We’d already heard of Jon’s name from other obstacle racers and a quick Google search clarified how good he really was. To say he’s won nearly every event he’s taken part in is an understatement – Rat Race Dirty Weekend, The Nuts Challenge, Spartan Beast and The Wolf Run to name just a few. In fact, finding an event he hasn’t won is almost impossible.
When we first met up with Jon it was to help him with open water swimming. He had just returned from the Spartan Death Race (more to come in future blogs) and had pinpointed swimming as an area where he needed to improve. Our Race Director Mark, is a qualified swimming coach, open water swimmer and triathlete, and offered to help Jon improve his swimming.
We used this opportunity to find out more about Jon, and were keen to find out why he had started obstacle racing, how he trained and what he wanted from Obstacle events in the future.
JD – How long have you been taking part in Obstacle Racing and what first attracted you to the sport?
JA – I’ve been taking part for the best part of 4 years. My first event, and still one of the hardest I’ve taken part in, was Tough Guy. I was attracted to the sport because I’ve always been a good runner (Jon is regularly running 5K in just over 16 minutes) and fancied trying something new. The type of fitness required for obstacle racing also appealed to me as it’s how I’ve always trained. I like to think of it as ‘caveman fitness’. You can’t limit yourself to one discipline, as to complete an obstacle race you will have to perform many different tasks in many different terrains, not only being able to run well but also requiring a good strength to weight ratio.
JD – You must have seen the sport change quite a bit in the 4 years since you started?
JA – Yes, it’s incredible to watch the sport grow and from what I can tell, it’s still a long way off saturation. Obstacle Racing attracts such a varied group of people that I can only see it getting more and more popular. There are also so many events to choose from now, and it can be really tough deciding which one to take part in next.
JD – You mentioned that there are more and more events launching. What is it that you look for in an event?
The event needs to be well organised with lots of obstacles. It’s important that the obstacles really challenge me as opposed to ones that look good but are really just gimmicks.
I think new events need to find their niche and stick with it. There isn’t really any point in trying to be another Tough Mudder or Spartan. For me personally, I’m interested in events that offer me something new and exciting that I haven’t tried before….that really challenge me!
JD – Apart from running, how else do you train?
JA – I don’t have a set routine but I like to give everything a go. I go to circuit training, lift weights, perform lots of body weight exercises, cycle, swim and climb. I’ve most recently started orienteering and bouldering. One of the best things about Obstacle Racing is that there isn’t one way of training. Everything I do will help me in some way during a race.
JD – What are your fitness goals over the next 12 months?
JA – I’d like to break 16 minutes for 5k and I’m keen to take part in a triathlon (hence the learning to swim). I’m also thinking about an ultramarathon and maybe travelling across Europe to compete in Obstacle Races and see how they vary.
JD – One question we get asked a lot is what to wear for Obstacle Racing?
JA – I think a lot depends on the weather. In the summer I usually wear shorts (not too baggy) and a vest/t-shirt in a sports fabric that doesn’t store moisture – avoid cotton as it gets heavy and really weighs you down. I’ll also have a base layer handy which I’ll wear if the weather changes at the last minute. In the winter I tend to layer–up with thin layers. I’ll wear a hat, maybe sports tights if really cold (I wear Skins as they don’t soak up water). I also wear gloves as it can protect from rope burn, splinters etc.
Trail shoes are a definite all-year round, as old trainers really don’t give you any grip. Personally I always wear my Inov8 X-Talon for obstacle races – taping my laces together with sports tape so that I don’t have to worry about them coming undone. Another good option is to wear a pair of lock laces – usually used by Triathletes to transition from bike shoes to running shoes quickly – as you don’t need to worry about tying bows if your shoes come off.
We’ll be interviewing Jon again soon to ask him more about the Spartan Death Race, his thoughts on Judgement Day and what he’s expecting from the event.