Dirt in your skirt blog

The Dark Side of OCR – When Hobby Turns Obsession

Posted on March 11, 2015 by Margaret Schlachter

darksideThis post will surely make some mad, but it is one that has been brewing for over a year on the idea board. Normally, I personally like the highlight the positive in our sport or look at the industry as a whole and give it a critical eye when needed. But this topic has been one I have experienced and seen first hand for years. I have watched it happen time and time again and it’s time to put the underbelly of obstacle racing out in the open, the moment when a hobby becomes an obsession.


Obstacle Racing and Mud Runs have formed a fitness revolution. They have become the new 5K for the weekend warrior. Most people will do a couple, knock off a bucket list item, then go back to their regularly scheduled lives and call it good. But for some reason, obstacle racing also draws in those who have a void somewhere in life, whether they know it or not. These are the people who are the most vulnerable to fall into the hobby to obsession trap. This I speak from experience.


For most, obstacle racing starts off with a local mud run, maybe one of the Big Three are headed to town and you give it a try with a friend or co-workers. It is all very innocent and for most it’s just another laugh. But for some they get bit by the OCR bug, like I did. The race companies have done a great job at becoming lifestyle brands with some race series creating “cult-like” followings. These events have a way of pushing limits and can cause the cracks in other parts of your life to reveal themselves. This might not be bad and might lead to much needed life changes.


However for a few, especially those with addictive personalities already, OCR can become just the newest addiction. I have been one of these people, and also watched others jump into our world, do 20+ or even 30+ events in a year, only to find themselves burned out, injured, and sometimes in questionable financial situations at the end of the year. This is when OCR can become an unhealthy situation. Here are a few signs OCR has become more than a hobby and is teetering on a borderline unhealthy addiction.


Do you feel depressed if you do not have a race on a weekend? 

Do you feel jealous when you see other people at races you can’t attend?

Have you skipped a family or close friends event because, “you had to race”?

Have you opened a new credit card just for race entries? 

Have you gone to more than one race in a day, because you “had to”?

Do you need to display your medals in order to feel accomplished?

Have you gone into debt chasing the next race, medal, headband, special award? 

Have you added some extra monicker to your name implying your level of competition? 

Do you now define your life and your identity based on a weekend activity?

Do you spend more time online in groups talking about OCR than you do with your family and friends? 


These questions can be very personal and hard to ask yourself and even harder to honestly answer. It is easy for us to turn something healthy into an unhealthy obsession. I have watched people become radical fanatics and look at race companies in a cult-like fashion. Obstacle Racing seems to gives us a sense of empowerment but can also give us an inflated sense of self importance. I have watched friends and myself take on much unneeded debt “chasing the dragon” that can be obstacle racing.


Obstacle Racing should enhance your life for the positive, if you find yourself neglecting those around you, putting yourself in financial jeopardy, or becoming all consumed with OCR it might be time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. OCR is fun, and it should stay fun for everyone at all levels. If you found yourself answering yes to most of the questions it might be time to take a weekend off and think about what life was like before OCR and what it will be like after OCR.


Yes, there is a life beyond obstacle racing. I am just learning about myself, finding more balance and peace in both sport, life and work.