‘It’s hard but strangely addictive’

‘What is OCR?” you may ask. Thomas says not to feel silly if you do not know, as there are a whole lot of people out there in the world who do not know that OCR stands for Obstacle Course Racing, currently the fastest growing sport in the world.
Thomas likens OCR to military obstacle courses which take an incredible amount of strength and skill to complete. “You have to be a really well-balanced athlete to competitively participate in OCR.”
OCR categories are called Rookie (for 10 years and up, 5km and 15 obstacles), Commando (for 13 years and up, 10 km and 20 obstacles) and Black-Ops (18 years and up, 15 km and 30 obstacles.) Thomas takes OCR to the next level, competing in Black-Ops Elite, the toughest race of them all, which can present itself with over 30 obstacles and pushing the endurance, strength and agility of competitors to the maximum.


Living in Hartbeespoort is perfect for this former pupil of Harbeespoort High School with regards to training. “I can run up the cable car mountain, cycle, do rock climbing or kayak on the dam,” he says. “I do train in the gym as well, but concentrate on using my own body weight instead of lifting heavy weights.”
Thomas resigned from his employment as a foreman at the end of last year. “I decided to just focus on OCR this year, so I am a full-time athlete at the moment.” He laughs and tells that he lives on a very small budget currently but that his quality of life is so much greater. “I am happy that I chose to just do what I love for now, before I have children or any other major responsibilities.”
Thomas has been participating in OCR competitively for around three years as part of Team Jeep. “My focus the last three years has been to win the national championships, which I did last year. And my focus this year is very much on world champs in Canada in October.” Athletes from around 44 countries compete in this event, so Thomas will be up against the best.
Is OCR just a competitive sport? Definitely not. “The fun and adventure of OCR attracts all sorts of people, young and old and even the unfit to take part.” “It is a family-orientated sport.” Thomas has a company, Warriorfit, that trains people and advises people regarding OCR before events taking place. “An event usually takes place from Friday to Sunday. On Friday, I train others and inform them about OCR,” he says.
Thomas has been partaking in the Toyota Warrior Race series annually. The entire series takes place over about eight events throughout the year. So far Thomas has won one race and come second twice.
Iron rigs, mud, tyre flips, carrying heavy bags, pulling yourself up on a dangling rope for three days in a row, etc, take an extreme toll on your body. “I have a coach who works out a very specific plan for me in order to recover and get going again.”
“Over the year 2016, approximately 50 million people in the US joined/partook in OCR, more than double the amount of people who ran marathons and half-marathons,” Thomas says with a sparkle in his eye. “I was always active and did whatever sport I could, but now I have found what I really excel in.”
Thomas is active on social media and can be found on Facebook (Thomas OCR), Twitter @thomastonder and Instagram @thomasvantonderocr. He also has a great Youtube channel to watch – just search for Thomas van Tonder.

Also see:

WATCH – Solstice Sunrise over Hartbeespoort

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