Want to know who’s who’s in the world of Obstacle Course Racing?
There’s 10 people I believe are the most influential individuals that have done BIG things to help our community grow and increase the exposure of OCR to a wider public.
Being involved in OCR since 2009 (before OCR was a thing) & having run my own obstacle course racing company for 3 years you could say I’ve been around a lot of OCR people. Athletes, volunteers, coaches, race directors, I’ve experienced quite a bit and met some amazing (and not so amazing) people along the way.
Below is a list of role models, and in my opinion 10 of the most influential OCR people you must follow if you’re looking for motivation & inspiration in the sport of OCR. So here goes, in no particular order:
1. Jon Albon
If you haven’t heard of him already, Jon is self-coached & quite simply the most successful obstacle course racer in the world right now (and he’s British too which is always good!).
He has won the OCR world championships 5 times, so undefeated since it started. He’s won the Spartan world champs twice! He’s also a phenomenal mountain runner too and is current ultra sky running world champion.
Without running the risk of giving him a big head, Jon is a true role model in the sport, he understands OCR, runs with integrity and hasn’t really even reached his true potential yet. The best is still yet to come.
Interestingly Jon doesn’t practise obstacles or heavy carries in his training, he does however run a lot and boulders a lot too. He does cross country skiing in the winter & he makes use of the local hills & terrains where he lives in Bergen, Norway which by his own admission, has benefitted his mountain running massively.
You can follow Jon for inspiration and get his race reports over at www.jonathanalbon.com
2. Ryan Atkins
Ryan Atkins is Canadian and another OCR elite currently the very top of his game. He is a five times Worlds Toughest Mudder champion and this year he won the North American OCR champs too. Basically, where there’s a podium in a major Spartan or Tough Mudder champs, regardless of the distance, Ryan is either on it or not far from it.
For his training Ryan likes to hit the mountain trails regularly spending around 12-16 hours a week training in the mountains. He also likes to use his mountain bike twice a week as a form of cross training to allow his running muscles a wee break. In the off-season Ryan likes to build a huge aerobic engine with things like cross country skiing & mountain skiing.
Interestingly, Ryan credits his grip strength to ice climbing. Ice climbing is incredibly grip-intensive, you can be holding onto an axe for a very long time so this would possibly explain why he has a cast-iron grip and does so awesome on those rigs. He also likes to chop wood and climb for his strength training and doesn’t really enjoy gym based strength sessions so much.
Ryan is the definition of hard work and is inspiring a lot of people in OCR right now. You can follow him on instagram: www.instagram.com/ryanatkinsdiet
3. Coach Dean Johnson & Wild Forest
Wild Forest is located at the Nuclear races venue in Brentwood, Essex where the Worlds was held this year. Its a great outdoor training facility for all ages & for anyone that wants to train on obstacles & simulate race conditions more effectively. They also run beginner classes right though to advanced classes so they cater for everyone.
I wanted to mention Coach Dean Johnson here who is the captain & coach of the Wild Forest Race Team. Dean is a great coach. He won a silver medal in the 45-49 age category at the OCR world champs this year and he really is developing a unique style of OCR training down at the forest that is seeing great results & helping a lot of people. Also Laura Roberts is a great coach down at the forest too.
Its no coincidence either that anyone who has trained or learnt from Dean & Laura this year have all seen massive success and all did exceptionally well at the worlds.
Dean runs the ‘OCR racers’ class on a Sunday morning down at the Wild Forest and you can check out their website over at www.wild-forest.co.uk
You can also follow Dean and the Nuclear Wild Forest team on instagram over at www.instagram.com/nuclearwildforestteam
4. Billy Wilson ‘AKA Mr Mouse’
Like him or not and this might not sit very well amongst the ‘Tough Mudder & OCR purists’ but Mr Mouse inspired a movement. He started the obstacle course racing trend off over 30 years ago with his Tough Guy course on his farm is South Perton, Wolverhampton.
If you’re not aware of the story behind Tough Guy and how Tough Mudder evolved then if you google it I’m sure you’ll be able to read more about it and cast your own opinions, but let’s just say that without Tough Guy, OCR as a sport wouldn’t be where it is today.
In the last 2 years OCR has grown, it has become the fastest growing mass participation sport in the UK, I’m not suggesting this growth is “all down to Billy Wilson & Tough Guy”, but its certainly played its part & Billy should definitely get the credit & recognition he rightly deserves.
You can find out more about Billy Wilson and and his crazy race here >> www.toughguy.co.uk
Its where it all begun after all.
5. Karin Karlsson
If you were to design the perfect female obstacle racer it would be the swede Karin Karlsson. When she was young Karin used to do gymnastics, so from a very early age she had already developed some great movement skills and a good understanding on how to use her body. She is tremendously agile, she is a powerful runner and very strong too which, you’ll find are all the attributes that make up a great obstacle racer.
