I participated in my very first Obstacle Race in late 2011, and from that point on I was hooked. I signed up for every race possible, I started this blog, I documented my continued weight loss and fitness journey, and I enjoyed the excitement and vibrancy that a lifestyle centered around health and racing provided.
Fast forward to today. I have now completed nearly 100 races, I’ve worked for Spartan Race for a year and a half, I’ve had the pleasure of becoming friends with many of my OCR peers who I initially admired from afar, and I have made many incredible memories which center around a lifestyle that I am very grateful to have made the conscious choice to pursue.I often find myself reflecting on this thrilling roller coaster that I’ve been fortunate to ride over the past few years, yet at times I discover the need to take a step back and ponder the lifestyle that I’ve chosen to embrace. Certain sports tend to carry with them a certain level of over-exuberance when it comes to the expectation of commitment and training, and Obstacle Racing is not immune from a mentality which causes its followers to believe that resting equals failure.
I myself have fallen prey to the deceiving whisper which promises me that two (or three!) workouts a day are better than one, that pushing my body to the point of utter exhaustion is a badge of honor, and that choosing to take an hour of rest in place of fitness is mental weakness. I have beaten myself up emotionally in frustration over not feeling worthy of running competitively, convincing myself that I haven’t worked hard enough to earn that right. I have wholeheartedly believed that being healthy and in shape is simply not good enough.The OCR elite are incredible athletes who many people have come to admire and aspire to be. They elite eat, sleep, and breath Obstacle Racing, and they are natural born competitors who commit their lives to training and racing in the top of their class. In most sports elite athletes are simply admired and cheered by their fans from afar, yet OCR is unique as it creates an environment in which everyday people believe that, if they just work hard enough, they too can become elite competitors as well. No other sport seems to place the fantasy of acheiving elite status within arms reach quite like OCR. Football fanatics do not believe that throwing a football just a few more times will earn them an NFL contract, basketball enthusiasts do not think that committing to practicing their free throw will land them in the NBA, but Obstacle Racing preaches that if you truly commit yourself to training harder, longer, and more intensely, you will surely find yourself running head to head with the likes of Rose Wetzel, Amelia Boone, Cody Moat, and Isaiah Vidal.
What OCR forgets to remind people is that sometimes your life circumstances, your genetics, and your own unique physical abilities will likely not predispose you to acheiving elite status. It’s simply not possible for every person who comes to love this sport. While I have earned my fair share of podiums at local Florida events, I have had to come to the realization that I will never run as fast as Rose, I will never climb hills & tackle obstacles as ferociously as Amelia, but in the end it’s okay to be happy with running my own race, at my own pace, based on my own abilities.Unfortunately there are many people who beat their bodies to unhealthy exhaustion over the belief that, to be a truly dedicated Obstacle Racer, one must push to their limits to prove their worth in the OCR world. I have fallen prey to this belief, and to this day struggle to balance my identity as a career woman, mother, wife, and Obstacle Racer.
This past year has been particularly eye opening for me as I’ve dealt with back pain and fatigue, and also took a blood test which revealed abnormally high levels of inflammation. This combination of factors has forced me to recognize my own mortality, and has thus cause me to take a step back and re-evaluate my own approach to diet and fitness. I’ve realized that perhaps it’s time to remember that I am healthy, that taking a day of rest when my body needs it is necessary, and that racing just for fun instead of for competition is not a bad thing. Perhaps, just perhaps, I need to take a step away from that fine line of being an OCR fanatic, and should instead find happiness in my own unique balance between work, family, fitness, and Obstacle Racing.
Now this in no way means that my fitness journey ends, but I’d like to think that I’m now handling my own personal health and relationship with racing in a different, more realistic approach. Instead of focusing on the external pressure which tells me that I’m not working hard enough, I’m going to focus on being thankful to be blessed with the ability to lead a lifestyle which embraces health, wellness, and fun. I love Obstacle Racing, I am passionate about fitness, and I am committed to moving forward in a way that best suits my own lifestyle.
So how about you? Are you a fan, or are you a fanatic?