Exciting Times Ahead for OCR in Scotland!

A great review of the Scottish OCR scene by RAW Athlete Liam Hayman (although he could really do with a new t-shirt :-D )

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When I got into OCR it didn't take me very long to realise that compared to the rest of the UK, there is a distinct lack of events in Scotland. Somebody on Mudstacle once stated that they were annoyed because they had to travel up to two hours to get to major events - in Scotland it isn't feasible to drive to major UK events unless I pay extra for accommodation, the difference is huge. Scotland seems to be playing catch up and I just didn't understand it, this is a great country for OCR and I want the OCR scene to know. Just as important is the success of Scottish OCR athletes, with Joda Quigley, John Denovan and Connor McGourt making a lot of noise in the OCR scene.

Events 

More events are beginning to pop up throughout Scotland and the variety is increasingly evident, allowing athletes to actually choose a race. It wasn't long ago that we were lucky just to have a race at the weekend.

Firstly there are the local, obscure and traditional Scottish races. Take The Mighty Deerstalker for example, which whilst under the parental leash of Rat Race, is very much a Scottish event! The race sees competitors dress up in tweed and go out into the night to battle over 10k (and some...) of hills, obstacles and a scree. The Mighty Deerstalker is a signature event for Scotland and one that remains unmissable.

In 2014, Bing Blazer came about when three OCR mad friends decided to just go for it. Despite some issues with race timing, the first event went well, but the team promised a 'bigger and better' event in 2015. I personally enjoyed Bing Blazer in 2015 and nobody that I have spoken to felt otherwise, even if they were bruised from paintball alley, but the plans for 2016 are already surpassing it. 2016 will not only feature the standard 10km Bing Blazer, but it will also provide a 20km 'Bing King' option. I was so keen to do the Bing King that I was the first to register. 2015 has not finished yet however, and the team are staging the first Scottish four hour obstacle race on the 4th of October. As a soloist or a team, participants will have four hours to complete as many laps of a 9km course as they can, with an athlete pit area and live GPS tracking for family to follow the progress of athletes. There is also a one lap race (9km), but it is the 240 challenge that is causing the excitement!

Another true Scottish OCR event is The Lanrick Challenge which I have been unfortunate enough to miss for two years in a row. The race is a charitable event and partners with Help our Wounded and The Sandpiper Trust, both of which are very worthy causes, the latter being set up by the race organisers after their fitness loving son drowned in 2000, aged just 14. Participants can choose either the 6k or 12k options, both of which will take you through beautiful countryside and culminate in a fantastic family orientated after event.

Tartan Warrior is brought to the OCR circuit by two fantastic and newly engaged athletes, Joda Quigley and John Denovan. Their work is not just about races, but also about training. I have attended their training events before and from what I experienced I signed up to their race in a heartbeat, although due to injury I ended up marshalling instead. On the 25th of April they held a sprint based OCR of 3k, set in the scenic Plean Country Park, with another event on 30/8/15 and both were won by Connor McGourt (you can read his review of the latter race here). What really pleases me about Tartan Warrior is their work with kids. I marshalled the August event and watching wave after wave of youngsters tearing through the course was fantastic, it is a great sign for our sport, certainly in Scotland.

Secondly, there are the big brand events that have come North of the border recently.

The Major Series was the only UK Championship qualifying event in Scotland for 2015 and was in my opinion, very successful. With over 1000 competitors there is clearly demand for such events and the race organisers have confirmed that they only plan to take the Scottish Major Series event in one direction, forward. I reviewed the race on behalf of OCR Europe (link here) and when The Major Series posted it on their facebook page I informed them that I would be back for comparison in 2016 and they have assured me that I will not be disappointed. Unfortunately, we will all have to wait for the details.

2015 is also a Scottish debut for Total Warrior, another great OCR series which is sure to be a great addition to our OCR scene in Scotland and indeed has been confirmed as a UK OCR League scoring event, more of which are certainly needed up here. The race will take place beside The North Berwick Law, a stunning location which will make the event all the more enjoyable. There is also a lot of fanfare about Tough Guy coming north in 2016, with Knockhill Racing Circuit as the host and 3/1/16 confirmed as the date - it is going to be epic.

There are also big brand events that have already made a mark in Scotland with Men's Health: Survival of the Fittest, another race under the parental guidance of Rat Race, being a big success in both 2013 and 2014. MHSotF is an urban obstacle race and so isn't to everybody's liking, but for those who like urban races it isn't to be missed. Spartan has been in Scotland since 2012 and has confirmed that 2016 will include a Spartan Beast in Scotland for the first time, which is awesome!

Terrain

If you visit Scotland you will notice something pretty quickly, we have hills, lots and lots of hills. Scotland is a beautiful country and the locations available to play with are substantial. I personally live - I reside in Fife - within an hour of both the Lomond Hills and the Cairngorms, and only an hour and a half from Loch Lomond. The Cairngorms alone is home to both the Glenmore 24 Trail Race and the Cairngorm Adventure Triathlon. Spartan, Scotland this year was held at the edge of the Pentland Hills and anybody who ran that, or has even seen pictures, doesn't need to be told how magnificent that terrain was!

In addition to these beautiful arenas there are some absolutely stunning forests to provide some flatter alternatives, especially forests such as Tentsmuir, Devilla and Galloway. I would also point out Ben Nevis, but I don't imagine that will come to fruition. Simply put, the playground is here just waiting to be exploited. I asked Alex Stanley who is the Head of Events at British Military Fitness, the Major Series organisers, why they came up north and in his own words, "Where better to crawl through mud, or wade through a bog than in Scotland!?"

Athletes 

Scottish athletes are in general below the ability level seen in England but that trend will not last forever as more top level Scottish OCR athletes step into the limelight with Joda Quigley and Connor McGourt leading the way. With Connor McGourt taking podiums and wins weekend to weekend and Joda Quigley rising to 16th in the OCRWC rankings, once a technical issue is resolved. With the hard work of events like Tartan Warrior and ULTM8 Warrior, the future looks bright for OCR in Scotland as more and more youngsters get into the sport.

Scotland is no longer the quiet neighbour in OCR, it is growing constantly and will continue to develop as the sport itself develops. Scotland is OCR mad.