Interviewing NZ’s Top Obstacle Racer, Josh Bishop

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This article was originally published in October 2015 on the previous Obstacle Racers NZ site.

Josh Bishop

Josh Bishop, it’s the perfect time to track him down and ask him some questions as soon, on October 17th and 18th, he’ll be competing in the 2015 Obstacle Course Racing World Championships (OCRWC) – the only Kiwi competing and the reason our flag is being flown among the line-up of countries represented.

Not to put too much pressure on him, but as obstacle course racing grows it’s exciting to see someone from New Zealand participating at the level of the World Championships. The OCR WC is an independent global championship for the burgeoning sport of OCR, created to unify, promote, and increase participation in the sport of OCR while celebrating its amazing athletes and community. This is the second year it’s being held, and the first year someone will be representing New Zealand.

We asked Josh his thoughts on the Championships and other races below.

ORNZ: Is OCR the sport you focus on? Or do you also compete in other sports?

Josh: Yes to the point where you may call me a little obsessed!

Predominantly my focus is directed towards Obstacle Course Racing although it is a very dynamic sport that shares parallels with trail running and other endurance based events. So the training one conducts in preparation for OCR often leads to participation in a wide variety of events and I’m always looking to test myself in different ways.

ORNZ: You qualified for the OCR WC at a Spartan Race? Was qualifying a goal, or just something that happened?


Josh: To participate in the OCRWC has always been a dream of mine; I qualified for this in my first ever Spartan Race but I hadn’t thought that it was an attainable goal as a newbie to the sport. It wasn’t until a recent Spartan specific World Champs qualifier race, which consisted of extra distance and obstacles for those wanting to be one of the few elites to be eligible to go to the Spartan World Champs. I was fortunate to be one of the first 20 to cross the finish line in this one off qualifier and awarded the Spartan Coin, which served as token of entry into Spartan’s own World Champs. This achievement was the catalyst to set my sights on world champs and prompted me to enter both! Sadly financial constraints meant I could only choose one of these events & having already run numerous Spartan Races I felt a venture into new territory would provide fresh and new experiences that would equip me well for a more competitive year as I look towards my second year of OCR.

ORNZ: Some of your friends in NZ have also qualified? Have they decided not to enter?

Josh: Although I can’t speak on behalf of my friends, I can say that some of these blokes have already committed themselves to other (longer) events, namely my man Matt Ansley & his sick friends who are demonstrating true endurance taking on a second year at the 24hr Worlds Toughest Mudder in Las Vegas. I can barely stay awake for 24hrs let alone imagine running and tackling non-stop obstacles!

To wrap this question up, it’s important to note racing internationally is not without sacrifice, there are often significant expenses being international flights, time off work, accommodation just to name a few. But we’re fast becoming more organised, splitting costs, getting more people together and taking teams to events of all sorts, so I think you will find by 2016 we’ll have more than one Kiwi flying the flag at the OCR World Champs!

ORNZ: What are your expectations for the OCR WC, considering last year only 43.8% of the elite athletes actually successfully completed the course & every obstacle to classify as elite finishers?

Josh: I think it would be fair to say that this will be no walk in the park, it’ll be the hardest 8mile race I have ever encountered. This race attracts the biggest, baddest elite racers who have been described as some of the fittest all-around athletes in the world. It’s fair to say there’ll be an extremely competitive competition field.

Packing just over a year’s experience in OCR, I really have no business squaring off against the world’s best but none the less I will give it a good stab. It will be, in many ways, an opportunity to get a gauge for how my current abilities sit in the field as I contemplate a more competitive year of racing in 2016.

ORNZ: Have you done any obstacle specific training to prepare yourself for the World Champs?

Josh: Short answer here is no, the OCR world champs organisers are notoriously secretive with what one can expect by way of obstacles and terrain. There is some information out there online about previous obstacles that have been presented. One that springs to mind is the platinum rig, last year it destroyed just under 90% of the female racers, being unable to complete the obstacle.

In broad terms OCR World champs, culminates the best obstacles of the big race franchises and providers. The best advice I was given was to run hills and build my grip strength, so basically I have been doing that, lots of monkey bars, some chin ups, muscle ups, doing a bit of core work and adding at least a hill or three to every run to condition the legs.

ORNZ: You’ve gotten quite a bit of OCR experience running in races both in NZ and overseas, including finishing 14 Spartan Races in this year alone! Firstly, how do you find the time to travel to so many? And secondly, why? What compels you to keep running in races?

Josh: The honest truth is that I’ve discovered something that truly makes me happy & when you discover something that so positively impacts your life you feel obliged to tell the world about it! Racing brings me shoulder to shoulder with some of the coolest people I have ever met, people who willingly pay to drag themselves through kilometres of suffer-fest, people who understand hard work and actively seek it, people who view everyday challenges as ‘obstacles’ & persevere to overcome them. It’s the people like this that have so positively impacted my life & the kind of people I want to hang out with!

Josh Bishop

Then there’s the race itself. I get the chance to move freely and test myself rigorously. I get to traverse some extremely challenging terrain & obstacles which require me to adapt quickly and overcome the presented challenge. I’ll face demons like will-power, perseverance & courage. I get to embrace the unknown, often starting a race not initially knowing where it will take me entering a kind of purge that I liken to a human test. A test of how I perform when faced with adversity. Adversity, now that may come in the form of the scrupulous task of carrying a sand-bag up a steep hill and back down for no reason, it might be wading waist deep into a sticky mud pit, filling a bucket up with rocks and carrying it up the side of a mountain just to tip it back out again and carry on running.

