With 6 years of racing under my belt, I have heard thousands of stories over the years about why we race – the triumphs, the motivations, the trials and tribulations. As a sociologist and anthropology nerd I have sought these stories out because I find them so fascinating, and in this article I’m going to take you through the overarching trends that stand out to me the most. But first, a little about me and where I come from/my experience with OCR.
I came to racing from a history of addiction (an eating disorder), and I won’t go so far as to say OCR “cured” me, but I will say that crossing the finish line that first time was the proudest moment of my life up to that point. I had achieved things I never thought I could do and - while I still had plenty of room for improvement - the stark contrast between where I had been in the depths of my disease and the person I was when I finished that first race was enough to get me hooked.
That’s a little bit about my OCR story, and if there’s anything I’ve learned about the “why” in OCR it’s that my story is not unique. I have broken down this article into the three “macro” level reasons that I have found attract people to OCR, and keep them coming back: Fitness Motivators, Sociological/Community Motivators, and Psychological/Personal Motivators. Within each category I’ll tease out some key themes. Also I should note I will be referring to OCR as a relatively “new” sport throughout the article: while there can be some debate on the official “start” of OCR, it is most popular in the United States and both of the major players here – Spartan Race and Tough Mudder – claim 2010 as their founding year. So for the sake of simplification and because the sport existed in relative obscurity until the last decade or so, I am referring to it as a “new” sport.
This seems like the most natural/obvious place to start. OCR is a sport, and sports are basically about physical fitness, right? But there are a ton of underlying reasons why people are attracted to this type of physical fitness…
There are a ton of layers to the “social” aspect of why people are attracted to OCR: many related or overlapping but one thing is for sure: the community feel is pervasive and all encompassing. Let’s take a look at a few:
Last but not least, obstacle course racing draws and retains participants because it can be immensely rewarding on a personal level, for so many reasons. It hits on feelings of pride in achievement, adrenaline in competition, and satisfaction in empowerment and the creation of self-identity, and so much more.
Welp...that's the best list I can come up with after 6 years racing and countless of conversations with other racers discussing our "why." From the 63-year-old grandma of five to the newly released army veteran, there are SO many different motivators that continue to attract new athletes to the sport and keep them here. I am grateful for all it has done for me and my life, and look forward to seeing what the future holds.
What's YOUR why? How has it changed over the years?
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