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It is all about the obstacles

2019-07-04 Mikael Sjösten

It's all about the obstacles

When I was a kid, I was told the results are important, both in sports and in school.  For many, everything in life is about results and some love to always strive for good results. You are probably one of them who want good results. How do you measure them and could there be another way?

"To be able to be measured against others, others are needed. But in order to be able to compare myself with me, the same conditions as last time are needed"

Within OCR, it's difficult to measure against oneself without also counting in the other competitors. Even if you run the same event as last year, the course are not usually the same. In many other sports, you can look and compare your own results simply because the conditions are the same year after year. In these events, the majority of the participants deal with the goals they set themselves and they do not care much about competing against others. They want to measure themselves against themselves and many only want to compete against themselves.

Since they cannot use their results in OCR to compare themselves to their previous participation, the result can only be used to be measured against others, which many are not interested in. Can this be one of the reasons why many just participating once in an OCR? Could it be that many simply find no reason when they cannot work to improve themselves?

I often get the question of how we can work to make OCR even more popular and to get more people who might otherwise run regular races to test OCR and how we can do to get them to participate more than once. If we want more participants, we have to offer what they want and I think we need to give them a challenge and it is to improve their results from previous participation. Just like they can in other competitions.

So, how can we create a result that they can compare year by year if the course is always different?  Well, let's focus on what OCR is all about, obstacles!

And our solution to bring more value to the runner!

Here are some examples of how results can be calculated:

- Fastest time (this together with the bracelet is standard in OCR).

- Most completed obstacles and fastest time.

- The longest distance (at a predetermined time).

- Most completed obstacles and longest distance.

Live resault

What would happen if instead of "Best time", the result was based on "Most completed obstacles and fastest time"? Could that set up make the sport even more challenging for the participants and perhaps even better overall?

One thing is certain, OCR is about obstacles and perhaps the obstacles should be even more central when you talking about and evaluating a result within the sport. As you already know, the focus today is often the time and whether the athlete have managed to keep the bracelet or not. That arrangement is perhaps too binary (bracelet left yes/no) and perhaps only a solution in the lack of better ones?

Variants of this arrangement have been tested and one alternatively set up is to give the athletes several bracelets so that they can miss up to, for example, three obstacles before they are excluded from the result list. A built-in problem with this particular arrangement (in addition to the environmental one) is that the competitors can, for tactical reasons, opt out of obstacles that take longer time to perform and simply sacrifice a bracelet on these. Perhaps are the different options that have been tested a signal that people want to develop the sport and make the obstacles even more central.

Within all sports there are different categories of participants, the same applies of course in OCR. From elite to beginners. In addition, there are different ages and exercise habits etc. The variation of participants is as common as the variation of obstacles.

For some classes there are often alternatives to the obstacles that the participants can choose to do instead, or as a replacement for an obstacle. Classic options is to run a few hundred meters extra or do burpees. In practice, this means that you can participate in a race without even trying to complete any obstacles and still get a better result than those who have managed many. In the vast majority of cases, it will not be shown that the participant has not managed a single obstacle, even though the person is included in the result list for an obstacle race competition...

I think it is much better not to offer alternatives to the obstacles. Either you try to make the obstacle or not. I understand the idea of alternatives, but believe that it discourages the sport. The signal it sends is that it is not important with obstacles.

Another negative aspect of this is that participants who want to compare themselves with themselves to an even greater extent do not see any meaning in participating again when it does not show that they have completed some or all obstacles. Imagine if you introduced alternatives to, for example, New York marathon. A short cut, or that you can choose to ride a taxi instead of some running. I think it will be very difficult for a participant who has chosen the alternative to find motivation to participate again. Much better if it is showed in their results that they did not make the obstacle. Then greater motivation is created to improve their previous participation and they are given a new challenge.

Can it be that "Fastest time" combined with bracelets, only exist because of the lack of a better solution?

What would happen if you instead based the results on "Most completed obstacles and fastest time"? Probably the central thing then would be the obstacles, as the sport is all about.

