Pick Your Poison: Specialization and How the OCR World Championship Just Changed the Game

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Pick your poison specialization and how the OCR World Championship just changed everything

As a sport and culture still in its youth, OCR remains a mad evolutionary experiment with wild variation, mass extinctions, and even an early Precambrian-style period which led to its popularity. Now, Mother Mud is at it again, this time with the OCR World Championship as the proverbial meteorite.

From OCR World Championship committee:

“In 2016, the OCR World Championships will change the model, moving our sport forward, allowing athletes to truly specialize and train appropriately, by offering 3 championship distances. In 2016, we’ll crown (3) World Champions at the same event: short, middle, and long distance.”

I alluded to this development in my review of the BattleFrog College Championships and such news couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Here are a few reasons race specialization is the best evolutionary move in OCR since the decline of electric wires on the course:

Focused Training:

One morning while performing stadium sprints with my Wreck Bag, a woman stopped jogging and asked “What are you training for?” That question stuck with me. She didn’t ask about my workout but why, because it either takes a special kind of goal or a particular form of insanity to run up and down stairs with a 50-pound bag on your shoulders.

Crowning a champ for various distances means we as OCR athletes can now pick a poison and specialize, which leads to focused training. A sprinter does not train like a half-marathon runner–even their general body composition differs. In a time when OCR training programs are emerging, we can narrow the market and increase the value of training modules to increase the quality of training for specific race distances.

Less Performance Pressure:

The rise of professional OCR athletes and an ever increasing field of elite heat-hopefuls means that folks often run as many events, at various distances, as possible in hopes of top finishes. But is such pressure healthy or even enjoyable?

After racing at just over a year, I’ve come to recognize my weaknesses and strengths, joys and dislikes in OCR. I’ve discovered that I enjoy long distance events, but I thrive at distances of 10K and below. Is it because I can’t hang during the long events? Are the shorter courses easier? That’s about as foolish as thinking Usain Bolt runs the 400 and 800 meter because it’s easier than a marathon.

Race specialization eliminates the pressure of trying to be a master of all trades, which may lead to burnout and injury. By focusing on competing in one distance and simply participating in another, I can compartmentalize my efforts. I can go for blood by racing elite in a 5 mile race, and then enjoy the thrill of the sport and no-pressure, all fun atmosphere of my comrades in the open heats of longer events.

Better Chance at the Olympics:

Televised OCR is fun, but imagine seeing our sport in the Olympics. One reason we aren’t there yet is because we require standardization, which in OCR is like herding chickens. There are many forms of track races at the Olympics, all with distinct rules and training methods beneath the umbrella of “track and field.” If we race distance specialized, we could naturally gravitate toward course standards which find themselves present during the OCR championship series in the Fall of each year.

That is the road to the Olympics. I just wonder if the big shots of the OCR corporate community could stand one another in a room long enough to work out the details.

Rise of the Teams:

I’m talking about real teams, not biological billboards running course to course branded with venue logos.

Don’t get me wrong, I think sponsorship is great because it supports the best athletes in the world. Right now, teams aren’t united, but race in a fashion similar to NASCAR teams, which is basically a herd mentality by which a corporate presence floods the field with representatives with no bonds and hopes to win.

What I’d like to see however, are actual teams created by venues and permanent courses traveling as a group and competing with one another. This could take the form of circuit or relay races on a closed field or stadium. Such a design would draw spectators who could actually watch the race, a form of OCR that might be more palpable for Olympic consideration.

Those are just a few ideas that could develop out of the OCR World Championship move. The sport is so young and vibrant that anything can happen. What are your thoughts?

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