Unlike other pro-division female athletes Karin is very open & transparent about her training on social media. She runs a lot, she does ALOT of strength & conditioning in the gym & does skiing in the winter too. So far she has been on the podium 9 times at the OCR world champs between 2015-2018.
Karin is probably one of the best female athletes over obstacles. She rarely has to retry obstacles and makes it look effortless. Karens obstacle proficiency is definitely one of her strengths as an athlete but she has obviously worked hard on this training component over the years.
You can follow Karen over at: www.instagram.com/ocrkarin
Read Next: The 6 Most Common OCR Obstacles And How To Clear Them Easily
6. Scotty PT
Based in Essex, Scotty PT deserves a special mention here. In the last few years he has helped hundreds of team UK athletes with their OCR fitness. From beginners right through to elites he has helped athletes with things like building strength, improving running performance & enhancing obstacle technique.
Scotty also owns the PT barn down in Essex, where he runs obstacle training & private workshops from there. Id definitely recommend Scotty & the PT Barn to anyone looking to improve their OCR skills & obstacle proficiency. You can follow Scotty over at www.theptbarn.co.uk
7. Lindsey Webster
Lindsey Webster is a pro athlete for Tough Mudder and you won’t meet a nicer person on the OCR circuit. She’s Canadian and currently tearing up the female pro division in OCR right now. She’s 4 time OCR world champ and is dominating most of the races she’s entering too. Like Jon Albon, Lindsey is a great ambassador for the sport of OCR.
Her partner is Ryan Atkins so they make a great team & both work together on their training in great detail. Lindsey likes to sets long term goals. She’ll set a couple of ‘A races’ in her season with a focus on peaking for the world championship season around September/October time.
Lindsey since she was a kid has developed a huge aerobic engine in the form of running, mountain biking and cross country skiing, interestingly though she isn’t a huge fan of strength training in the gym, she’ll prefer to go bouldering instead with her friends & she’ll throw in some strength sets in between climbing sets to allow her arms to recover.
8. James Parrish
James Parrish is the race director & the master mind behind Nuclear Races in Brentwood. What James has created in the space of 5 years on his land is damn right impressive. Having put on OCR events myself, I understand the amount of time, energy & finances that goes into putting on an obstacle race, its an absolute mission.
Not only is James hosting amazing OCR events, he’s now creating a hub of OCR excellence on his land attracting athletes from far & wide which is great to see. He has a strong team behind him that all believe in him & understand his vision, and with Nuclear Races being the chosen venue for the worlds this year and next, the future is looking very bright for James and his team.
9. Laura Heywood
Laura Heywood is living proof that that age is quite simply just a number in OCR right now. She is inspiring a lot of 40 + women athletes (and men too!). She’s been on the podium twice at the OCR worlds but for me its not about her podium positions, its the fact that she has a full time job, she has a busy family life, she’s not officially sponsored, she’s also a coeliac! yet she still manages to train and see success.
Laura is shattering the myth of “I’m too old” and she gives us all a timely reminder that you’re never too old to train or take part in sports, and with the right attitude and belief, you can achieve anything regardless of age. Laura’s not winding down either, she’s just getting started.
You can follow Laura on instagram www.instagram.com/lauraheywoodocr. She also runs for the Obstacle Mud Runner Magazine team too. You can check out their instagram and while you’re at it you can read the latest issue of Obstacle Mud Runner Magazine over at www.obstaclemudrunner.co.uk
10. James Burton
Its no secret that I coach James. James was already a great obstacle runner before we got together, but he wanted to get even better & improve in other training components which he has done, and this year has been his most successful year as an athlete. He won the 15k 35-39 division at the worlds this year in scintillating style and his OCR fitness is currently going through the roof.
Don’t get it wrong, I’ll never take the credit for James’ success, as its him that does the hard work but Im delighted to have played a small part in his continued growth as an athlete.
I haven’t chosen James for those reasons though, I’ve chosen him because of his other attributes that make him the bad ass that he is today. I have yet to meet anyone as driven as James in OCR.
He is hungry for success, he trains smarter not harder, he believes in himself (some athletes have the talent but don’t believe in themselves) and he knows what it takes to get to the top. You could argue that there are hundreds of athletes like that in OCR, but they’re not on the podium are they.
James, like Laura, is also learning the art of balancing family, work & OCR life. A happy family means you can play 🙂 For me James is a true ambassador of the sport and you can follow him on www.instagram.com/ocr_jamesburton.
James also runs the Wolfpack burpee challenge which you can check out over at www.facebook.com/groups/wolfpackburpees/
Did We Miss Anyone?
So there you have it!
I could give you many more names of athletes, enthusiasts, coaches, race companies & race teams that are inspiring lots of people right now but those are my top 10 biggest influencers in OCR right now that you simply must follow
Did I miss anyone?
Let me know in the comments section below…