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Discussion: difficulty of championship races

Should a championship race be achievable by 80% of the entrants, or should it be designed to test everyone, even if that means the majority of the entrants fail?


A race is a race regardless of how hard it is. The competition is between those vying for the top spots, but let’s be honest, the money is made by the other entrants, be them “elite” or “journeyman” (for want of a better word).

I am in between these two, I’ll never win, but I’ll give it my very best shot and I’m reasonably capable. However, if there are aspects of a race that I know I cannot do, with my opportunity to train and skill level, it puts me off even wanting to enter. Why take part in something when I know the result with be failure?


To me a champs is supposedly the highest quality and level of competition there is. Look at the Ironman world champs where Kona is the pinnacle, the hardest venue with the greatest athletes. That said I recognise where the money comes from and it's not the elites.

To me a World or National Championship course should be designed to show off the abilities of those competing for the win, not to show how great Elliot from Worthing is because he completed a basic set of monkey bars. This is an obstacle race and simply reducing the technicality of the obstacles will be robbing those who are truly exceptional at obstacles of placements. For now OCR remains a runners sport. Rigs, Salmon Ladders, Samurai Poles etc bring them back into competition and make them world class hard!

I’d love to run down the 100m Olympic straight but as a functional human without delusional tendencies I make no mistakes in understanding I'm not good enough.


Using the 100m as an example…that doesn’t change, it doesn’t get harder, people just get better. Most people can run 100m, it just depends on how fast you can do it.

I agree with you on many points in a way, but I also don’t: I agree that I shouldn’t be there because it’s too hard for me (that’s a personal call and I’m not saying that for anyone else) but I’m going to push the money point again. The Olympics is funded, championships are a business. They exist to ultimately make money, like any other race and there’s no shame in that. The selling point is that it is a world/countrywide platform where the entrants can test themselves, but also part of the allure is the whole package, the trip, the friends etc.

I suppose I’m partly torn. I’m looking at it in two ways: as a prospective competitor and as an outsider.

As a competitor I’m put off because I can’t do it and it demotivates me. As an outsider I think, well no, you (myself) shouldn’t be able to do it.


How do you integrate the elites into the money makers? I guess the Worlds have that right with the journeyman wave. Make the elite race what is should be with a 90% failure and change up a few tougher obstacles for the journeyman so they get the same experience as the elites or as close as they can. I.E. When the journeyman race goes off quickly change up the final rig attachments to stop them crying.


It’s important not to patronise those who are not the top three, I can’t see people being happy getting a different race to the elites!


Obstacle racers suffer massively with delusions of grandeur, they believe they are exceptional athletes. Most are pathetic. For example, take any member of Team UK and drop them on the start line of any trail race and they’d be laughed at. They thrive on ego and need to be reminded they do not represent their country. They aren’t competing. They are paying an excessive amount of money to fuel their egos further by complaining things are too hard and reducing the overall standard of a sport.

So the money wouldn't change, those who want to compete would just have to up their game, and with the changing of the obstacles to a less severe difficulty for the journeyman wave those who fund the sport would remain involved. The option could be there for them to try the salmon ladder etc as it is in Toughest, but there would be available to them an easier option. I'm not suggesting taking them all out but making rigs harder, with climbing grips etc for the elites and ropes for the non elite doesn’t seem unfair.


I totally get what you say about the rig, for example and it should be showing off these top athletes, and it’s a really valid point about robbing those who are technically great...but do you not agree that a race is a race regardless of the difficulty?


It is a race but then so it a trail race, or a marathon. And if you’re terrible at obstacles maybe you should try learn them or disappear back to the world of pure running and stop 'representing your country'. This is supposed to be the OCR championships and when the obstacles become so simple that 90% complete them are they really obstacles anymore? I completed the dreaded green rig at the OCR WC in 10 seconds. Some spent hours attempting it, hanging on it for minutes at a time. Why? Didn’t you train for this? Or didn’t you train effectively? Many will disagree with my firm stance, I don't hold it for the majority of races but we are talking about the WC here. The obstacles are in place to challenge the runners, but what happens when the runners improve and the obstacles don't? It’s a tough line to draw but one that can be done.


In a weird way we’re kind of agreeing... but you’re saying the course should be harder for the elites than journeymen. Whereas I’m saying some people probably wouldn’t be happy to take part if it wasn’t the same race, but you’re right, it’s totally ego. If I raced AG or journey, why does that need to be the same course as Elite? I won’t place against them, I’ll “place” against the people I race against, so why not adapt the course strategically.

Of course then logistics come into play, the time to do this: adapting a rig is a small thing, but what if an elite got stuck elsewhere and then was on the adapted obstacles?


