When I took on my first Obstacle Course Race I didn’t think much past the actual event. I imagined what obstacles I would be doing, how hard I would find it, what I would enjoy or possibly hate. What I would be wearing, the training i would do. I thought about all of that a lot, probably too much. But I never thought about what would happen after I did my first race. Whilst I never thought past my first race, I’m now five years into obstacle course racing and can’t help but look ahead with excitement, and sometimes, a little trepidation….

1. OCR Kisses

This cute little moniker actually describes those purple and red blotches that appear on your body in the hours and days following an OCR; sometimes in places you didn’t even think could get bruised. At first you may feel a little embarrassed of your “kisses”, and explaining to your co-workers that no, you didn’t get mugged, and yes you paid for this doesn’t help. Eventually people accept this is who you are, and once you get past the showing off stage (although there are some so good we can’t help but post them on Facebook), you barely even notice them anymore. And eventually you’ll stop asking the online community whether you can get away with this shirt or skirt with them showing.

2. Losing Toenails (and we’ll spare you the photo!)

I know it’s gross, but it happens. For me it didn’t actually happen on my very first race, but on my first longer race. I was wearing new shoes which although broken in and felt comfy, actually weren’t. For the first and only time in my racing life I was finding cold water to cool my throbbing feet in, and only a few short weeks later, I was minus nails on my big toes. Most OCR athletes you meet have a similar and most likely worse story, and most of their feet are gross. With the right care mine grew back as good as new, but others are not so lucky. My advice? Buy your trainers at least half a size too big.

3. That Feeling of Accomplishment

Finally, something positive, right? Just like any obstacle course race, it’s the rough with the smooth, but we all know, that struggle makes the good times even better.  I’ll never forget the moment I crossed my first finish line, and the medal was hung from my neck. No I wasn’t the winner, I did ok, but that’s it. But that didn’t matter. I’d struggled, and I’d fought, and I’d finished. That feeling never goes away, whether you’re winning, or in fact had a pretty rubbish performance. When you’ve pushed yourself and worked as hard as you can, the sense of accomplishment as you cross the line is the best high I know.

4. The Friends

I’m a massive geek, and when I started racing I watched every video I could lay my hands on. I watched these incredible people take on races with smiles and cheeky winks. I never believed a few years later I would be able to count them amongst my friends. The OCR community is one of the most open and inclusive groups out there. Sure, not everyone will get on, but I’ve never met a group of people so willing to get stuck in together (literally). Where you can travel alone, and find friends, where you don’t have to worry about whether someone you know will be at a race, because even in the rare instant they’re not, you meet new awesome people. OCR is both incredibly tight knit, yet welcoming, and it’s not a facade. Maybe there’s something in the mud, or the struggle, but we’re all in it together. Even the well-known faces don’t hold themselves above others and will always be happy for a chat, so next time you’re at a race and you see your favorite OCR personality, don’t be shy, let them know how they’ve inspired or helped you.

5. The General Sense of Badassery

I’m pretty sure that’s not even a word, so apologies for my poor English, but there’s no other way to describe it.

From the increasing levels of fitness, to the sense of “I can do anything”, OCR badassery isn’t an ego thing, or conceit, it’s a sense of self confidence that grows with the knowledge that you can try anything, and if you fail, that’s fine. That you can persevere and overcome things you didn’t think you could before. The openness and willingness to explore, the sense of adventure. With the want to perform better you train more, and you find a love for your body that may not have previously existed. You no longer care so much about how you look, but about what you can do and suddenly you feel liberated. A layer of self-consciousness is stripped away, and who gives a damn what someone else thinks, you feel incredible.

Everyone has their own OCR journey, but I’m yet to meet anyone who regretted trying it out. Did I expect I would find a sport that would become my life? Did I think I would meet my partner with whom I now have a child? That I would get a cool new job, that I would be in the best shape of my life? Nope, I only thought about my damn socks…

-Francesca Chiorando

Francesca is an avid obstacle course racer, TV host, and blogger at Mud Is My Makeup. Follow her Instagram at @MudIsMyMakeUp and @FranChiorando.