What is OCR?
Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) has seen a huge rise in popularity in recent years, with the birth of events such as Spartan Race, Ninja Warrior, Tough Mudder, and even the OCR World Series and World Championships. OCR involves competitors travelling on foot (normally running) and overcoming physical challenges in the form of obstacles.
Obstacles may include climbing over walls, carrying heavy objects, traversing bodies of water or even be as extreme as crawling under barbed wire or jumping through fire! Most courses are designed to test endurance, strength, speed and dexterity. Races vary in distance and difficulty but are often aimed at pushing competitors to their mental and physical limits.
Many OCR events are aimed at amateur athletes, with the appeal wide for people searching for a physical challenge which offers more than simply running or cycling. OCR events are often very sociable with groups of friends taking on the challenge together. In recent years, however, OCR has also become a full-time sport for many, with a new breed of racers competing at a serious level.
Spartan Ultra-World Champion Mari Weider
Norwegian athlete and 2019 OCR Spartan Ultra-World Champion, Mari Weider is one such person who is now a high-level OCR athlete. She explains to the NuroKor team how she got into it,
“I came across obstacle races by chance. I was told about races involving mud, running and obstacles and it sounded exciting. So, in 2013 when Viking Race came to Norway, I thought I would give it a go."
"It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but I loved it. A picture of me jumping through the fire jump at Viking Race says it all, I was bubbling over with endorphins and adrenaline.”
But what makes Mari a good OCR racer? “Although I was very active and trained a lot, I was always average across a range of sports. When I started doing obstacle races, I quickly realised that my fitness, physical strength and mental strength was perfectly suited to OCR. I loved (and still love!) the feeling of waking up and feeling as though I had been battered the day before, knowing all the muscles in my whole body had been used.”
Since 2014, Weider has been making trips abroad to compete in OCR events. Indeed, it was after taking part in Spartan Race in the UK seven years ago, she said she became ‘lost to the sport’. After continuing to do well in nearly every event she took part in, Weider went on to be crowned OCR Spartan Ultra-World Champion in 2019.
Training for OCR
Training for OCR events can be intense, with a big focus on both strength and endurance. As with most sports a focus on good nutrition is also important. Weider explains more about her training: “The OCR season used to run from May to September, but now with events happening globally, the competition season really does run year-round, which is hard on the body. In recent years I decided not to compete from January to April in order to give my body a rest.
“When I am training, a typical day would involve a running session and a strength session. I also know that I need to sleep well and eat well in order to get the most out of my training.”
In such a physically intense sport, injuries are bound to happen. Either during the OCR events themselves, or as athletes are training to take on the physical challenge of the racing. Mari Weider has had her fair share of injuries, with two injuries standing out as the most challenging.
“In 2015 I got plantar fasciitis,” explains Weider. “It is a niggly injury that hurt endlessly and which I tried to manage with tape and painkillers. Unfortunately, I refused to do the right thing and look at rest or alternative training. Instead, I carried on racing which probably extended the injury, but after staying away from running on tarmac, the injury eventually cleared up.”
On top of her foot injury, Weider also explains that she has tight hamstrings, which played a part in a relatively serious hamstring strain in 2018: “I was racing and on the first hill I got a violent pain in my right hamstring and limped through the race. I had micro-ruptures in the hamstring and had to rest for three weeks. I probably should have rested for longer, but I had three big races remaining. Unfortunately, the injury is still there, and it often bothers me during running sessions and races. I do a lot of stretching, muscle rolling, and I have also recently discovered bioelectrical therapy.”
Weider is now a convert to using bioelectrical therapy for her injuries and to manage pain. The NuroKor Norway ambassador explains:
“NuroKor helps me first and foremost with different types of pain. I have used it to manage my hamstring injury, but it is also great for stiff legs, sore running knees, a tired lower back and sore elbows.”
“Being an obstacle runner on top of working and being a mother means I don’t have so much time. Instead of indulging in massages once a week, I can use NuroKor anytime, anywhere.”
What next for Weider?
With the competition season on the horizon for Weider (as long as the Covid-19 pandemic permits), her focus is on staying strong and injury free. She explains:
“I have been focusing on my rehab exercises, daily stretching, yoga exercises and using NuroKor even more than I do already.
“I am looking forward to racing and want to go into the next race strong, in good condition and injury free. I am highly motivated and want to be as well-equipped as possible for 2021, which will hopefully be completely different to 2020!”.
Follow Mari Weider’s journey on Instagram: @ocrqueen