There was a time not long ago when many believed that the rising popularity and prize money of OCR events would attract elite ultra-runners to the sport who would sweep aside OCR’s reigning elites and dominate the sport’s marquee races.
Perhaps that thinking was fueled by OCR being such a new thing, an unknown, that the sport was not respected as legitimate in its own right. And, therefore, the accomplishments and legitimacy of its top athletes were seen as dubious.
That’s no longer the case. Instead of being overrun by outsiders, OCR has given rise to its own elite athletes. And now it is those OCR-born athletes who are beginning to spill over and find success in other sports.
With her successes at World’s Toughest Mudder and Spartan races, Amelia Boone has risen to become the face of OCR. This year, the once self-described non-runner gave ultra-running a try. The result? In February she finished second at the Sean O’Brien 100K, winning a coveted “Golden Ticket” to take on the legendary Western States 100, which she planned to tackle before an injury forced her out.
And just this past weekend, OCR’s arguably most dominate male racer, Ryan Atkins, won the North Face 50-Mile Endurance Challenge in New York. Around Mile 10, while running together, the race’s previous year’s winner reportedly told Atkins he looked “big” and seemed surprised he was running with him.
Of course, OCR’s impact goes well beyond the elites. How many “regular folks” have gotten off the couch because they were intrigued by the mud and challenges of an obstacle race, and then after decided to try a trail run, marathon or even an ultra run that they never before dreamed they could try?
OCR’s rising popularity is undeniable. And now that it is having an impact on other sports, it is getting harder for people to ignore the legitimacy of OCR and its athletes.