Context is so important so let’s get this right from the start…
I love Obstacle Course racing, and I love the Obstacle Course Racing Community; probably even more! So I need to prelude this post by saying that I do not have anything but amazing things to say about the events that I am going to be writing about in this piece.
This not a review and, if I were to write one about any of the events that I mention; I would only have good things to say about all of them. However, while we find ourselves on the weekend of the summer edition of one of the toughest obstacle course races in the UK, The Nuts Challenge, with the anniversary of The Unknown a mere week away, two Spartan Races trifecta weekends fast approaching and the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships, which is being held in the UK for the first time, on the horizon; I felt compelled to tell you why these events aren’t things that everyone should do.
Now, with that out of the way, I have an admission: I am not as fast as Usain Bolt. I know, it’s a massive surprise and I probably should have come out with it sooner but I just didn’t think it was that important to tell y’all that I’m not as good at the 100m sprint as the world’s fastest man. But, while we’re at it, I might as well formally point out that I am also not as fast as Paula Radcliffe, as strong as Arnold Schwarzenegger, as agile as Simone Byles or as good in the water as Rebecca Adlington. And if we’re being honest; I probably will never be any of the above!
But again, I didn’t mention it because it doesn’t really matter; I really don’t care, and you guys DEFINITELY don’t! Because, what I also don’t think I need to do is tell you that I’m louder than Elton John’s outfits, better at monkey bars than most 10-year-old boys and I lasted longer in The Unknown 2017 than Alex Rutherford, Tim Wain and Andrew Appleton (PUT TOGETHER!!). (These are well known and respected Adventure and Obstacle Course participants who give their all, smile all the way, are true sportsmen and, for many, people to look up to, and rightly so!) And I didn’t need to tell y’all about those things because you already knew them, because they’re what I’m good at, it’s what shines out of me from every hole on my face!
And this is why I need to write this, because we’re coming up to my fourth OCRWC and I am disgusted with the internal battle I am having with myself. This year will be my fourth year at Worlds. I adore and am proud of the opportunity that I have had to compete take part in the three I already have and I am ecstatic that I have qualified again. Every year I have taken away so much more from the events than just my medals; needed lessons, phenomenal friendships, amazing memories, a sling and an ice pack that was shoved down my shorts. But I am yet, in the three years and five individual races I have taken part in, to bring home my band for completion of all the obstacles, and in those three years, across those five races, my face has never not leaked when it was cut. And I don’t just mean a few tears, I mean cried like a little bitch with a broken heart…because that’s EXACTLY what I was, every. Single. Time.
We are – the obstacle course racing community – astonishingly lucky. We have a community and a sport that is inclusive of all abilities walks of life and people. But I also truly believe that while all of this – the majority of the time – lends itself to be extremely constructive for the many hundreds of people who are involved; it can sometimes, inadvertently, be severely detrimental to those, like me, who have outrageous hero-complexes and low self-esteem
Because anyone can be at OCRWC. Because anyone can sign up for The Unknown. Because anyone can attempt four laps of Winter Nuts. Because anyone can try to complete a Spartan Trifecta on a weekend and because of all of this; we forget that it’s alright that we’re not as good at marathons as Paula, as strong as Arnie, as flexible as Simone or as good in the water as Rebecca.
When we have our bands cut, don’t last 36 hours, get hypothermia and miss the cut-off or get too tired; we forget that we’re loud, we forget we’re good at monkey bars and we forget that we’re better than some people at some things. We just remember what we’re not.
And so this year, for the first time in four, I won’t be doing the standard course at OCRWC. I won’t be getting hypothermia and I won’t be having my band cut and I won’t be minding in slightest. Instead, I’ll be on the sides, marshalling; doing something else that I’m amazing at; having the best time and leading with my strengths.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do things just because we’re not great at them. I’m not even saying we shouldn’t do things if we’re not okay at them. Heck, I’ve tried…I’ve tried REALLY hard a bazillion times at a bazillion things I’m marginally proficient at, and I am so so so so glad that I did.
But what I am saying is that not everything is for everyone and when you try and you don’t succeed you should NEVER let that take away from the things you do succeed at. Work on weaknesses and don’t let them stop you – I still do the 100m sprint whenever I can – but celebrate your strengths and NEVER EVER, no matter how far off the mark you might be, forget them. If you don’t qualify, if your band is cut, if you only manage one lap, if you make it 1 hour or only feel like you can finish the Sprint; remember that the ONLY thing that measures is your ability on THAT course, in THAT event, or in THAT series, it does not measure YOU and it doesn’t take away ANY of the awesomeness you achieved in getting there, in trying or just simply by existing.
There is a place for everyone in this community, there’s a place for every person, every person’s skill and every person’s goal. So let’s utilize that instead of all aiming for the same thing: we’re all different, we’re all good at different things, and that’s what makes our sport, our community, our family, so differently amazing!!!
I’m hypothermic, hyper, hella’ brave Hatti and I’m a bit better than Usain Bolt at football and so much better at shouting than Paula, Arnie, Simone and Bex.