I thought I knew how to conquer obstacles…then I met ‘The Beard’!


I’m becoming more and more involved in the Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) community, learning about the different races available, the different teams that you can represent, and the ‘in’ clothing for different terrains/weather. One thing that I like that OCR do really well is the photographs.

Epic Action Imagery
My ‘Terminator’ walk after competing my Spartan Trifecta in 2014

What I mean is most races like marathons and triathlons will snap that iconic ‘finish line’ photo but for a fee. What the obstacle race organisers do is make their race photos free for you to download and therefore after a particular race have all the participants changing their Facebook profile or Twitter avatar to show what they’ve just been up to.

death slide

People love the Spartan ‘Fire Jump’ and the Nuclear Races ‘Death Slide’ photos but one that really caught my eye was everyone posting a photo of them standing next to a man wearing a bobble hat or cap and sporting an impressive beard. Who is this man? Why is this photo ‘iconic’?

Doug and my client Clare with her silverware!
Doug and my client Clare with her silverware!

On the 26th October 2014, I received a direct message from Doug Spence aka The Beard saying simply “thanks for the add” after I accepted his ‘friend request’. He didn’t have to do that…most don’t, but Doug, who runs ‘Dirty Dozen’ races is different and it didn’t take me long to realise this.

We exchange a few messages and before long we are chatting to each other about our business’. I then find myself being given lots of helpful advice about me and my involvement with OCR as I told him I want to use OCRs to motivate my clients further. The reason for this advice and the Facebook “thanks for the add” message is that Doug cares.

shake hands

In October 2013, Doug and his business partner Hugo launched Dirty Dozen’s first race and despite having no real marketing plan, 500 people turned up to take on their creation. Doug, with literally 2 hours sleep the night before the race was so overwhelmed and grateful to have these people turn up that he wanted to thank everyone who came and ran his race, so he positioned himself at the finish line and shook everyone’s hand. This has stuck and I believe that even if Doug had the killer manflu…he would still be there shaking everyone’s hand and posing for that ‘iconic’ photo.


Anyway, after our phone chat, Doug text me saying he’d like us to meet and did I “Fancy a trip down the infamous back yard jam sometime?”

I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about however, whilst chatting to a fellow OCR friend Christie, she told me how big a deal it was to be invited down to the ‘back yard jam’…I must admit I was a bit gutted I wasn’t going to be sampling his finest fruit preserve. “What actually is the ‘back yard jam’?” I hear you ask…well, put simply ‘The Beard’ has set up an obstacle course in his back garden.

So, after watching this video of double world champion Jon Albon tackling Doug’s ‘back yard jam’ I arranged to meet with him on the 22nd January. Unfortunately I only had 90 minutes to spare as I had to be back home for the school run and Wadhurst, East Sussex is about a good hour away from my son’s school.


I met Doug at his house and we chatted over a cup of tea and a bowl of muesli about me, my life and my work with George ‘ The Gentleman’ Trotter and Clare Miller. He genuinely is interested in people and their stories and I then asked him questions about him, his family and his love for OCR and creating races. After 20 minutes or so we got warmed up and headed out to his 4ft, 5ft and 6ft walls.

Doug spent time telling me in detail, step by step how to get over each wall using as little effort as possible even getting me to sing ‘Old MacDonald’ whilst doing so. Most renditions were strained initially but then things clicked and I felt I was gliding over them with ease. His attention to each obstacle and my learning was superb and this was demonstrated brilliantly by the way he put a line of mud to indicate where my index finger should be placed and corrected me when I was out be a fingers width!!!

Here is where I disappoint some you hardcore OCR fans and tell you that when I was given the option of either posting a time for the course or receiving more tips from him I opted for the latter. I know a lot of you were wanting to know how well I did but I wanted my time with Doug to be used for the right reasons rather than having him as a stop watch holder so we moved onto an obstacle that I can do but only through grit and determination…the rope climb.

After being taught how to do it!

What Doug did was watch me tackle each obstacle my way before showing me the ‘correct’ way. I say correct way not just referring to his technique but to his teaching method. What he does is ‘demonstrate, explain, demonstrate’ the way all good instructors should…the way I was taught to teach when I was training to become an RAF Physical Training Instructor back in 1995…and he’s not an instructor by trade. After a few goes I was up and down the rope posing for photos using a quarter of the effort I had used on my first attempt.

My technique works but Doug will be shuddering looking at this!

We then moved onto the Hangover Wall. Screwball Scramble (scramble net) and Tyro Terror (rope traverse). I have to admit that the Tyro Terror is one that I will not be looking forward to seeing anytime soon at a future OCR but if I do at least I know the technique to conquer it.

Tackling the Screwball Scramble

Throughout the day Doug made everything look easy when he demonstrated each obstacle and with his explanations on different techniques, again I learned more valuable information.

He then made me aware that I had to be heading back to Walton on Thames to pick up my son and I was gone…but not before I got my ‘iconic’ photo with the man they call ‘The Beard’.


Thanks for your time and advice Doug,

SSS. 😉


If you’d like to have a go at one of Doug’s Dirty Dozen  races then please click HERE and enter ‘DD144’ for a 10% discount.

Thanks for reading.



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