In 2013, if someone had told us that we would one day be opening registration for our seventh year, I am not sure any one of us would have believed it. But here we are – all of us, every bit as excited as the athletes, getting ready to launch this next adventure with you, rife with anticipation, restless nights and absolute joy. 2020 is right in front of us, and we cannot help but look back on the last six years that brought us to this point.
Nearly 600 athletes arrived at daybreak in their team jerseys, representing 10 countries. The athletes milled about, getting to know each other, excitedly talking in various accents, sporting the kit and enjoying the conversation from like minded people around the world.
This was an atmosphere they had never previously experienced. Two days prior, at packet pick up, the merchandise tent had been filled to capacity with everyone wanting a souvenir of things to come. Come Saturday, there was almost nothing left in the store. Even before it happened, these athletes knew they were about to be a part of history.
The format in 2014 was simple: A standard course with Pro, Age group and Journeyman divisions of around 8.5 miles on Saturday, followed by a Team event consisting of 2 to 4-person Pro or Open teams (men, women or co-ed) on Sunday. This was the first OCR event of its kind, using the band system and mandatory obstacle completion to dictate who would be eligible for the podium. The concept excited obstacle enthusiasts and piqued the interest of athletes around the globe who wanted to know how they would place when true obstacle proficiency was put to the test. With 3,500 feet of climbing and approximately 60 obstacles, they were very much about to find out.
While the entire course was built to excite, a few obstacles stood out above the others. The mentally imposing Castle Wall, Tension, and the jaw-dropping water slide, the grip and strength taxing Sawtooth and Battlefrog’s Tip of the Spear, the height-challenging Sternum Checker, and the leg-sapping, seemingly truly vertical Pinnacle. If you know, you definitely know. But nothing truly lasts in the memory more than the introduction of the Platinum Rig. Most athletes had never seen anything quite like it, and with almost half of the 55.8% percent overall failure rate coming directly from the rig, it was clear that this was the start of something huge. Notably, the seven South African athletes present crossed the finish line having successfully completed every obstacle on the course.
Winners that weekend included some athletes that are very much present today, and some whose presence are very much missed. First place went to the awe-inspiring Jon Albon (UK) and Siri Englund (SWE) while the impressive second place spots went to Ryan Atkins (CAN) and Cassidy Watton (USA). The podium was rounded out by the incredible efforts of Hobie Call (USA) and Amy Pajcic (USA). With current race director Brett Stewart tirelessly calling every single athlete’s name as they crossed the finish line, it was an intimate and exciting affair. At its conclusion on Sunday afternoon, highlighted by the emotional finish of the Operation Enduring Warrior adaptive team crossing the finish line, it was clear to all in attendance this was the start of something truly remarkable.
2015 brought us back to King’s Domain. Word had spread with non-stop excited chatter over the previous year. The excitement of all in attendance was clear to see on packet pick up day. Participating athletes more than doubled, and with 25 countries making themselves heard, there was no question that this was an upstart Championship event that was not going to sit down. Athletes donned the new silicone bands, an upgrade to the paper bands of 2014 that athletes wore with honor until they finally disintegrated.
The conditions were an obstacle unto themselves that Friday. Unseasonable cold meant the frost on the grass crunched underfoot, and the thin ice layer over the puddles showed the team that some last-minute adjustments would be needed to ensure the safety of the athletes. The morale around the field was high as we introduced a new event, the precursor to the 3k, the OCR Warrior short course. The “Pre-race Race Championship,” as it was called by many, was fast, fun, and gave the participating athletes a taste of what to expect the next day.
Saturday brought the main event, a ten mile race with many of the noteworthy obstacles from 2014, including the addition of a second Platinum Rig up on the hill, which athletes were better prepared for now as they’d had a year to practice. Changes in configurations still made them excellent adversaries. Who there could forget watching a then new-to-the-sport Robert Killian fighting valiantly at the first rig while everyone cheered him on? Then there was the appearance of several new behemoths, such as Dragon’s Back from Toughest in Sweden, making athletes knock-kneed with acrophobia. OCR Warrior’s own Skull Valley took out 40% of the field just before the finish line and still became the new most beloved obstacle of the OCRWC, even by those who could not complete it.
The team event on Sunday was modified to what we know it as now, with three person teams, and became the most joyfully talked about element of the entire weekend, bringing people together from around the globe to rub shoulders with their counterparts and heroes.
Male podium finishers were once again Jon Albon (UK) and Ryan Atkins (CAN) in the first two spots, and Cody Moat (USA) taking the coveted third place position. The women gave us three new remarkable contenders with Lindsay Webster (CAN), Claude Godbout (CAN) and KK Stewart-Paul (US).
Our collaboration with For Those Who Would to introduce the OCR Humanitarian of the year award was celebrated for the first time this year. We honored the amazing efforts of Jesse Bruce in an emotional ceremony befitting this exceptional human.
How would we grow, moving forward? How else, but to pick up roots – and move.
Word had spread like wildfire, and a whopping 42 countries showed their pride that weekend. This was also the year two new formats were introduced. That Friday began with the short course, a competitive fast and technical 3K race, and the weekend ended with the Charity Open, raising thousands of dollars for Make-a-Wish Canada. The open allowed friends and family to join their athletes in a fun and non-competitive atmosphere. The rain that Sunday began a new inside joke to all who experienced, but did nothing to dampen the spirits of the athletes who were having the time of their lives.
The mountain proved a worthy opponent and with the introduction of the Wreck Bag carry, many people questioned their life choices at the same time as they grinned ear-to-ear. 2016 also featured the debut of Conquer The Gauntlet’s Stairway to Heaven, Force 5’s Skyline and Indian Mud Run’s Floating Walls – all of which were seen as wildly daunting to many that weekend and were the excited topic of future training plans for just as many afterwards.
