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5 min read

For Medal or For Honor? OCR Racing with Integrity

It’s Monday, post race weekend and you have the post race blues. You get to thinking about things you saw on the course and boy does it start to wind you up something rotten.

You put your heart and soul into that race and you’re not going to accept someone else racing without integrity, so you go online to vent…and you find you are not alone. Suddenly an argument ensues, and the post race blues just got a lot worse.

A discussion we see time and time again is the “run your own race” camp vs the “but it affects placings” tribe. And it can get heated.

Running your own race.

You don’t know anyones story, so don’t judge them by your own merits. Last year I ran a Spartan Beast in the open wave, 8 weeks after giving birth. Terrible idea.

Whilst out on the course (in an open wave) there were many things I couldn’t do. Many times I had to sit out obstacles or take modified penalties. When I explained to marshals they were super supportive, but the racers – not so much. I didn’t “look” like someone who should be sitting to the side, but in reality I had made a silly mistake, I was in pain, and I was incapable.

Men running through obstacle course, racing with integrity.

For the first time ever my body didn’t work how it always had, and it was scary. I got pushed out of the way by people who wanted to go faster through mud pits, I got nasty comments… and I wasn’t even going that slow. From that day on I learned a lot more respect for those who really fight out on the course because that day I worked harder than I ever had before, and got my worst result.

What I’m trying to say here is, you only know your own back story, and because of that you cannot put your own standards on to other racers.

Wasn’t it after the OCR Worlds 2017 we saw an elite racer drop out of the short course to save himself for the Classic? How much stick did he get from the community? He didn’t owe anyone anything and will have had his own reasons for doing that, whatever they were. You don’t know.

Man on his knees during an obstacle course race dressed in black racing with integrity.

Focus on what you do, and not on those around you.

Running your own race means only being concerned with your race and your performance, not looking to others to blame, or to justify why you didn’t do as well as you hoped. Running your own race is the Zen option of OCR.

Now, things get tricky when we apply this logic to a course such as the NorAm or the OCRWC where aside from the charity race, everyone is competing. Some people claim in the age groups or the Journey man it doesn’t matter, but if it matters to one person, then it matters.

Men at the starting line of an ocr race, racing with integrity.

With the new rules of band cut = DNC, technically once you’ve lost your band it doesn’t really matter what you do because your timing doesn’t count against those who did complete, but obviously it does matter, and the rules are there for a reason.

If you’re running and you lose your band, you know you won’t be listed in the results, you have two options: continue for your own satisfaction, or drop out. It’s up to you, but if you continue, attempt the obstacles, and attempt them with gusto, because if you don’t, why are you still out there?

Ruining placings.

I’m really torn on this because I have two school of thoughts which fight in my head:

  1. Placings only really matter for the podium placers
  2. The rules are there for a reason and everyone wants to know how they got on

The argument that always rages is that people won’t know how they placed if others cheated. To an extent this is true, but from what I know of the OCRWC cheating is not so straight forward. How many people do you think will manage to skip through an obstacle without giving up their band? Myabe one or two?

And what’s the chance that this person will be in your age category and be affecting your placings: plus, if they going to be skipping obstacles, chances are they’ll get caught at some point or be coming in pretty late anyway.

Women at the starting line of an ocr race, racing with integrity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s ok, I just don’t think it’s that big of an issue that so many people need to get so angry about it. I don’t think it’s so widespread that it will actually affect your placings. Believe me, I LOVE rules. Rules are not made to be broken, rules are what make things make sense. What I’m talking about here is how we react when the rules are broken.

In my mind this is what happens:

  1. I see someone breaking the rules
  2. I tell a marshal
  3. The marshal does her thing and the person is disqualified
  4. If I discuss it on social media it will be to say: “Thanks to the marshals who acted super fast when I brought an issue to their attention, etc, etc”   

Man carrying object through obstacle course race racing with integrity.

The achievement is not in a material possession.

I wish that what we saw after a big race weekend was people celebrating those who DID race with integrity. The people who battled for hours on an obstacle, those who had to walk but finished, the ones who did something they never thought they would do, whether they lost a band or not. The ones who inspire us and really define what this sport is about.

Not the one or two people who acted badly, who then make us turn against each other. Who cares? Who cares about that tiny handful of people in this sea of achievement? Why are we so focussed on the negative that we’re ignoring everything so marvelous that happens?

Woman in blue crawling on the ground through obstacle course.

Ultimately does it matter if someone “kept” a band they didn’t earn, a piece of plastic which once an obstacle is failed signifies nothing? If everyone who enters gets a medal, and a shirt? Is that truly what a race like the OCRWC means to you?

Obstacle Course Races are not about the bling and the shirts, they’re about what you achieved, what you did out on the course. How you felt, what demons you overcame. What you learnt, and what you succeeded with. That’s the take home. That’s the money can’t buy. The shirts, they’re  a pretty memento, the medals are something most people will never look at again.

The achievement is not in a material possession, it’s in you. And there’s the integrity. If you’re angry that someone who you feel didn’t try hard enough got the same “payout” as you, I feel bad that that is what you feel the payout is for a race like this.

-Francesca Chiorando

Francesca is an avid obstacle course racer, TV host, and blogger at Mud Is My Makeup. Follow her Instagram at @MudIsMyMakeUp and @FranChiorando.

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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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