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An Interview with James Parrish, Race Director of Nuclear Races

James Parrish, Race Director, Nuclear Races

What is your role at OCRWC?

Despite general consensus, my role at OCRWC is not as Race Director, it is as the Host. To this end I am providing the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships with the use of my land and race course, for them to use as they see fit. I am of course on hand for any advice, as I know my course and land inside and out so I am constantly talking through things with Adrian, however, ultimately I am providing the tools for the OCRWC to build their own spectacular course. I am not the course designer, all the decisions lie with the Adrian and his team.

What’s your day job?

I’m an arable farmer first and foremost, however I am constantly diversifying and exploring new paths and businesses. I am fortunate that as a farmer I have a lot of land and resources to play with which has allowed me to build Nuclear as a permanent course, and also gives me the opportunity to explore other passions of mine.

When you’re not at an OCR, or planning an OCR, what are you most likely doing?

I love to tinker in my workshop. I love building and engineering, questioning things and working them out. From house building to obstacle design I am always thinking of ways to engineer and construct.

This has helped me massively in building a successful obstacle course. I’m not actually a runner myself, I don’t run other peoples courses, I do things the way I think is right, not what others are doing and I listen to my own instincts and experience. To use a farmers term, I plough my own furrow.

When it comes to designing obstacles either I come up with ideas, or people come to me with  their own ideas. I develop them and oversee the build. Sometimes the result is totally unrecognisable from the original concept.

Your course is know for innovative design [winning the Mudstacle award for Best Obstacle, -as well as best all round event, best for beginners, and best for kids event], will we see any of these loaned to the OCRWC?

I don’t want to give anything away as you can imagine, but there’s a chance you’ll be seeing some new, previously unseen things from us as part of our contribution, but I can’t say any more than that!

Can you describe yourself in 3 words?

Innovative, passionate, resilient, risk taker, competitive….

That’s more than 3 words…

Yes, well as I said, I’m always developing ideas… Actually, I’d rather describe myself as someone with an active mind that always questions and is thinking, rather than use three words.

You’ve been involved in OCR for a very long time, building up the biggest UK homegrown brand. Why did you start?

I got to an age when I realised I needed to look after my body and start exercising regularly. I joined a weekly fitness group, a lot of the women were doing races each week, at the time they were more like trail races than what we see today, but I thought, you know what, I can do this better and so I tried it. Not long after we held our first race on the farm in 2011 with 180 entrants, our most recent race weekend had 12,000 runners and 8,000 spectators.

Initially I actually originally worried that we were growing too slowly, I saw other brands explode onto the scene and were overnight successes, but in the long run it’s worked out so well for us.

Slow growth is sustainable. It allowed us to learn lessons from every event we did, and to improve. We’ve avoided huge problems by never growing faster than we could handle it.

What is it that you love about Obstacle Course racing?

There are two aspects behind my passion for OCR, one is for me personally, I’ll describe it as the thrill of the chase. The designing of something new and innovative. Taking the twinkle of an idea and creating something unseen, an obstacle with a twist that no one else has though of. I also love what could be seen as the boring side, the logistics of course planning. How to get everyone through the course safely and effectively with creating backlogs or injuries. It’s incredibly satisfying to see people out on my course and seeing it all working well and how I envisioned.

The other side is the community itself. The OCR community is genuinely full of good people, the camaraderie is unlike anything I’ve seen elsewhere, it really brings out the best in people, and seeing all of these souls taking part in something you conceived and created with a huge smile on their face certainly helps you take the rough with the smooth, and makes the tougher days worthwhile. Whilst I don’t run the course, I get my adrenaline rush from seeing people happy and achieving something incredible.

As well as running a multitude of different Nuclear events over the year, you’ve also hosted the UK Championships. Is there anything you’ve learnt over the years that gives you the edge for hosting the OCRWC?

This isn’t exclusive to OCR but so many people overhype and under deliver. We’ve always been careful to not do that, and to make sure we’ve ticked every single box. We do everything by the book and have a back up plan for it all. It’s one of the benefits of having a permeant site and so many resources to hand. We have a hashtag, and it’s not just a marketing thing, we genuinely believe it… #trustnuclear.

We want to be honest, create good value, and an excellent course.