The For Those Who Would OCR Humanitarian Award crown was handed over from Jesse Bruce to the wonderful Alan Ajoy, in an emotional ceremony that brought athletes together to celebrate everyone’s accomplishments over the weekend.
Winners of the 3K included the podium flip of Ryan Atkins (CAN) and Jon Albon (UK), with Canada’s Viktor Alexy in third. For the women, we saw the incredible Lindsay Webster (CAN) joined by Sweden’s Karin Karlsson and South Africa’s Hanneke Dannhauser.
For the 15K, it was back to the seemingly unstoppable Albon, who completed the first three-peat in OCRWC history. Ryan, and the UK’s Conor Hancock rounded out the men’s podium. On the women’s side, Webster again reigned supreme, to cap her third title in three attempts. She was joined by the rising star of Nicole Mericle (USA) and Sweden’s superheroine Karin Karlsson.
67 nations ran, walked, crawled or slid up and down those mountains that year, some riding a Wreck Bag down the muddy slopes with them. The format comfortably settled in, again offering the 3K, 15K, Team event and Charity Open to benefit Make-A-Wish Canada.
Northman Race’s La Gaffe Du Draveur was the standout obstacle that year, harnessing the perfect ratio of challenge and fun. It was included in the spectator-friendly village area that drew thousands of spectators from near and far to watch more than 3,000 athletes compete that year. Sandstorm Race from the UAE, Mud Hero in Canada, and Green Beret Challenge also brought new and exciting obstacles in 2017, giving everyone a taste of what the world of Obstacle Course Racing had to offer.
2016’s For Those Who Would OCR Humanitarian Award winner Alan Ajoy, happily passed the baton to the beloved Matty Gregg for 2017 keeping us aware of how incredible the OCR community is.
The 3K gave us the dynamic duo of Jon Albon (UK) and Ryan Atkins (CAN) again, with the US’s Ben Kinsinger taking third place. Nicole Mericle (USA), Lindsay Webster (CAN) and Karin Karlsson (SWE) once again showed how bright they could shine.
In the 15k, the ubiquitous Albon and Atkins were joined by fan favorite Hunter McIntyre (USA), and Webster, Mericle and Karlsson moved around a bit to mix things up.
So now we had the big question – if OCRWC kept the tradition of moving locations every two years, where next?
More than 60 nations and 3,200 athletes met up to compete on the beautiful farmland that houses the permanent course for Nuclear Races. This was to be a contrast to Blue Mountain’s course with its lack of elevation, so the plan was to make up for that in mud. The unseasonably gorgeous weather just would not stop, so we had to find another way to slow everyone down…by equipping the 15K standard race with ONE HUNDRED OBSTACLES.
With the new venue came new awe-inspiring guest obstacles, such as Strong Viking’s Varjagensaga, gorgeous rigs by Urban Sky, and all of the amazing obstacles Nuclear brought to the table, including the undeniably photo-worthy Deathslide.
A colossal tent was the centerpoint of the vibrant festival area and housed several rig-style obstacles, perfect for spectators and athletes alike. The event was filmed for television, and the result was an amazing 60-minute recap of the action that was broadcast globally.
Continuing with the format from the previous two years, the 3K event brought to the podium the familiar team of Jon Albon (UK) and Ryan Atkins (CAN) and was rounded out by Russia’s Sergei Perelygin. The women featured Nicole Mericle (USA), Rebecca Hammond (USA) and Lindsay Webster (CAN).
The 15K featured Albon sweeping the weekend in his home country, and with two new podium neighbors, Sergei Silin (RUS) and Thibault Debusschere (BEL). The women brought Webster back in first place, with newcomer to the OCRWC podium, Denmark’s Ida Mathilde Steensgaard and familiar face Karin Karlsson (SWE).
Over 70 nations were treated to unrelenting rain, and the mud that naturally follows suit. The Wreck Bag carry was unlike anything we had ever seen, and people emerged from the ditches more mud monster than human. Knowing in advance that the skies were potentially going to open up for us, we placed the two most technical obstacles, Force5’s Gibbons and Valkyrie, under the epic tent. It made for amazing cheers for the exhausted athletes throughout the weekend, giving them that burst of energy they needed.
The weekend wrapped up with the requisite and wonderful Team and Charity Open race (benefiting 1% for the Planet) and with that, we put things to bed in the UK for the OCRWC.
A new sensational addition to the event, the 100-meter sponsored by Urban Sky, was not sheltered from the storm and added a layer of additional technical prowess to the event. Thomas Van Tonder (SA) finished the course in a blistering 1 minute and 37 seconds, and Karin Karlsson (SWE) in an awe-inspiring 2 minutes and 15 seconds.
In the 3K we saw Jon Albon (UK) joined by Van Tonder, fresh off his 100m win, and Sergei Perelygin (RUS) taking third place. Nicole Mericle (USA), Ida Mathilde Steensgaard (DEN) and Rebecca Hammond (USA) stepped up for the women.
In the 15K the seemingly unbreakable Albon and Ryan Atkins (CAN) were back joined by Thomas Buyle from Belgium and for the women we saw Karin Karlsson, taking her second first place podium of the weekend, including her first 15K title. She was joined by Katja Christensen (DENMARK) and Steensgaard.
And so here we are – staring 2020 in the face, ready to head to the gorgeous mountains of Stratton Mountain Resort, Vermont, USA. Looking down memory lane at what we have done helps us look forward to see what we have to accomplish in order to keep being the event you love and the one we are proud of. We are so honored to call you all family, and cannot wait to have you all back again. Until then!