Updated: May 21
We have to start out these survey-based articles by always thanking those who took the time to provide their feedback! We hugely appreciate it!!! THANK YOU!
Sometimes, negative attitudes gain a big presence on social media. I am in a few dozen OCR facebook groups, and saw lots of posts all year long with people complaining about changes, obstacles, rules, and more. While those complaining may sometimes have very valid points, it got me wondering what OCR athletes feel about the changes being made. It's a small sample size at 100 randomly surveyed OCR participants, but we hope it helps people get a general sense of where things are!
*Disclaimer* We are completely independent from Spartan Race. We are not associated with Spartan Race in any way, shape, or form (other than the fact that we compete in their events) and none of the surveyed material or data (other than this article - made public to everyone) was sent to Spartan Race or anyone affiliated with Spartan Race.
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This article is dealing with Spartan Race in particular as they are the "big dog" in the sport right now. We do hope to do a similar survey and article for a few other companies in the near future. Specifically, we're thinking of Savage Race & Tough Mudder. Keep an eye out for those in the future!
In the meantime, HERE. WE. GO!
Judging by the results, it's pretty safe to say that we were blessed by having a lot of our surveyed athletes be ones who did several races of varying lengths. It wasn't surprising to see the Ram Burpee with the least results as it is only at Stadion races currently and didn't make its debut (if I'm not mistaken - correct me if I'm wrong) until a little later in the year.
Beater wins the award for the Most-liked new obstacle of 2019 (for Spartan at least). Personally, I was a little surprised to see Pipe Lair beat out 8ft Box simply because Pipe Lair, in my opinion, is the easiest obstacle obstacle I've ever seen. However, that might be why it beat out 8ft Box. When you're miles into a race, an easy obstacle might be nice! We see Ram Burpee at the bottom of the list which is likely due to many people not having done it...and perhaps hating it for those who did. Maybe? Makes for a miserable workout either way!
Pipe Lair and Helix are really pretty simple. If you just focus and take your time, you'll probably make it. Ram Burpee is a suffer-fest, but again, doable with time. Beater is much more tricky. If you have trouble on Monkey Bars, you'll have even more trouble on Beater. If you don't have the grip strength to simply let your momentum carry you through monkey-style, it's all about control. You have to grab the rotating rung and hold it, while keeping a grip on the previous rung, so that momentum doesn't carry you as you switch hands and end up tossing you off.
8ft Box. All year I found it very interesting to see how different athletes approach the 8ft Box. Some people try to do a rope climb. The issue there is that you're directly against a wall and the rope doesn't reach down to the ground. It makes it very hard to "climb" the rope to the top. Robert Killian used this type of technique during one of the "televised" races this year, and it took him a little while. Another technique I've seen people use is grabbing high up on the rope with one hand, jumping, and grabbing the bar on top of the box with the other hand. For those with the proper athletic ability and strength, that seems to work quite well.
There is another strategy as well. It's one I've done several times this year, but it only works if the edge of the box isn't muddy. You simply go to the base of the wall, jump up, grab the edge (yes it's rounded, so your hand is kind of cupped over the edge), and pull yourself up like any normal wall. It is very time efficient and well worth trying!
I find this chart very interesting. A significant percentage of athletes said, in Question 3, that 8ft Box was the most difficult to complete. However, in this question we see that most athletes would implement specific training for Beater over 8ft Box. Is it not knowing how to train for 8ft Box? Is it caring more about completing Beater over 8ft Box? If you struggle with any obstacle, there are always things you can do in your training, without access to the obstacle, to prepare for it and build up the strength, endurance, and technique to complete them. For everyone who chose "None of the Above", I hope you completed all of the obstacles or you really have no business NOT putting in extra work to complete them.
I did not personally take the survey as I'm the one compiling the data, but I think I'd also like to see Beater Stay. In second I'd have 8ft Box just because so many people do find it challenging and I think it's important that obstacles be challenging. Beater is far and away the most popular new obstacle though.
It's a fact: Carrying the bucket on your shoulder(s) is way faster than carrying it in front of, or behind, the body. I would also argue that it takes less strength to carry it on your shoulder which may just tilt the advantage bigger, stronger athletes previously had on heavy carries just slightly less in their direction. I would like to hear why 26% of people want the rule switched back. I imagine it has something to do with wanting it to be more difficult, not less difficult. Lots of people really want to challenge themselves, and if that's why they'd like to see it go back to the way it was for year, I'm not against it.
There are a solid number of people who don't care regarding this change. That makes sense considering that those running Age Group and Elite heats are the minority in OCR. To everyone else, it probably shouldn't matter unless they get the itch to move up in competition levels.
I have to say, a small part of me is sad to see the change. My first year doing OCR's, I ran in the open heats and loved the races. The next year, I signed up for some Elite heats. Mind you, I wasn't signed up to ACTUALLY compete, I just really wanted to run earlier in the day so I could get home at a reasonable hour, and so I wouldn't have to wait in line on trails or at obstacles. However, getting that taste of competitive waves helped grow my ambition to actually compete in the sport, which lead to working toward truly competing in Elite heats the next year, and since! Knowing myself, I think the progression from Open Waves to Competitive Waves would have happened no matter what, but getting to run at the same time as the best athletes definitely gave me a push.
All of that being said, I understand why Spartan is making the change, and I am on board. Competitive Waves should be just that: competitive. I do like that there is a set progression now for those who want to take the next step in the sport. If you are running open wave, the next step is into Age Group. Once you've done well there, then it's into the Elite Wave and you have to maintain it. It's good for the sport (as a competitive sport) long term.
Hate the changes? You're not alone. Love them? You're not alone. Don't care? You aren't alone either. No matter where you stand, you have someone else in your corner. If you're a boxer, that's a good thing. Seriously though, I'm okay with the Sprint distance dropping, but I'd be in the group that wished Supers would stay around 8 miles. I have really enjoyed racing that distance. That being said, I get it. That also being said, tough luck either way.
A perk from this SHOULD be that many venues that supported Sprints in the past could also support Supers now as well. I've seen posts many times online about people wanting more Supers and Beasts. I don't know about Beasts, but THEORETICALLY, this could lead to a lot more Supers. One can hope!
The change will definitely make it easier for athletes to more specifically prepare for their race. I've done Sprints that have been pretty much 5 miles. If you did a 5K training plan leading up to a Sprint like that, you didn't train enough. Now you'll at least know that you'll be prepared - assuming Spartan strictly adheres to these changes.
One big thing to watch here is the price of the races. Beasts aren't really changing much, so I would be shocked to see the price for a Beast come down. However, with the length of Sprints and Supers dropping, there is a very solid argument that can be made for the price to drop as well. I personally think that would be the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint. However, I don't have access to Spartan's financial records. I don't know what things cost them or how much money they make or lose at an event. I would be surprised to see the prices drop at all, but it certainly would be a very pleasant surprise.
Overall, 100 OCR athletes, on average, gave Spartan Race 4/5 stars in 2019. That's pretty solid. Considering that it's impossible to please most people any of the time, they seem to be doing pretty well! (Again, based on the random 100 athletes surveyed).
As someone who loves OCR, and whose life essentially revolves around it, I'm encouraged that Spartan walked away with an 80% rating. They are a huge part of our sport in the world right now, and I'm glad they are doing what people consider to be a "good job".
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Author: Joel SP Hayes