There she is. One out of 10528 people. The heart is pounding like mad, the adrenaline lets the blood rush in her ears. Babel of voices, laughing and inflaming music mix up to a cocktail of endorphins which flushes her entire body. The night before where she tossed and turned sleeplessly in bed is already forgotten. The closer she gets to the starting signal, the more the butterflies in the tummy begin to replace the nagging doubts: “Can I really do this? Will I make it through? Isn’t it a bit too much for me?” But then the starting signal sounds. As if guided by an invisible hand, the huge crowd of people slowly starts to move.Walking becomes running. How good it feels suddenly! “Hey, I`m in!! I will stay the course now!“And even before she reaches the first obstacle, all the fear and insecurities are gone. Off we go: “Hello fun, I’m coming!!!”
This is the story of Sina. “It just made my flesh creep incredibly”, she says with hindsight and in her voice there’s still all the excitement she felt following her first OCR. It was the Strongmanrun at the Nürburgring (Germany), described as “the mother of all obstacle course races” on their homepage. It was in May 2014 when Sina accompanied her brother and her boyfriend as a driver to their first Obstacle Course Race to the Nürburgring – and she totally became addicted to the atmosphere. “The happy people at the finish line, the cheer… that was all just so thrilling”, she says. But participating herself is beyond her imagination at that point of time. Weighing a few extra pounds and not being a sporty person is in her opinion not the best basis to go for 22 kilometre OCR run. But her boyfriend doesn’t care about that. So he simply registers her for the run for the following year. “Well, you have 12 months to train”, he tells her. And Sina Knopf starts to train… Freeletics, Running, Goliaz: “Actually it was this story which made me become a real sporty person”, she says and laughs.
“The team spirit is just incredible!”
Sonja Cabezuela would endorse this. “I heard of an OCR back then on the radio and thought it was kind of a funny thing”, she reports. For her, too, the plan of participating on an OCR was the trigger to start regular training. She went for the Xletix in Berlin: A 13 Kilometre, 25 obstacle race – “and with the best team of the world”, she raves. She actually met the majority of her team members on site. The team spirit she experienced during the race had been incredible. “Just amazing! It definitely wasn’t the last race for me”, Sonja says.
OCR (Obstacle Course Racing) are races that are enjoying a growing popularity in recent years. Originally it was a military training method: Running tracks bristled with obstacles challenge strength, endurance and mental power; quite different from the classic endurance run. “You don’t really notice the distance”, says Manuel Brüllmann, who of all things chose the Braveheart Battle (Germany) for his first attempt at an OCR. He had to master 32 kilometres: “A decision of a beery evening”, grins Manuel. Anyway, a decision he does not regret: Just three months later he had finished another obstacle run and his third one is due to take place in the summer. His answer to the question about what it is that tempts him to take part is exactly the same as the other obstacle runners give: “It is simply an extraordinary atmosphere and it is great fun! I never experienced such a team spirit before. Total strangers are doing a leg-up to help you over a concrete wall or reach out to you on a slippery steep slope to pull you up. It’s epic!”, he raves. Time? Not important. Everyone gets a medal at the end of the race – “something to be really proud of”, says Manuel. Even if a course takes up to 3.5 or more hours, it does no harm to the fun. “It’s incredibly diversified. The running parts are almost the relaxing parts of the race”, reports the Swiss.
The obstacles are diverse: Jumps into water and ditches which need to be waded through or swam through; walls to climb, monkey bars, ingenious rigs, water slides, climbing contraptions and creeping paths. It is hard not to avoid some bruises and scratches. “I had a doctor’s appointment shortly after“, narrates Sina. “First thing I told him was that he shouldn’t wonder about all my bruises. I hadn’t been beaten up, I only had participated in an obstacle race”, she smirks. Sonja shows a picture of her arms all covered with bruises. “I didn’t realize any of it during the race. I was astonished at it by myself afterwards”, she laughs.
OCR isn’t only for amateur runners
What about the dirt? After all you can clearly see on the pictures which athletes proudly show on their social media accounts later that OCR’s can often be a hearty mud bath. “I was never afraid of the dirt. I had more respect for the obstacles”, says Sonja. Of course one is allowed to briefly hesitate when they are about to jump into water or mud for the first time, knowing their shoes and everything else will get covered. “But as soon as they were wet, it was okay”, she says. Later on it even had been so warm that she was really looking forward to jumping into the water again, just to cool down a bit. “Somehow it awakens the child in oneself”, Sina thinks aloud.
Whereas a few years ago it was considered difficult to get a coveted place in an OCR, today it is quite easy. The key is to find the right one. Check the distance, because the obstacles demand strength and interrupt the running rhythm, which means they are a lot more challenging and exhausting than normal races. You can find a list with numerous dates for OCR’s in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium here. By the way: OCR isn’t just for amateur runners! There are even European and World Championships for this discipline, but the professionals run as lone fighters.
Suddenly the finish line appears. Sina needs to pass it twice – and one round should be already done? Time and kilometers have been passing by so quickly that Sina can hardly believe that she already made 11 kilometers. Just one more round. One more round where the legs are running without any help, helping hands are hold out to her from all quarters and the adrenaline rushes through the body. As Sina passes the finish line together with her boyfriend after 22 kilometres, she is overwhelmed with such a pride that she first needs to sit down. Then she sheds some tears – tears of joy. The next run? She already plans it while driving back home. OCR? I’m coming!!!
*Main picture: StockPhotosLV/Shutterstock.com