So many! There are so many great athletes in the sport of Obstacle Course Racing. In this series, "Awesome Athletes In OCR", we're directing the attention away from the top pro athletes in our sport, as awesome as they are, to look at some other really cool people who run the same races and events!
Without further ado, Dale Marshall!
What circumstances led you to doing your first OCR ever?
The year is 2011. It has been 25 years since I did any serious physical activity (I ran cross country in high school and college) other than camping with the Scouts once a month. A colleague is talking about a fun event he did over the weekend. Something called “Tough Mudder.” A quick YouTube search leads me down the rabbit hole…I started taking long walks which turned into runs, eating healthier, and working out with P90X. A couple of 5Ks and a 10k later, I toe the line at Tough Mudder (the 13-mile version) that October. By the end of this event, I was sore, tired, muddy, and mentally drained – but victorious. The next day I started looking for more OCRs…the seed was planted.
What are your top 3 favorite obstacles that you've ever tried?
Probably my favorite obstacle is the Floating Walls from Indian Mud Run. I did that one at the USOCR and ORC World Championships and it is simply great fun. Other than that, I would have to say Traverse Wall from Spartan Race and maybe Funky Monkey from Tough Mudder. They may be simplistic, but obstacles don’t have to be huge and difficult to be fun.
If you could put on your very own one-time OCR event anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I already run an OCR at my house every December (Marshall Madness Backyard OCR) but if I were to put on a specific event, I would have to go to my home state of West Virginia and one of the state parks there (Bechtel Scout Reservation is fantastic, but there are way more beautiful places in that state). If it could be arranged to take place in the fall during the changing of the leaves, that would be a dream race. If I were to bream big, I would say Germany, Switzerland, or New Zealand would be fantastic places to put on a one-time event but the logistics would be daunting to say the least.
You're volunteering at a championship race during the Elite heat. The first place athlete comes up to the obstacle you're stationed at, and runs right by the obstacle. Do you say anything to the race staff, or do you let them figure things out for themselves?
I absolutely would say something to the race staff. Aside from being the right thing to do, it’s the reason you’re there for the Elite wave. There is no excuse for cheating at the Elite level. These guys and gals train relentlessly to be able to complete all the obstacles so to cheat the race that way is just inexcusable.
If you had to run a beast-distance race in big rain boots, or bare feet, which would you use?
It would really depend on the race location and the time of year. In areas like Texas and Colorado, I would absolutely run in boots. But in areas like Pennsylvania, Florida, and New Jersey and maybe central California, I would be willing to try it barefoot. Of course, in winter in the northeast (like the Winter Sprint at Greek Peak) I’ll take the boots all day long!
What is your favorite post-race food or drink?
Food? All the food! A good Texas BBQ or burger. As for drink, I don’t drink alcohol, so I like a cold red Gatorade immediately after a race.
How many OCR's have you done all time?
Wow, that’s a good question. I’ve done 58 Spartan Race (including 8 Ultras), 10 Tough Mudder, 6 Bonefrog (2 Tridents), 4 Savage Race (2 Syndicate), 3 BattleFrog (2 BFX), and countless other races (Warrior Dash, Conquer The Gauntlet, Mighty Mud Dash, Hero Rush, Original Mud Run, Gladiator Rock ‘N Run, Atlas Race, Alpha Warrior, Jailbreak, Miles of Mud, Zombie Race, many small local mud runs). I would say in the last 8 years I have done a couple hundred, easily. It’s been a fantastic few years!
If you could race every single weekend of the year for free, would you do it?
A couple of years ago I would have enthusiastically said “ABSOLULTELY!” Now, however, at 56 years of age, I’m not sure my body would like that very much. But, if someone were willing to fund that challenge, and could convince my wife, I would say “ABSOLUTLEY!” Go ahead, challenge me!
What would be the ideal weather and terrain for you to run a race?
I like to run in mid-50s to mid-60s temperatures and small mountains like Blue Mountain (New Jersey) or South Carolina. But I also don’t mind running in a light rain too. I really don’t like super-hot temperatures like we get in Texas all the time, but I’m used to training in that so it doesn’t bother me all that much. To be honest, I guess the ideal temperature and terrain is whatever it is wherever I’m racing (except the 2019 South Carolina Spartan Ultra, that was brutal).
The next time you cross the finish line at an OCR, would you rather receive the traditional medal, or would you prefer a super cool looking baseball hat?
Interesting question. I have a dozen or so hats, but also a wall full of medals. If the hat is designed for running, maybe with a neck flap included, I’d certainly be OK with that. A nice running hat is always good to have.
What type of training do you currently do (in the middle of the virus that's going on) to stay in shape for OCR?
Well, I’m a member of YancyCamp, so I get three of those workouts to do a week. I also have a full obstacle course in my back yard which is awesome. I do hill repeats with weights once a week and a 3-5 mile tire drag once a week. Also of course a nice long technical trail run at least once a week. My training really has not changed all that much due to the virus.
What's 1 thing that you think you could improve upon to make yourself a better OCR athlete?
Grip/Hang strength really is my worst weakness. The ability to hang on rigs and such has plagued me my whole racing life.
If OCRs started handing out a "skip card" that you could use on any ONE obstacle during a race so that you legally could skip that obstacle, which would you use the card on?
Depends on the race, really, but the obstacle I have the most problems with no matter the race are the rigs. I like them, and try them to the best of my ability, but so far I haven’t been able to make it across any of them.
What's the furthest distance (in miles - feel free to estimate) that you've ever traveled to attend a race?
Three years ago I had to travel to northern England (from Texas) for a week of work but the travel date was loose, so I was able to arrange it so I could do a Spartan race in Edinburgh, Scotland (Ultra and Sprint) the weekend before work, and a Spartan Trifecta in Krynica, Poland the weekend after. Around six thousand miles one way. Now *that* was a fantastic week!
If OCR's came back online RIGHT NOW, without any restrictions, what one word or phrase would best describe how you feel?
I was already taking 2020 off to train and heal (knees and shoulders) so coming back online now would not affect me. I would be extremely happy for my friends who are currently going stir crazy, though. But when 2021 arrives I will be ready and itching to get back out on course.
Is there anything that you've learned from participating in OCR that you think would be valuable to share with our readers? If so, please share!
The one thing that has struck me about OCRs since my first event in 2011 is the almost universal friendliness and camaraderie of pretty much everyone in the OCR community. No matter who you are, what you look like, what color skin you were born into, what language you speak, or your political persuasion. It does not matter to anyone else out there, they are there to help you, encourage you, pick you up, share their fuel and pickle juice, and cheer you on. In the end, out there, we all bleed mud. It is something I have rarely encountered elsewhere in my life and it is definitely refreshing. If we could all treat each other this way off the course, this world would be a much better place.
Additionally, being a part of a Team is a great comfort to me. Arriving on site and having a cadre of friends and teammates to check in with is a good feeling. I am a member of Lone Star Spartans and San Antonio Obstacle Course Racers. Running and training with teammates is empowering.
Thanks very much, Dale, for giving us some insight into your experience in OCR. If you'd like to follow Dale on Instagram and have another great OCR personality in your feed, his handle is:
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