I saw a post recently from a writer I’ve been following since I first began Obstacle Course Racing (OCR)…back when all obstacles were wood and rigs were just a futuristic nightmare of someone’s imagination. At first, I made the mistake (which I just warned everyone NOT to make in my own post the day before) and assumed I knew where the writer was going here. Wrong! It was a relatively short post and I read it several times before finally putting it aside to let the concept rattle around for a while. Eventually, though I realized that, what seemed like a simple question of etiquette, was really a very important statement of the different…and diverging…perspectives on OCR.
In short, that article begins with a (hypothetical?) discussion on cheating in OCR races and the unsolicited response of one individual with “Who cares?”. Now, I agree that this could certainly be considered just a rude intrusion on someone’s conversation. However, while it might have been stated a little more eloquently, sometimes a question can be effective for its shock value alone. It can certainly get your attention…it certainly appears to have done just that for the writer.
But there are two reasons that this statement is more than just some rude remark. The first is the idea that “Who cares?” could not be a particularly succinct response in this case. The second being a statement later on in the post that ‘If you belong to the latter, please have enough courtesy to stay out of the discussions that happen within the former’. “The latter” being ‘A group who considers obstacle racing a fun weekend activity‘. Personally, I never have done well with being told to mind my own business.
So let’s start with the actual question then…who really does care about whether people are ‘cheating’ in OCR races? And is cheating some absolute value or is it actually a subjective concept? Meaning that the cheating may be in the mind of these beholders, not in the intent of the racer. Now, I’m not talking about the elite races or even something like the BattleFrog BFX, where there are awards and prize money. There are rules for these…and if you compete at that level you have to abide by those rules…period. And I also get the idea that skipping obstacles or penalties will have a significant impact on the relative placement in age groups. That can have a detrimental impact for those trying the qualify for age group awards or for championship races like the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships (OCRWC). Particularly for those of us who struggle mightily to get into that qualifying range. So, ‘cheating’ could potentially keep people who are interested in the OCRWC from qualifying…and attending…the event. But that’s something OCRWC in particular will have to address in the future because this issue isn’t going away.
Ok, in a strict sense then, if you don’t follow the rules, you’re cheating…pretty straight forward. But what if you’re not an elite racer or trying to qualify for some other event? What if you just come out to have some fun, challenge yourself and don’t buy into the brutal-is-better concept of some OCR races and racers. The race promoters don’t really offer an alternative to the standard race rules. There is no $10-off ‘timed but non-qualifying’ option. In fact, races don’t seem to find the endless accusations of cheating to be a critical issue…other than lip service to satisfy the endless bickering about these transgressions. In fact, it seems to be just the opposite.
Going back almost two years ago, I wrote a post about the very same question and the fact that Spartan Race had brilliantly chosen to quietly ignore the issue at races (outside of the elites of course). From a practical standpoint, the races can barely monitor cheating in those elite waves, never mind the open waves, unless they add more resources (read: more expense!).
Now then, you have the second reason why it makes sense to ask that not-so-eloquent question…who cares? Because maybe what that says is….
Who cares whether you consider that these weekend warrior racers cheaters?
And yes, this is my business too…because despite your perceived ownership of the sport, what happens in this particular vein impacts all of us. Who are you to say that this opinion, and obviously the opinion of those you call cheaters, don’t matter? Should I remind everyone that the opinions of these people are paramount to the continuation of OCR in its current condition and to it’s shrinking possibility of becoming a real sport…forget the Olympics.
Shouting ‘cheater’ at people and trying to shame people, whether on the course or on social media afterward, who choose to have fun at a race instead of adhering to ‘rules’ they never intended to sign up for, is not going to make it fun for them, and we need them to have fun and come back. Trying to advance the concept of a sport without acknowledging the fact that the masses, who don’t really care about your rules, are the ones that will (or will not) fuel the future of OCR.
Unfortunately, the ‘inner circle’ of OCR, which naturally includes those elites and other serious racers most active in the sport, continue to focus on the elite races and enforcing those race rules…across the board. Seemingly ignoring the idea that people may want to come out for just the fun and challenge of an OCR race. Trying to reduce this alleged cheating even created unnecessary controversy when BattleFrog tweaked it’s BFX rules not so long ago…overshadowing the positive changes of multiple difficulty lanes. Messing with rules and making races more difficult is not going to fill the start corrals.
Particularly with the growing trend of long-time racers beginning to lose some of their extreme enthusiasm for OCR. Besides, it’s our race too! Interestingly, I read two race reviews the same weekend this post came out, which illustrated that people running races now are not necessarily looking for the same things the elite and ‘beast-mode’ racers are. They want fun and obstacles….not long, mindless hill climbs or punishing obstacles…and certainly not penalties. Push yourself as hard as you want, but these folks came out for some fun. How about we let them have it and work on figuring out how to make it even better for them too!
What do you think?
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