Behind The Beard: Dirty Dozen Races Founder talks obstacle course racing, company values and facial hair
One of the best known (and most bristly) faces of the Dirty Dozen Races team is that of Doug Spence, aka ‘The Beard’. In his second interview for this blog, we decided to get to know the man behind the beard a little better, ask about the path to establishing Dirty Dozen, and to find out exactly what obstacle course racing means to him.
- Tell us a little bit about ‘Doug’ – what were you doing before founding DDR?
I was working in London as a sales guy and had been doing that for a fair few years. It was fun and I got to meet some great people, but I always knew I wanted to do something to help people get more active. I’m lucky in that I love to push myself physically but I know a lot of people don’t. A while back, I realised that a sometimes people just need someone to say ‘it’ll be alright, you can do this’ and suddenly they are doing that thing that they feared so much. OCR can seem quite daunting but in reality, I would say anyone can get into it. The really inspiring athletes are those that refuse to let themselves be limited by disability. For me, that’s the epitome of human spirit – not giving up.
- Have you always been active – if so, what other sports do you enjoy?
Yes – I played competitive rugby as a kid and loved that but when I realised going pro wasn’t an option I tried my hand at bunch of things like climbing, mountaineering and skiing. These are all close to my heart, but unless you live in the mountains, they are a little harder to do frequently. One of the things I love about obstacle training is that you can train anywhere; outside, inside, down at the park, in the woods or even in your kitchen. You can always find something to test yourself on – I drive the missus mad doing dips on the kitchen worktops!
- How did you originally get into obstacle course racing – were you pushed, or did you jump?
Jumped, definitely! I’m not the world’s best runner but I could see that I’d be good on the obstacles. My tactic is to recover on the obstacles and then run flat out in between, but I think most people are the opposite. I’d say upper body strength is my thing. I like to think I gave a couple of the younger elite athletes something to think about during the Backyard Jam; in fact, come June and our second Dirty Dozen Races Backyard Jam, I’m looking to take that title away from Jonathan Albon. There will be even more obstacles and no running at all this time, Jon! Beware!
- Since that fateful first race, how do you think OCR has impacted your life (other than launching Dirty Dozen Races!)
It’s shown me how much I get out of helping people; be it getting someone into obstacle racing for the first time or working with the elite athletes, I love seeing the smile on their face when they do something better than they could before. We’re very lucky to have a course at the bottom of the garden and I love helping people work on their techniques. I’ve surprised myself (and most of my friends) that I actually use technique – typically I ‘thug’ my way over obstacles but somehow I’m able to see ways to help even the top levels athletes become more efficient.
- What influenced you to take that leap and make OCR your career with Dirty Dozen Races?
My desire to help people try something new was the biggest factor, but I’d say a close second is the building of the obstacles; for me there is nothing better than arriving early onsite and, by the time we leave that night, there is a monster obstacle where before there was nothing. It does make me smile.
- What would you say the core values of DDR are?
Getting more people active is our number one core value, followed closely by keeping them safe and ensuring everyone has fun. Life is about having fun and if my runners aren’t enjoying our races, I’ve messed up.
- If you could talk directly to someone thinking about taking part in one of your races for the first time, but was finding the concept a bit daunting, what would you say?
Grab a couple of mates and give it a go! You don’t have to try and win, just work on getting round and having fun.
There is something about being covered in mud that takes you back to your childhood and just makes you smile, yet today we’re so conditioned to being clean and presentable. At Dirty Dozen, there is no one to judge you, no one to sneer at your muddy face – in fact, we actively encourage it! If your mates won’t sign up then just take the plunge, sign up and, on race day, get talking to those around you on the start line. You’ll be amazed at how friendly everyone is; one of my favourite things about OCR is that total strangers will offer each other encouragement and a helping hand. Humans are social creatures, but nowadays we tend to put up barriers. You might not say hello to a stranger on a bus, but at Dirty Dozen you can say hello to anyone and I guarantee everyone will say hello back.
- Any OCR secret weapons you want to share with your readers?
Yes – ‘Keep going’. When you think the tank is empty, tell yourself it isn’t. When you think you’ve had enough, tell yourself you haven’t. When you think you are done, tell yourself you’re not. If you can only remember one thing, tell yourself to ‘keep going’. If you can remember this, you will make it.
- Finally, and most importantly… will you ever again be beardless, or is The Beard here to stay?
The Beard is here to stay. End of.
- Words by Cerian Jenkins
- Pictures courtesy of Mudstacle