You have seen competitions on television, watched clips on the news and read about it all over the web. You ask your friends if they would like to join you and they look at you like you just asked them to dive into a black hole. Clearly you are the adventurous one in your circle, the one who is always game for trying something new and exciting. But diving into something like this alone? That is too much, even for you. Those walls look so high, that sandbag looks awfully heavy, and what fun is doing something crazy like this anyway all by yourself?
Enter the power of social media, and the enigmas that are the regional OCR Teams.
Weeple Army and Team SISU in the West, Corn Fed Spartans in the Midwest, Lone Star Spartans and Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners (GORMR) in the South and the New England Spahtens (yes, you read that right) on the East Coast. Several with nearly 5,000 Facebook members of which at least half of them who are active weekly, posting helpful hints, funny memes, race discounts, links to articles from OCR focused media outlets from around the world such as MUD RUN GUIDE, BROCR and MUDSTACLE, Shoe reviews, Race reviews… If it pertains to the sport, you will find the information here.
But more importantly, you will find the inevitable post from the nervous newby. They found their local team doing a search online and asked to join the page. They write “I am about to try my first (fill in race name here) and I am terrified…” They may wax poetic about their background that led them to this place, or they may keep it short and sweet. But what is REALLY important is what follows.
Comment after comment, the thread will fill with responses from team members, welcoming the new individual, letting them know they will NEVER have to race alone, and that they now have a new family. And the truth is, this is much more than lip service. The once-worried new racer is now flooded with good will, tips, friend requests, invites and some good-natured ribbing, showing them that this sport is unlike any other out there. While the elite front-of-the-packers may race alone for time and podium glory, the teams are like a giant social network of OCR faithful –receiving everyone equally, and growing our industry with every warm welcome.
Yes, like any large group of people, there is drama. That goes without saying. Every group has a leader or leadership board and it is their job to squash any and all negativity that may come up on an hourly basis. Are they paid? Gear sales and some small kickbacks aside, it is a thankless job if you are looking for monetary gain. They do it out of passion for the sport, and for the people, and it is often the new members that remind them of how important it is to keep that alive. Some of the groups will put on their own impressive events, such as Team SISU’s epic 30 Hour SISU IRON, while other such as the New England Spahtens make racing local a focus, to help keep the smaller races afloat with a push of local pride. The Team leaders take these efforts on in addition to their full-time jobs and many find themselves digging into their own pockets to make the events successful. They stump for numbers at the larger races to gain their team the perks of “Biggest Team” which garners them such benefits as a special tent, awards, patches, free parking, free bag check, etc. And it is much deserved, as the races benefit even more by having these groups bring in numbers, advertising, and reviews for them that add to their exposure with every event. It is a tremendous amount of work, and very few members understand that this is all done by very few people for so many to be accommodated. But the result is thousands of happy athletes of all skill levels, many meeting in person for the first time at one of these events and feeling like they have known each other forever.
And because of these teams, OCR is not just a sport – it is a COMMUNITY.
So you’re that first-timer, that adventurous soul without a village. Your friends told you not a chance, your family wants to have you committed for even asking, and your fellow employees are thinking about sealing up your cubicle?
Jump on social media. Find your tribe, and open up a whole new world of mud, pain, fun and adventure. You are not alone, and once you find your team, you never will be.