When I started out I didn’t think I could appeal to the Pro’s and to the fun runner, but we seem to have managed it. Being seen as worthy to host the 2018 OCRWC is a huge achievement and compliment for us.

What surprises has hosting an international event thrown up for you?

I don’t like surprises, I’ll let you know after the event.

Everything you do in any walk of life will throw up issues, and I’m all up for solving them. I am constantly on the phone with Adrian discussing developments and potential hiccups. Being prepared is essential, having a plan B is the key to success.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to Adrian about this event and I have a lot of respect for him. Unlike many people in many businesses, he didn’t start the OCRWC for the wrong reasons. He is so knowledgeable and genuinely cares about every single one of the athletes. I respect his advice and his opinion. I would describe him as an honest, genuine, and respectful man.

How will you tackle the expectation of what people already know about Nuclear and how will you mix it up for the World Championships?

I don’t need to do that. The athletes are not running a Nuclear race, they’re running the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships which is held on my land. We are the host venue and it’s Adrian & his team who’ve designed the course! As with other years the OCRWC has their own obstacles and also is showcasing obstacles from other events. We have put forward a range of obstacles for the team to choose from, but in terms of the route and the overall design, it’s none of my business.

Are there any hints you can give us about the course?

The clue’s in the name ‘Obstacle Course Racing’ – don’t underestimate it, we don’t have mountains but that doesn’t mean it’ll be an easy ride. Keep yourself warm & try and keep your hands clean hands clean. If the weather’s wet it will be seriously muddy.

If it had been up to me I would’ve given you the hardest course anyone had seen, but Adrian has a very admirable viewpoint of achieving 70% completion for men. He’s actually changed my mind on course design for a championship event; creating a rounded experience of running, strength, and technical, making it a test for everyone, but also enjoyable. Trust me, it will be a world class course!

What can we expect for the athletes and their supporters? Will there be an event village?

Yes, the team from the Worlds are building their own event village and have taken the time of year and all aspects into consideration. Of course we are not on a purpose built venue like in Canada, but that shouldn’t mean it’s any worse, it’ll just be different. I have faith that they know what they need and will provide the right amenities required for a successful weekend.

Where will you most likely be found on the weekend of OCRWC?


Although I am not the RD I will still take my responsibilities as host seriously. Every race weekend I am out on the course, only seen by most zipping about on a mule. I like to be out there managing the course, seeing first hand how the obstacles are performing and any potential or occurring issues. Seeing the racers out there, and making sure everything and everyone is ok. I will be there doing the same, and providing support and advice to Adrian and his team.

When everything’s wrapped up how will you celebrate?

If you have the energy to celebrate you haven’t worked hard enough! I’ll celebrate with a sit down, a sigh of relief, and of course, a cup of tea.

What is your most memorable moment at an Obstacle Course Race?

Going down the Deathslide at Nuclear Rush Weekend 2016 with Mr. Mouse the founder of OCR & the Ghost Squad not far behind…

He was a guest at our race one year and he persuaded me to go down the slide with him, with everyone watching on the large screen back in the event village, we went down, myself and Mr Mouse, in his uniform of kilt, knee socks, and other paraphernalia…. I imagine it’s a memorable moment for many other people also!

What are you most proud of?

As a businessman I am proud to have created and grown a successful business which is a multi-award winning and national brand. From a tiny glint in my eye to hosting 30-40,000 people per year  on my land for different events. From our race weekends, to training events, and corporate charity events. Add to this now hosting the World Championships, it’s very humbling.

I am also proud to be able to change people’s lives for the better. I hear from so many people who left school, got a job, got married, got to 40, out of shape and unhappy and wanted to change.

They found the change through Nuclear, and got the inspiration to keep making changes; ultimately exercising needs to be fun so you don’t realise you’re doing it.

Year on year you see the same faces: whilst the elites astound me, what brings a tear to my eye is the 300 lb guy who has walked the course and made it to the end, who has taken hours and slogged his way through. He’s never physically worked that hard, and yet I see him again the next year and he’s trained, he can run some of the course, he can attempt obstacles. Knowing that what I do helps so many people change their lives like that makes every single day worth while.

Written By

The OCR World Championships is the first truly independent championship event designed to celebrate the athletes in the burgeoning sport of Obstacle Course Racing.

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