Running the same old road races have their benefits like providing a familiarity with distances while you go out and push to get your next best course personal record. But you have to admit, that can get a little boring over time. Have you ever considered trying something a little more extreme? We speak with Wil Chung, an athlete who has competed in over 100 obstacle course races (OCR), who talks with us about his love for obstacle course racing and why you should consider giving them a shot.
Hi Wil! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself: who you are, where you’re from, what you do?
I’m Wil, based in Crewe, in the North West of the UK. I work in marketing for a financial services company.
You are an ambassador for the brand 361° Europe. Can you give us a synopsis of your journey with them?
I joined the program in 2017 and 361° have been really supportive to myself and the European ambassadors. The Europe division wants to ensure we are a proper “family” and have invested their time and resources to make this happen. I have been fortunate to join the ambassadors on two European trips in Holland and Germany. It has been fantastic to meet the European Ambassadors (it’s weird as you “know” them from Instagram, but you don’t really “know” them) and each and everyone has their own inspiring story. I am in awe of all of them. The first pair of 361 shoes I received were the Stratomic – I ran my first and second half marathon in them. They were so comfortable and I still get them out from time to time to run in. I am currently running in the Sensation 4, which seem to be as comfortable as the Stratomic, but they feel so much lighter!
Can you explain how and why running, fitness and racing has become a big part of your life? In fact, you are a giant fan of extreme running as in obstacle course races…what’s the story here?
Back in 2015 my friend said “Do you want to do a Tough Mudder?” (a ten mile obstacle course) I said of course! I hadn’t done any running since being at school – in fact I hated running then. So part of my “training” towards Tough Mudder was starting a “Couch to 5k” program to get me running and completing two smaller, local obstacle courses.
I finished the Tough Mudder and pretty much fell in love with OCR from then on. My problem was that I was dead on my feet at the end (nothing a finisher beer couldn’t fix!). I decided that if I wanted really enjoy OCR I would have to get fitter and learn to run longer distances. Since my first handful in 2015, I have (probably) done over 100 obstacle courses races.
You are also an ambassador for Tough Mudder and their extreme obstacle course races. That’s exciting! What are Tough Mudder races and what does being an ambassador for them entail?
Tough Mudder are probably the best known OCR series. Their courses are around 10 miles in length with around 25 obstacles scattered through-out. The ethos of Tough Mudder is “Tougher Together” – completing the course is all about teamwork, not about course time and there are a number of obstacles which are pretty much impossible to do alone. Some obstacles are about strength – Funky Monkey, some are psychological – scared of heights? There’s Mudderhorn, scared of enclosed spaces? There’s Birth canal, whilst others just play on your senses such as Arctic Enema (plunge into an ice bath) or Electric Shock Therapy – A 20m gauntlet through 10,000 volts of hanging electric wire.
As an ambassador, I am there to help people on course – there are always a lot of new people running the course, so I help them up, over, under, around the obstacles, or just offer my advice on best technique. I also post race photos on Instagram and offer advice in facebook community groups.
How does training for OCR differ from road races?
Running is still the main part of OCR, which is why I joined a running club and have a coach to improve my running endurance and speed. On top of that, I do specific strength training. Rather than “just weights” I will do functional training such as farmers’ carries, box jumps and so on (think boot camp training). My gym also has a rig in which I do grip strength training, pull ups, dead hangs etc.
You also travel for a lot of your races. Where have been some of your favorite and least favorite places to run?
I have been fortunate to race across the UK, Europe and America for OCR. All of the courses will come with their own challenges, but I think the excitement of being in a different country cancels out any of the negatives. I think my favourite destination must be Stockholm for “Tough Viking” in which the race was around the absolutely stunning Djurgarden – a Royal National City Park. However, I am really looking forward to running “Toughest Race” in Oslo later this year. Not only is it an 8km OCR, but the finish is at the top of the Holmenkollen ski slope.
You blog and vlog your fitness journey. Can you give an overview of what you cover?
I aim to cover all of the races I do – mostly OCR as they are more interesting as a video than a road race. I also offer advice, especially for new comers into OCR about the training they should be doing, the type of race they should do first or even some of the kit they should think about purchasing. (Spoiler – for your first OCR race, I suggest nothing new.) I use Strava to cover my running and training, so I don’t necessarily blog about that, but it does appear in my Instagram stories from time to time. I have also been known to do Instagram “take overs” for OCR accounts and podcasts.
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of social media?
Social Media is a fantastic way of sharing what’s going on in your life and connecting with like minded people across the world that you would otherwise not link up with.
However, I feel that it has led many to an “artificial” life online, where everything is perfect. This isn’t a reflection of real life, we all have our ups and downs and I believe it’s important to show others that life can be challenging at times.
What are some of your upcoming goals?
My main aim for the year is to beat my half marathon personal best (1:37:37) and get down towards 1:30. I have two half marathon races targeted towards this.
In OCR, I have an 8 hour endurance race coming up in May – Nuclear Oblivion and would be aiming to qualify for the OCR World Championships in this race. Otherwise, I aim (as I always do) to have fun, smile for the camera and enjoy every moment I am out racing – road, trail, obstacle or otherwise.
If you would like to follow Wil on his racing journey, you can check out his blog www.wilchung.co.uk or on his Instagram page @wil.i.can. If you have been considering trying a Tough Mudder Race for the first time, you can take advantage of Wil’s Ambassador discount count: BRANDUK8727 for 30% off the ticket price for any UK, German, American or Canadian Tough Mudder “Classic” or “5km” Race in 2019!