The various hardships I have encountered during racing have served me well in overcoming my own personal obstacles. Break-ups, poor family relationships, trouble at work or struggles with motivation; these are problems we all might have to face day to day, they soon become nullified in face of the greater challenges one faces and overcomes in these endurance events & challenges. Racing makes me stronger, it gives me purpose and an end goal. I’ll often blindly enter events not knowing at the time whether I can actually achieve it; with success not guaranteed, my training has to step up a notch out of necessity.

These are just some of the positive things about the sport that continue to draw me back in race after race, craving more each time. You can’t put a price on these sort of experiences, this is how I want to live, getting the most out of life & seeing the world as I do it.

In regards to how I manage to do all these races, I’m quite fortunate to have a great job in the New Zealand Fire service, I’ve no dependants or mortgage. As well as that I am a single man and apparently that makes a difference to how much money you actually get from your pay-check!

ORNZ: What does a typical week of training look like for you?

Josh: I am actually terribly haphazard when it comes to training. Generally at least two of the following once or twice in a week. Running, swimming, strength training, circuit training, short WODS and a spot of walking. Some days I wake up as if I’ve been drip fed coffee all night and may do 2 or 3 workouts a day then other days nothing. Like I said it’s generally haphazard, no committed programme. In ways this keeps me quite dynamic in regards to overall abilities but I am well aware that if I want to become a better athlete I need to apply myself, follow a regime that will improve my abilities and commit to training more than 4 times a week!

ORNZ: Outside of running in races, you’ve also started free fitness classes. What is Run Balance Climb & Crawl? Why free?

Josh: If you don’t fancy reading long answers I will spell it basically, Run Balance Climb & Crawl (RBCC) is a way to promote and organize free fitness events to inspire, encourage & engage movement and build community and an interest in team events.

But it’s more than just that, RBCC is this idea I conceived when I discovered OCR. The title is supposed to represent the four basic exercises you would typically face in an obstacle course race, it is also four movements that many of us, often through sedentary lifestyles, have forgotten how to do. Many of us can’t support our own weight like we once used to, being able to hurl ourselves over walls, up trees, jumping across rivers and running around until the sun came down was what kids were well known for. RBCC is designed to inspire that level of movement & fitness again, it’s a way to diversify training regimes, get people outdoors, jumping around, running, and doing burpees and eating rocks. It gets people performing exercises that are going to support their everyday movement and gives people a place to identify, meet new people and catch up with friends over a workout.

It’s out of this idea that the slogan “move like you were made to” was developed, as it closely ties in with the expectation of challenge you would face in an obstacle course race. You could be facing scrupulous terrain of which you are required to run over, balance beams, rope climbs & the hard to forget barbed wire crawl which is conveniently often routed up a hill.

Secondly there’s no hiding behind the fact that NZ has become the third fattest country proportionally compared against the rest of the world. It is a truly sad reality, one we are keen to change. Although we mightn’t be able to help everybody, by creating a free opportunity for people to exercise we can help make a difference!

RBCC is well known for its community feels. It’s built on foundations of the loyal die hard enthusiasts. This one time we put on an outdoor class and to our misfortune it thundered and rained and I believe there was a miny tornado. Six turned up that day for burpees, stair climbs & plenty of mud! Last week we held fitness testing, another great free service that we offer, anyhow it proceeded to rain and was generally miserable. 17 joined me that morning and their commitment was rewarded as the sun made an appearance and dried everyone off. We’ve brought people together from all walks of life, all shapes & sizes, who are passionate about their fitness and support each other when the going gets tough during a workout. Whether it’s having a friendly yarn before the workout or a passing encouragement “you can do it”, it’s the backbone of what makes RBCC, RBCC.

Our training is definitely unique, we’ll get you outdoors, doing shorts runs, challenging you, and we’ll show off some of the awesome training venues around Auckland: parks you didn’t know about, dreadful sets of stairs, we’ll take you to obstacle set ups, gyms & studios.

RBCC is totally free, anyone can join! There’s no hidden agendas, no personal training for sale, just real people getting it done!

Follow us on facebook to stay updated with training opportunities and fitness events.

ORNZ: We hear you have something exciting OCR related in the pipeline. Can you give us any hints about what’s on the horizon?

Josh: Well, I’m not going to spoil any looming surprises, but how cool is this hastag! #ocrunited

ORNZ: Anything else you’d like to add?

Josh: I thought I would do something a little unique here and offer a small reward for those who have made it this far without falling asleep!

If you got this far, congratulations, to show my gratitude for your interest I will happily do 10 burpees for you! Just come down to an RBCC class and quote “Jeff” and I will happily pop 10 out for you on the spot*

*1 allocation per person, burpee coupons can be used together.

Now what would Ron Burgendy say here… Stay classy!

Update 19/10/2015:

Josh surpassed even his own goals! He crossed the finish line at 29th place in the individual elite male division, and was the 3rd ANZAC to finish.

You follow the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships online, find out more about Run Balance Climb Crawl on their Facebook page, and follow Josh through his sponsor Icebug NZ.

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