Perhaps this set up and focus more on the obstacles would mean that more people would find pleasure in OCR and perhaps participants would like to test to a greater extent and hopefully even complete more obstacles. Perhaps participants even want to come back and take revenge on an obstacle they did not try to do, or completed last time. Perhaps it would mean for some that they get recognition that they have completed some of the obstacles. Perhaps it would make the elite runners fight even though they missed one or more obstacles. Perhaps organizers would dare to make almost impossible obstacles, without risking that no participant ends up in the results list.

Perhaps", I like that word, because it means that something can be in different way and I like "different". There is something exciting and challenging with "perhaps". As soon as you say the word your imagination starts. Test yourself :)

Could it be that this approach on results would help to get more people to test obstacles and challenge themselves more? Perhaps this set up would make OCR even more popular, challenging, and fair.

Another very important detail is that there is a big difference between these sayings:

- You lost the bracelet.

- You managed 97 of 100 obstacles.

The first describes a failure, while the other gives praise and sends positive signals. Most people prefer praise instead of knowing that they have failed. This applies to everyone, from elite to beginner and also to those who have not yet tested OCR. 

Perhaps the result "Most completed obstacles and fastest time" can make all classes also have the same set up.


Based on many and interesting meetings with people within OCR, both athletes and organizers, we have received great input that has enabled us to develop support to be able to offer management of results based on "Most completed obstacles and fastest time". Regardless of how the organizer chooses to set up his results, the RaceDay app is a solution that lifts the quality at the event. From digital start list when the participants coming to the competition and getting their start numbers to obstacles, statistics and results. The app also has timing with synchronization between all devices. Of course there are also live results. RaceDay also fits perfectly with timing chip. Everything to suit different events and different needs.

Live results with results based on "Most managed obstacles and fastest time.

Live results

What benefits could this alternative results set up bring? Maybe one, several or even all four of these?

1. The athlete do not have to give up after they missed one or more obstacles.

2. Alternatives to obstacles would no longer be needed. Instead, this participants can challenge themselves on the basis of their own level and gain recognition on this afterwards. Maybe it creates better motivation to participate again.

3. For organizers, this would mean, among other things, that they will have a documentation for evaluating their obstacles so that they can improve and develop. For example, get statistics for clearly seeing which obstacles that participants have not managed and which category of participants this applies. Perhaps the stones were too heavy, or that the Flying monkey was too long etc. Statistic to be able to develop their race and give the participants even more quality. Also, it is very expensive to arrange an OCR and the reason is all amazing obstacles. In addition, OCR often has fewer participants than a regular running competition. So organizers need more participants and that they come back year after year.

4. Less chance of cheating with the bracelets. For example, an athlete cannot hide it´s bracelet and tell Marshall's that it has already got rid of it and so on.

app vyer

This alternative result set up does not require more Marshall's than the usual one. If you have a sport that is about obstacles, the focus may need to be on obstacles and thus you need to check whether the athletes have completed, failed or even just ignored and ran past the obstacle. Otherwise, it is very difficult to get fair results and to motivate people to beat the obstacles. Whether the result is based on "Most completed obstacles and time", or on "Time", it is good to check all obstacles to create the best conditions for a fair race. It is also important that Marshall's know which rules apply to each obstacle and that they are clear when they explain it to the participants.

With the RaceDay app, Marshall's can mark if the athlete has failed the obstacle and everything is displayed to the organizer in real time. The result can then be based on "Most managed obstacles and fastest time". In the result, it will show how many obstacles the participants have managed.

Now it's all about obstacles

Of course, one arrangement does not have to exclude the others. At a competition you can have different set ups for different classes and by that make it fit more people.

This post has been created to provide a basis for a discussion about obstacles and results. Always good to revise and think new, which also applies to life in general.

Once I was told that life should be like water in a stream, always in motion. A water that stands still quickly becomes unhealthy.

With these words of wisdom, I want to end this with - More obstacles to the people!

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Keep it up - Mikael