Should OCR obstacles be easier? Recently, this has been a hot topic within the Obstacle Course Racing community. The discussion really took off because of the low completion rates among Pro athletes at Savage Race's first 2021 event. Many individuals feel that if the majority of the Pros can't keep their bands, then the obstacles are too difficult. What about the tire flip in Jacksonville? Most of the top male athletes could not complete the two flips required to pass.
The short answer: NO, DO NOT MAKE THEM EASIER!
For those who say, "yes, they should be made easier", let's try to look at this from a different point of view. When I did my first Spartan Race at the Wintergreen Super in 2014, it was by far the hardest thing I had done to date. I failed several of the obstacles that day. Instead of complaining about how the obstacles were too difficult, I went home and put in work to improve so that the next time I could complete the obstacle or at least come closer and closer to being able to complete them. That's exactly why Obstacle Course Racing is so great. It challenges us, shows us our weaknesses, and then gives us the opportunity to learn, grow, and come back stronger. Just like with obstacles in life, when something comes up, you can't just say "this is too hard, make it easier". Obstacles are there to challenge us and help us become stronger.
I've been a Personal Trainer for 9 years and worked with over 600 individuals and I've seen so many times what can be achieved when someone is motivated and puts in the work and I've also seen what happens when someone just wants results but isn't willing to put in the work. The journey to getting 100% obstacle completion is going to be longer for some than it is for others. The important thing is that you are consistently challenging yourself and working to improve on a daily basis. It doesn't matter what anyone else is doing/capable of as long as you are doing your best to improve yourself.
What about some modifications?
I saw several people mention having some of the obstacles modified for the female athletes. Not made easier, just modified for a more appropriate fit. For example: If you take something simple like the monkey bars at a Spartan Race. The bars are spread apart to make the obstacle more challenging. The female athletes will generally struggle more on those because of having a smaller frame/shorter arms vs. male athletes who generally have longer arms and can reach from one bar to the other easier. What if some obstacles were divided male/female. There are already some modifications like this with the higher stools, sandbags, and tire flip but what about some of the grip obstacles that favor athletes with a larger wing span? There seemed to be an even amount of push each way from the female athletes. I think this will always be a pretty divided topic. At the end of the day, OCR companies have to go with what they feel the majority of athletes want since it's a business run by volume.
Obstacles have gotten easier.
Looking back to my first Spartan Race in Wintergreen, VA, if I compare that Super to just about any other Spartan Super in 2021, it is a drastic difference and overall much easier now than it was then. Most of the modifications Spartan has made has really helped with the quality and safety of the event and they've learned over the years what works and what doesn't work. But still, the obstacles are much easier. I think anyone who has been doing OCRs for a while will agree.
I hope that Obstacle Racing will always continue to challenge and push us to grow and I look forward to more positive changes that will help the sport grow overall! In the meantime, let's keep on putting in the work each day to improve and get that 100% obstacle completion!
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