Why I decided to get into OCR
Why I decided to get into OCR even though I live with a prosthetic leg? That’s a good question…
I live for adventure and excitement and love to do things that are really going to challenge me, even more so since I lost my right foot and live my life between two prosthetic legs, my everyday leg Tigger with which I walk, cycle and skate with and my running blade Pinkie-powerleg which I run and do boot camps and OCR sports with.
Having this slight technical hitch doesn’t stop me from being the same as anyone else and with challenging myself and progressing with everything that is humanly possible, I am also encouraging, inspiring and showing both able bodied and disabled people that every dream and goal is possible.
When you think of an amputee running, you automatically think of the sprinters or distance runners on the track. And although the track gives you really good practice with your speed and I live for the buzz of a sprint finish but there’s nothing more exciting than getting that sprint finish when you have covered a 5, 6, 10, 12 or 18k distance and you are soaking wet, covered in mud and tackling up to 15 or more obstacles into the equation of OCR racing.
The thought of racing through fields, woods, water and mud while tackling all sorts of obstacles in-between makes my eyes light up with excitement, that jumpy feeling in my stomach gets going and with the adrenaline taking over, itching to get myself on that start line and wanting race day to be here now. The challenge of doing these events is far greater than anything I have ever experienced before. When racing, I never know how I’m going to adapt to getting over some of the obstacles I will face in front of me with my running blade Pinkie. Unlike the other runners with their foot being in a trail shoe and having the whole sole to stabilise and support themselves with, I only have the front of the blade to play with. Because it’s curved, all my trust goes on to the front which is where I need to get my balance and support from and this makes the challenge even more exciting.
Does this bother or scare me?
Not in the slightest as the more I am challenged, the more likely I am to succeed. Having such a positive outlook on everything I take on and knowing that nearly every time I race I am the only amputee out on that field really helps me. Although I’m proud to be accepted by the OCR family who treat me as one of them, there will always be obstacles that will be a little difficult. However there is always a way to get up and over, under or through and with the support from the OCR family who work as one giant team in helping, encouraging and supporting each other, I am never alone and are there if I need them.
I have the determination, guts, spirit and courage to tackle most things on my own but if I should need that helping hand I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to yell out for it.
How did I get into OCR?
I only discovered I could run towards the end of 2011 and with using a prosthetic leg that wasn’t designed to run on. And although I broke 3 times during training it didn’t put me off from getting from the start to finish the best way I could. Over time I’ve slowly progressed since getting my running blade Pinkie in 2014 from track training to road running and going one step further to X country and off road running and eventually OCR.
Last June I was asked to take part in a team event at the Endure 24 in Reading, which would involve 24 hours of running in a team during the day and night. This was the first taste of the things that were to come and I jumped at the chance knowing I could give this 100% even though I hadn’t done anything like this before. I turned up at the campsite on the Friday afternoon and met the On-the-run team that I would be a part of. I hadn’t met any of these guys before and we all hit it off straight away so the first hurdle was overcome.
The weather over the next few days was the worst I had ever run in and we had it all – torrential rain, thunderstorms and wind. It definitely added to the excitement of the event as we ran through muddy paths, deep puddles, sludgy hills and I loved it. It wasn’t easy on pinkie as my balance isn’t great and I fell up waterlogged hills and face planted in muddy ditches and slid on the now very wet paths. Luckily, I had so much support from the other runners on the course pulling me up and out of things for me to continue running and complete each lap I ran. The more I ran in these conditions and over the natural obstacles I faced, the more confidence this was giving me and the more it rained and the muddier the course got it made me want more. Knowing that Pinkie had been made strong, resilient and could cope with and withstand anything I started to ask myself – what else could she achieve? I had proudly managed 4 laps in the 24 hours for my team and was now ready for my next goal.
My first OCR
Once home I decided to go one step further and sign up for my first OCR so a month later I was at Colchester for the Mucky Races Muddy 5 race. I didn’t know anyone on the start line as I had been gutsy and gone on my own, but that was all about to change during the course of the race. As I was waiting at the start I remember seeing a large group of people scattered about wearing bright pink headbands and I thought to myself – wow now one of them would match Pinkie lol.
I didn’t know what to expect and this filled me with excitement rather than fear and I knew I was going to have heaps of fun in the process. After starting off running through a field and going through my first lot of muddy streams and trying to clamber out of slippery ditches with falling back in again, I was now going to find out that these kind of events involved teamwork. These people I didn’t know most of which were wearing these pink headbands were reaching out their hands to help pull me up and giving support and encouragement as I made my way through to the next set of obstacles. I was faced with a series of giant hay bales and seeing a lot of people stop and then try to climb up, I worked out that if I could get a good run up and use the spring and bounce I had in in pinkie then I could get up and I did, I dived up and rolled over Starsky and Hutch style and jumped down the other side and completed all of them, proud moment and with more water, mud, nets to crawl through and ditches to climb in and out of I was coping well, Pinkie had filled up with water and felt a little uncomfortable and squelchy to begin with but it soon started to empty with climbing, crawling and falling over a few times. I had got to my first experience of big walls and I stood at the first one and said ‘how the hell am I supposed to get up that’ one of the guys that was at the wall offered his hands for me to put my foot on so I could get a bunk up and pull myself up and over and once at the top I got a huge cheer from everyone and I got over the next two on my own with finding ledges to put Pinkie on to get myself up and over and the support I had while getting around the course was amazing and it was here that I was accepted into the OCR family and my first OCR friendships were formed with Darren and Jennifer Hogwood (the guys with the pink headbands) and some of their group DMF (dirty mudda funkers) and I knew from now on I wouldn’t be alone. The support was still there after the event when they came over, gave me a huge high 5 and told me how well I had done, we had a chat about the sport and what other races etc there were to do as I struggled to get Pinkie off. This is always the hardest part of an event as it is on so tight and caked with mud etc., it can take up to 40 minutes to get off while waiting for the leg to shrink but again even with a little technical hitch like this isn’t going to put me off, so with a bit more teamwork and a bit of a giggle with them pulling one way and me the other we finally got Pinkie off.
I explained a little about the blade etc and what I thought it could cope with and here I was already discussing wanting to do more and yay I left with a pink headband. We always manage to try and meet up at events and try to arrange to fit in the odd training runs together when we can in-between race schedules. And if I need advice and support, I know that Daz and Jen are just a p.m. or text away.
Meeting these guys and my determination made me decide that this is the field I want to concentrate on and OCR is the sport I am going to pursue. With so many goals to achieve I’m positive that I will make it and although balance, ropes, cargo nets and very muddy swamps can be a bit tricky with pinkie, this isn’t a reason to quit.
I may have started a bit late but I believe that this is where I’m meant to be. Since my first two races I’ve been progressing further with each race – times are getting better, I am conquering my fear of heights and can now do monkey bars and cargo nets. And to top it all, I’m now a part of the best family ever, The Dirty Dozen Team and have made so many good friends in the process. I feel proud in being able to show that my determination and positivity will help, encourage and inspire others into leading a healthy lifestyle and getting involved in OCR and showing that nothing can stop you from being unstoppable.