Back Yard Masterclass with The Beard

Well it all started when I went and marshalled a Dirty Dozen Races race in Essex in order to get a free place at later race. Before the event started I met the famous ‘The Beard’ aka Doug Spence the race director. Everyone in the OCR world knows of The Beard and talks so highly of him. I know fully understand why.

He can even bounce higher than me

Little did he know that I was in ore of meeting him as his ‘How to’ YouTube videos helped me pull my fat ass over loads of different types of obstacles but I think I mainly relied on upper body strength rather than technique. However by the end of the brief chat with him I had his business card in my hand and him saying he wanted to know more about my Fat Pat story.

So roll on a few months and the 1st full Dirty Dozen season is done and dusted. I was eager to catch up with Doug so contacted him and arranged to visit the now famous Back Yard for a master class. Yes he has an obstacle course in his back garden. I don’t care what you say that is just fucking awesome!!!

I rock up to The Back Yard and sit down for a quick cuppa & chat about how it all started. Doug’s main vision was and still is to help people lead fitter and healthier lives. Then I had to ask the most important question of if he is going to carry on giving out free bobble hats and if he will change the design. Do you know want to know what he said………Nope I can’t say a word.

He sensed that I was eager to go play on some obstacles, as I couldn’t sit still.

So he leads me off to what seems a hidden part of his garden where he has set up 4 wooden walls of different heights and tells me to jump over the 3ft one as I would normally. Easy up, over and you heard me land no problem.

Now Doug’s turn just as easy but I didn’t hear him land. That’s because he has mastered a technique to dissipate the energy you carry over the wall. Such a simple thing but mastering a landing mean you are set up to take on the next obstacle or get running saving vital seconds on race day.

Who would of thought how you land off an obstacle could be so crucial. With a few pointers from Doug I took my elephant legs back over the wall and was shocked that after a few times I was landing as quiet as a mouse. But the key is to Practice! Practice! Practice! So throughout the session I keep shouting out soft legs as I was landing.

The issue with this is that it has drummed in so far into my head I want to jump off anything and everything shouting soft legs. Well that kinda prefect for me I used to climb down the side of my train about 10 times a day. Well not any more. I save vital seconds changing from one cab to another by jumping of a 5ft platform down to the track shouting soft legs just to practice my landings. So thanks Doug…No more late running trains.



Next up we moved on the hang over wall, inverted walls, wall of hell or what ever name you want to give them. I’ve always seen them a wooden wall that is going to feel the full force of my upper body, along with hooking my leg up and over. I showed my amazing upper body moves off to Doug when he told me to get over it. Then once again he show me The Beards way of doing things but while doing it he just held him place in place and said I could hang here for ages no problem.

He once again took this right back to basics. Starting off with a heel hook and moving on to a knee hook. What powerful moves!!!

Time to try them out on the wall along with a few other tips (you need to go do a master class to find out what they are). I managed to get the ‘hang’ of the heel hook but struggled with the knee hook. Doug is a hard task master and I’m a true OCR racer I would not give up…….Well that is until about 45mins later and what feel like the 100th time of climbing over the wall trying to master the knee hook I had to admit that my legs were feeling battered.

Knee hooks aka leg batterings

Knee hooks aka leg batterings

Rather than wrap up the day we moved back to the 4 upright walls I learned to land softly in order to practice heel and knee hooks on a ‘normal’ wall.

Chilling out with the help of a few hooks

Chilling out with the help of a few hooks

Not as hard but then Doug pulled out the bad boy of bad boy moves to get up a wall where there is nothing to put your foot on. Again if you want to find out about these either give him a visit or follow me around an OCR and I might feel brave enough to use it.

So to sum up my 2-hour session with The Beard. In short Amazingly Epic.

Which translates to, I’m now looking at obstacles from a different angle as he broke down what I was doing right and more importantly doing wrong. Fine-tuned everything and I’m sure my upper body will be thanking me at his next race.

I will definitely be back to have more fine turning carried out by him and I strongly recommend you doing the same.




Bring on 2015