Once upon a time life was simple, there was one race alone to choose from and it was Tough Guy.
We weren’t spoilt for choice, there were no “euros or worlds” to train for and if someone said “OCR” to me I would have genuinely thought they were talking about “optical character recognition” or something like that.
Fast forward 10 years on & things have changed since the good ol’ days. Things are complicated! OCR is now a big thing & one of the fastest growing mass participation sports here in the UK.
Plus its the new mid life crisis sport.
If you wanted to you could probably do a race every weekend now and many OCR enthusiasts now do. With so many races cropping up around the country these days its hard to know which ones to do and which ones to steer clear of. But fear not, we’ve done the hard work for you.
Below is our list of top 7 U.K OCR events you must attend in 2019:
1. Nuclear Races
Nuclear races is based in Brentwood in Essex. The course is mainly on farmland so their races tend to be flat (no hills at all) but with lots of water and mud. Nuclear courses will always be jam packed full with obstacles too.
They’ll have races going on throughout the year. Nuclear Rush is in May when the weather is a bit warmer, Nuclear Blast is in September which is a lap based challenge (you have to run as many 5k laps in 2 hours) and Nuclear Fallout is the winter version of Rush.
They also run the Challenge Cup in November too which is a competitive race and for any one who wants to qualify for the OCR world championships.
If you love lots of obstacles on a course then you’ll love Nuclear races. They run kids events too and cater for beginners right through to athletes that want to qualify for the worlds.
Nuclear’s top 3 obstacles to look out for are:
Lakezone Zip wire
You can check out Nuclear races here: www.nuclear-races.co.uk
2. Nuts Challenge
The nuts challenge is a challenging but doable OCR based in Dorking Surrey. They have a winter race (in March) and a summer race (around August).
Its a lap based race format so each each lap is roughly 7k long and you have the opportunity to do 1,2,3 or 4 laps.
Like Nuclear, Nuts is a pretty flat course too but with lots of obstacles, there’s also plenty of water & mud trenches out on their course too. The course is quite tough (but that’s the name of the game with OCR, right?) so expect a few ‘OCR kisses’ (bruises!!) along the way.
A little word of warning though, a 7k nuts lap on paper sounds quite easy but in reality its pretty grueling & wears you down. There are over 100 obstacles out on course, which are all pretty doable but obviously become much harder when the weather is cold and your hands & whole body is muddy, so don’t underestimate it.
If you’re new to OCR then you’ll find 1 or 2 laps is enough trust me. If you’re a crazy or want a bigger challenge then 3 or 4 laps might be better but becomes more about how well you can tolerate the cold. The weather in March will also play a huge factor in proceedings too so make sure you wear the right clothing, and pack your kitbag correctly too
Nut’s top 3 obstacles to look out for are:
Stairway to heaven
You can sign up to a winter or summer nuts over at: https://www.thenutschallenge.co.uk
Spartan came over from the states a few years back & they now host races up & down the UK.
They have 3 distances to choose from, the sprint (3+ miles with 20 + obstacles) the super (8+ miles with 25+ obstacles) and the beast (13+ miles with 30+ obstacles).
Spartan do LOVE a carry as an obstacle so expect a couple of heavy carries out on course with things like buckets, sand bags & tyres etc. plus they pride themselves on very hilly terrain so expect a bit of ‘death marching in there too.
Spartan courses tend to be more ‘running dominant’ so each distance isn’t necessarily swamped with obstacles like a nuclear or nuts course is if that makes sense. Failure to complete any obstacle on a spartan course results in a 30 burpee penalty too so if you don’t want to be doing hundreds of burpees during your race then you’ll find it will be wise to improve your upper body/grip strength for those grip intensive obstacles.
Spartan’s top 3 obstacles to look out for are:
The Spear throw
You can sign up to a spartan sprint, a spartan super or a spartan beast distance over at
www.spartanrace.uk. and thanks to our friends over at spartan, if you use the code OCRVIRGIN then you’ll get 20% off your ticket price.
4. Tough Guy
Winter Tough Guy is the absolute original and where it all begun. Its situated on a farm in South Perton, Wolverhampton and always brings in big numbers. Its how Tough Mudder became inspired too.
There’s something quite magical & unique about Tough Guy. Whether its because its the absolute original, or because its the craziness of Mr Mouse, it will always be a race that you have to do in January.
^^ Plus it keeps you accountable with your training over Christmas too!
Tough Guy grinds you down perfectly…you start off with a gruelling 10km cross country run which includes the infamous “slaloms” where you basically have to run up & down a steep muddy bank about 20 times. Then after the gruelling running section you then have to do the “killing fields” which is where all the major obstacles are and is enough to break down even the fittest of runners.
