When I first stumbled across MacTuff I assumed it would be a ‘standard OCR’ – lots of mud, some hills, a couple of reasonably challenging walls, and a finishers t-shirt. I signed up, looking forward to something to break up my off-season slightly, my feet already itchy to get back into the mud and water. I didn’t race on the day, injury and a lack of miles rendered me a spectator for the day, and left me with mass race envy – read all about the 2017 race here.
And then, there was a post, on an OCR group I am part of, from one of the MacTuff team advertising that they were looking to expand their outreach programme into more schools in 2017, and was there anyone interested. Attention grabbed and interest piqued I sent a hastily typed email saying that I knew of a lot of schools that would be interested and was there any more information. It turns out, that MacTuff isn’t standard. Not in any way shape or form. When I discovered they had already targeted more than 100 schools with their flat pack obstacle course with a dream of opening up OCR to the future generation there was only one thing for it; to sit down with the team and find out what makes them tick.
MacTuff was founded in 2014, by a group of five friends; Alex, Elaine, Gillian, Marnie and Simon. Brought together by their love for OCR and united by the ethos of team work and inclusion, MacTuff was born through a desire to give something back to others, to create an event that would unite and bring together a community that enjoys pushing themselves to the limit whilst achieving something they never thought possible. “We wanted to create something that could be enjoyed by all, athletes and families alike” says Marnie. “After my first race, which was Spartan in 2013, I was struck by the fact that on any other day, the team I had run with wouldn’t have chosen this type of activity, or indeed chosen to even go for a trail run. But by being a team, and supporting and encouraging each other, we all got through. I knew there and then that I wanted to give something back in whatever way that I could”.
And so MacTuff was created, with MacTuff Kids following closely in its footsteps. What started off as an OCR race has grown arms and legs and is slowly starting to make its way into schools and lives across the country. The vision is to engage as many children as possible in OCR activity, both at MacTuff HQ and within schools throughout all local authorities in Scotland. And it is completely inclusive, with children from nursery age to secondary school, as well as including children who require additional support or have special needs. Working directly alongside the GIRFEC principles, the outreach programme looks to bring out the skills required to be an OCR runner; respect, leadership, communication, determination and leadership.
And what about the children who don’t want to do it? “We tend to find there’s always a couple who don’t want to take part” comments Alex, “but as soon as they realise it’s a free pass to get muddy and wet and tackle monkey bars they quickly change their minds. Children love being active, and we appreciate that not all children like sport; it’s what makes OCR so special, there is literally something for everyone”. There’s also no room for ego on this course, it’s all about the team work with groups being sent round the course holding an 8ft length of rope. The goal? Keep 4 hands on the rope at all times.
It’s certainly hard not to be infected by the enthusiasm that pours from these guys when they talk about MacTuff. Given the fact that they all have full time jobs and that they self-fund the whole thing, even just ten minutes in their company leaves you with no doubt that this is something they are passionate about delivering to as many people as possible. The first time I met Alex, the agenda was to discuss bringing OCR into my workplace, except an hour and a half later I left, late for my next meeting, wondering why on earth the MacTuff initiative hadn’t taken over the world already.
“I do it because I love it, I’m not in it for the money” muses Alex. “If I get a group of ten children through my course and even one of them falls in love with it then I’m doing my job right, it makes all the hours and all the organisation worth it.”
With one massive Winter OCR event, that for 2016 provided qualification to the OCR World Championships, plus two MacTuff Kids events throughout the year, it would be easy to assume that the team are willing to make do, to just keep growing what they have. No chance. “In 5 years, we see MacTuff in every school, within every local authority providing OCR sessions, allowing every child from nursery age through to secondary, including additional and secondary needs.” So not a big deal then at all. And it doesn’t stop there, “We also want to build on our MacTuff winter event, going from strength to strength, seeing many more entrants from Europe and further afield seeing our race as the one not to miss.”
It’s certainly a big dream. But after spending time with these guys, seeing what they do and how much they want it, there is no doubt at all that MacTuff is going places, and with payment plans in place (they’re the first OCR anywhere to offer this option) to help make the race even more affordable to people (currently frozen at £70 until Dec 2017) it absolutely deserves to.
For anyone interested in getting involved in the outreach programme, either within a school or at Knockhill, or indeed for any queries at all then the team can be reached here:
Facebook (www.facebook.com/mactuffkids) (www.facebook.com/mactuffocr)
*Important* Dates for your Diary
26th February 2017 – MacTuff Training Day, FREE, Knockhill Racing Circuit
16th April 2017 – MacTuff Kids, Knockhill Racing Circuit
30th July 2017 – MacTuff Kids, Energize
3rd September 2017 – MacTuff Kids, Knockhill Racing Circuit