haven’t already heard, this week saw the end of the Suffering Race, and although I never got to do it, I heard lots of great things about it. I vividly remember meeting the race director, Drew, in 2016 and I have to say, a more likeable and passionate RD would be hard to find. Even his beard was pretty damn epic!

I remember when we started Dirty Dozen, we always knew the market would hit a saturation point and force some consolidation. Like many race directors, I hoped we’d be one of the races that survived. The truth is, hope doesn’t cut it. Working hard and working smart is the only want to stand a chance and even then, there are no guarantees. Every race director will rightly tell you that this is a hard way to earn a living.

So, is OCR dying? My answer is ‘No. Not if we don’t want it to.’ What do I mean by that? Things happen in life if we make them happen.  Of course, there are elements out of our control but there are a lot of things that we can have an effect on.  I truly believe that keeping OCR alive is something we can all work together on and make happen.

Dirty Dozen had a great number of loyal followers that would attend every race, but the reality was that around 70% of our entrants at each event were new to us. Did that mean we were guilty of putting on crap races that no one wanted to come back to? I don’t think so, and the feedback supports that, but here’s my take; I think the vast majority of people that participate in an OCR do one and then never do another, and I think that is true across all the majority of races.

So how do we keep OCR alive?

Firstly, we all need to get more people to come and try a race (I know you’ve all done this but we all have to do more).

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Secondly, we need to help them prepare for it. Why? They will enjoy it more if they aren’t dead on their feet!

The thing I love about OCR is the seemingly low barriers to entry; you don’t need to be marathon fit and you don’t need a bike or wetsuit; you just need to turn up in shorts, a top and a pair of trainers and get stuck in. People don’t enjoy feeling unfit or incapable, hence turning up ill prepared will factor in to why people don’t come back (agreed, there are other factors but we can’t fix them all).

If people trained for 3 months before a race, not only would they enjoy the race more, they would be forming a healthy habit – they’d get into a routine of training which, over time, would become part of who they are – fit people with more energy. They will then belt round the course and want to do it again, meaning races will get repeat entries and stand a chance of surviving.

Remember, the battle is not yet won; now you’ve got to get them to sign up for another race!

If we can make training and racing part of our friends’ and families’ lives, we are not only helping OCR as a sport, but we are changing lives. It is widely known that changing lives is the ultimate goal of Spartan founder, Joe De Sena. Why are we being lazy and leaving it up to him and other race directors? We all have a role to play, so let’s get to it!

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