I sit on the side of the well trained. I train day in day out to be better at obstacles. I train considerably smarter than most and draw in on other sports and how I can use them to better myself, but whats the need when the obstacles aren’t becoming tougher? Why bother training them at all? FYI if you flip a weight plate for grip training you’re a thick c**t.

As an outsider, ninja warrior has it right, it’s intense and hard, people attend knowing they are unlikely to complete it yet they keep going…why? What makes Ninja warrior different from OCR other than training for OCR is easier and people are just ignorant and lazy.

I saw runners fail a rope climb, walls, rigs and monkey bars. Feck it I’d go as far as to say I saw runners fail the run!! Personally as someone who struggles with back spasms I always struggle with carries, yet no one is demanding we make the runs easier or the carries lighter which is anything could be seen as a safety measure on some of these courses.

The Euros have it right, they have a reputation as being brutal and unforgiving. Seemingly the whole of Team UK are returning this year to 'represent their country' and let it down again. The reality of it is the inability of the masses limits the growth of the ‘elite', and while they produce the funding for the elite to race thats not to say there isn’t a happy medium for all parties. Toughest have done a brilliant job of utilising fast lanes to really benefit the obstacle racer over the trail runner.

I guess we should also cover what constitutes an elite runner. In this day and age of OCR anyone who can afford to pay extra to bump waves, run a sub 30 min 5k or spell “Elite" is considered elite and immediately swept into Team UK. One day I'll be that good. Oh and don't forget hash tagging OCRAthlete is necessary, otherwise how would people know you’re a super elite nation representing athlete?! And if they the public don't know who will feed the egos!?

Turning back to the true elites, I wonder how many of the elite racers I started with would still be around had the sport developed earlier? Further I wonder how many more we will lose because obstacles are no longer a challenge?

People will always attend championships because their egos need fuelling, they need to be a part of something without having to put anything (or enough) into it.

Most fail now, so why not make it harder for the true elites and easier for those making up the numbers? Win win, no? A lot of races are losing racers and the elites are bowing out because there is a lack of invention, no one wants to be the one who pushes the level, yet those who do tend to be the most well attended in my eyes. I may be wrong, but that’s what I see.


Ninja Warrior is totally different. It’s a smaller participation and they make their money through advertising slots, not through the entrants. They *need* only the best, or even the most entertaining. It’s nothing to do with integrity. Ultimately everything is down to money, you’re being rather romantic about the whole thing!

I guess I’m accepting that I’m awful ;) haha!

So where do you race? Elite, age group, or journey?


I raced worlds at age and journey. Late sign up meant no elite for me and journey when I was ill.


What about this year? Will you be racing?


I don’t know. I’d like to but its a busy year for me with Uni etc so it really depends on how my body responds to the training. Any niggles may be taken more seriously now I’m approaching clinic!


I always said I wouldn’t bother unless I qualified elite. The only championships I did (UK 2015) was in Elite but I DNF’d with hypo (yay!)

Will I stick with what I’ve said? If so it’ll be a long time until I race a Championship again.


I think hypo is a nasty bugger but one you can prep for! You can still do Journey Woman!


I got stuck on a rig that I refused to move on from and got very cold! I was pretty annoyed about that set up, but that’s one for another day. But in that case I was happier to DNF than to finish without a band and brag about where I “crossed the line”. For me it’s not a finish when you lose your band, which is why I’m put off taking part in an event where I know I’ll lose it... unlike you I can’t train daily


In summary a WORLD/NATIONAL Championship should be that, designed to test each and every athlete. If the top 10% are laughing their way through a rig then should be made harder. You don’t deserve to stand on the start line of a ‘World Class’ event because you skipped the monkey bars and fell off the rings at Nuts. Qualification should be harder, obstacles hard. Not harder, because they aren’t hard to begin with.

This is supposedly the pinnacle of the sport. If you look at something and think you cant do it you shouldn’t be there brushing shoulders with the elite. Ego’s need to be broken on occasion to formulate the growth of an individual and development of the sport. If the elite is beyond you drop into the Journeyman and race that, enjoy yourself on a course that you can complete by all means but if you want to compete against the best and test yourself to their standards then don't expect their standards to be limited, either up your game or accept you’re awful and start posting motivational stuff to show people how amazing you are. This year at the WC I was sick with the flu, quite badly for most of the trip and it lead me to run in the Journeyman wave. I had a great time using the obstacles as training while watching the majority of runners fail them.


You’ve actually made some really valid points which have made me rethink my point of view and my motivation for thinking that way (purely selfish). Personally the idea of attempting something where I know I can’t succeed is just too depressing, but let’s see what happens between now and October! I do like your idea about adapting courses for different levels…it would be interesting to see if this was developed on.

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