Albon was fast when he started racing – but to take the crown at the 2014 World Obstacle Course Racing Championship, he needed more than running
‘M‘My first event was a Tough Guy race in 2010,’ says 25-year-old Jon Albon. His motive wasn’t to become a champion. ‘It just sounded like a bit of fun because it wasn’t a standard running race – you needed to jump over and crawl under stuff. I saw it as a test of how tough I was. I started quite a way back, but I managed to make up a few places in that first race.’ It was clear, though, that just being a good runner wasn't enough. ‘I did very well in the running,’ says the Norway-based Englishman. ‘But I got really cold and slowed down by the obstacles.’ Albon finished 76th. His next race was the far less competitive Wolf Run, which he won fairly easily, going on to win several more races. When he started out, he says, ‘you could just run and win. But the sport has become a lot more competitive since then.’ He knew he needed to up his game if he wanted to stay out in front. Albon was happy with his speed – which he kept up with running and cycling – but knew his grip strength was letting him down. ‘I added bouldering sessions to my training,’ he says. ‘Going climbing made a massive difference to my races. People think you need strength to get over the obstacles, but it’s the strength in your fingers that will go first.’
And while Albon’s foot speed was good, he realised that the style of running in obstacle races is different to the steady pace found in 10Ks or marathons. ‘Orienteering is a similar type of running,’ says Albon. ‘The stopstart nature of having to run through woods and slowing to look at your map lends itself to obstacle racing.’
The change in preparation paid off. Albon won every single obstacle course race he entered in 2014, becoming OCR World Champion and Spartan World Champion in the process. This year? More of the same. Time to get even tougher.