When it comes to obstacle course racing (OCR), I’ve been asked several times about my why. Why do I do it? What reasons could there possibly be to run three to eight miles (or more) over hills and obstacles?
Why spend a Saturday racing and the rest of the week complaining?
Why do an OCR with the near-guarantee of getting cut, scraped, bloodied and bruised?
Why jump over fire?
Recently I spent a weekend limping (and occasionally crying) over 12+ miles of Arizona terrain on a strained calf while finishing near the very bottom of my age group. And for what? Why?
It seems like I’m constantly searching for the answer. Listening to other people’s stories can be motivational, though I’m not sure how much closer I get to really knowing the truth about myself.
There are those who say they’re running for their mother who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Some will run for a fellow soldier who died serving our country.
Others say they run to face their fears or to test their limits.
While those can be inspiring reasons, I’m not so sure I fully understand them.
The documentary “Rise of the Sufferfests” looked into why people put themselves through these challenges – and actually pay to do it – and among the reasons were ego and really cool social media content.
Yet I’ve also heard stories of those who hit low-points in their lives because of alcohol and drugs (or perhaps even divorce)… For them, OCR provided a way out; a new way to focus their energy and to replace an unhealthy addiction with one that’s the complete opposite.
Then there’s someone like Misty Diaz – a highly decorated Spartan adaptive-athlete – who has Spina Bifida and often talks about her why. She’s endured over 28 operations and understandably lost the will to push herself and to live her life to the fullest. Yet she also knew the woe-is-me attitude wasn’t going to cut it either. She couldn’t (and wouldn’t) live the rest of her life that way.
Misty’s why also includes impressing on others to do the same. Something she wishes she had growing up.
Then there are the words of Coach Pain (Dewayne Anderson) telling the story of Emily; a 12-year old with terminal cancer. You can witness his words and his passion in the video below, but be warned: you might need a tissue.
Scratch that. You will need a tissue.
Although Coach Pain’s words may not necessarily explain why I, or anyone else, does OCR per se they drive home the message that life is meant to be lived to the fullest and not doing so is essentially wasting opportunities that others – like Emily – didn’t have. (Emily died a short time later.)
The stories are almost endless and with millions of participants world-wide, the list of why people do obstacle course races is long.
So what is my why? Honestly? I’m not really sure I know.
My wife says my why is partly due to a mid-life crisis. Maybe there’s some truth to that.
Maybe I do these races in an attempt to inspire my twin boys that exercise and working towards a goal is preferable to spending too much time on technology. Though I’m probably reaching with that one.
Maybe – MAYBE – my why is my wife. To make myself better for her; or to expose her to some of these incredible stories of others facing and overcoming hardships as she deals with psoriatic arthritis.
I don’t know. Maybe my personal why hasn’t made itself known yet. For now, maybe it’s just the cool medal, free beer, an awesome profile pic and a constantly updated wardrobe of free race t-shirts (i.e. my ego).
Either way, I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. Whether I do smaller fun-runs or more challenging races like Spartan, they provide a bit of motivation to be more than a typical 9-to-5 guy until retirement and death come knocking on my door.
This past weekend I saw that the next town over is putting on a mini-triathlon consisting of 1/4 mile swim, 8.4 mile bike ride and a 2-mile run. It’s next weekend and I won’t be ready by then, but consider it on the calendar for 2018.
For those who run these races or marathons or half-marathons or any other out-of-the-ordinary adventure-type events – what is your why ? Leave a comment below.
For those that don’t, the easy question is – why, the hell, not ?