Tough Guy isn’t really ‘about the obstacles’ though, its more about the weather, its not uncommon in January either to see layers of ice covering those water based obstacles, and plenty of people get hypothermia too because they underestimate the cold, <<< Ive been one of those persons in the past too, so like The Nuts Challenge, what you wear during the race is very important so that you reduce the risk of hypothermia
Tough Guys top 3 obstacles to look out for:
You can find out more about Tough Guy over at www.toughguy.co.uk
5. The Elements
The Elements is in June (so nice & warm!), its based in Kent & caters for beginners right through to elites. There are 5 distances to choose from. Earth distance is 8k (1lap), and ideal if you’re new to OCR, wind is 16k, which is 2 laps and twice as hard. Water distance is 24k, so a mighty 3 laps of the course! and the fire distance which is 4 laps and only if you’re a little bit crazy!
There’s also an ‘Elements Infinity’ race which is how many laps can you complete in 12 hours? 8am until 8pm, so you basically keep going till you can’t go any more. Not may people have done this!
Some innovative obstacles and a well organised event, they do a kids race too, The Elements is definitely an event to attend in 2019.
Here’s where to get the best information on the Elements: https://www.theelementsocr.co.uk/
6. Brutal Run Series
If you want something away from obstacles & OCR then the Brutal run race series is purely trail running/cross country that focuses primarily on brutal terrain.
No man-made obstacles whatsoever, just natural obstacles like water, mud, uneven ground & hills. There’s usually a 5k & 10k distance to choose from for each race.
The races are good value for money and they are put on frequently throughout the year too (e.g one every month or so). They also have men only races & female only races too.
The biggest reason why I feel the Brutal race series is popular is because of the venues they use. The races are based in military testing grounds so lots of pine woods, trails, water, mud & crazy stuff to drag yourself through.
You can check out Brutal’s 2019 race schedule over at www.brutalrun.co.uk
7. Rat Race Adventure Sports
Rat race are an established adventure racing company and will be expanding even more in 2019. They currently have 18 events that take place all over the UK. They have everything from ultra runs, bike rides, foot, bike & kayak challenges to choose from.
If I were to narrow it down to 3 races that you should check out then it would have to be:
Man vs Mountain which is 20 plus miles up & down the stunning Mount Snowdon with 20 plus obstacles right at the very end, its an amazing challenge and you’ll take in some breathtaking views when you reach the top of Mt Snowdon too.
Hell Runner – which they’ve recently taken over but basically its a tough ’no-frills’ 10-12 mile extreme trail run that will have you going up hills and wading through lots of water trenches. There are 3 Hell runner races now to choose from:
Hell up North will be on October 12th in Delamere Forest, Hell Down South on October 26th & is now gonna be in Eridge Park in Kent. And they’re also now doing a Hell runner Night fall in November which will be an 8 hour challenge, see how many 6.66km laps you can do in that time frame!
Rat Race Dirty Weekend – this is based at Burghley House in Stamford, Lincolnshire. Its usually around May time. They have a big after party along with a festival campsite & village too. There are several distances to choose from. Full Mucker is 20 miles with 200 obstacles. Dirty Double is 40 miles with 400 obstacles (so 2 laps!), Half mucker is 13 miles with 150 obstacles and young mucker is 3 or 6k with 20 obstacles.
Whatever distance you choose there’s always a great atmosphere and you can expect a well run event too. Those are just a few rat races that might tickle your fancy, they have loads more that you can check out on their website and see whats happening over at www.ratrace.com for 2019.
8. BONUS International Event – Strong Viking
I know I said I’d give you 7 events but here’s a BONUS 8th international event company that’s not too far away from the UK and will give you a great insight into how they’re doing OCR abroad.
Strong Viking have won many awards & host races in Germany, Belgium & Netherlands. Their obstacles & courses are pretty cool too.
A lot of the European OCR’s tend to have way more upper-body intensive obstacles in them that challenge your grip more so you’ll find you’ll need to be proficient with your obstacle technique & grip strength if you’re looking to be successful with these types of races.
If you fancy a break from the UK OCR scene and want to see how the Europeans do OCR then check out www.strongviking.com
So there you have it.
That’s my list of events that you should DEFINITELY DEFINITELY attend in 2019 & cross off your bucket list. If I missed one (which I’m sure I have!) then feel free to add it in the comment section below
Now it’s over to you, which events are you attending in 2019, I’d love to hear in the comments below
Here’s to an OCR packed 2019!