For most of my adult life my main hobby has been training for and playing basketball, in particular for my university and then the Edinburgh Lions Basketball Club. I was by no means an outstanding player, maybe better than average at best. However I was passionate and disciplined with my training, often spending hours practicing my shooting or heading to the gym whenever I could.
Then a few years back, in 2011, during a standard league game, I stole the ball and set off down the court on the fast break. Running at full speed, I took off for a contested layup, releasing the ball just as my momentum carried me past the rim. While still in the air I turned my head back trying to see if the ball went in and as a result landed awkwardly on my right leg. There was a horrible pop and jolt of pain, and I collapsed to the floor clutching my knee.
Despite trying to initially walk it off, after going to A&E and then seeing an orthopaedic surgeon a few days later, it transpired that I had completely tore the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in my right knee.
Before the injury I didn't know the details but had a rough idea of what an ACL rupture was. I had certainly knew of various professional sport stars whose careers had ended prematurely due to it (or at least they were never at the same level again).
I was of course not a professional athlete, basketball was only a hobby I was passionate about. However with the surgeon telling me that I wouldn't be able to play basketball again unless I got an ACL reconstruction, and explaining that even then my knee might never be as strong as it once was; I was heartbroken to say the least.
For the first 1-2 months (my wife might say longer haha), I was pretty depressed. For someone who was used to being so active it was devastating; and up to that point I hadn't missed even one training or game in about 4 years. For a while I was angry; angry at myself for letting it happen, and angry in general at the unfair world. I must've been quite miserable to live with, so shout out to my wife Harriet for putting up with it.
After a while (possibly longer than it should have been), the depression and anger was replaced with acceptance and determination. I read multiple books, web posts, blog articles and case studies in order to learn as much as I possible could about the anatomy of the knee, and the best possible way to rehab from an ACL injury. I followed the instructions and exercises from the physio exactly and religiously.
I wasn't just going to rehab in order to maybe, potentially, play basketball again; I was determined to make my knee stronger than it ever was.
It wasn't all plain sailing though. About a year into the rehab, I was able to go to basketball training again, though just non-contact and not taking many risks. After a few weeks of it, my knee started to get quite painful again and I was forced to revisit the orthopaedic surgeon.
After a couple x-rays and an MRI, it turned out that I had quite a bit of scar tissue build up in the front of my knee, and would require another operation in order to clean it out. Back to square one...
I attacked the physio and rehab way harder than the first time, determined to get stronger, determined not to let any scar tissue build up again. I had learned a lot from the first time, how far I could actually push things, and that the usual medical advice of "pushing until you feel pain" is too subjective and sometimes you need to go past that point.
Finally, a solid two years after the first operation, I was back at basketball, full contact and playing in the league games. My general skill level and ability had understandably decreased over the two years being out. There were a few scary moments where I fell on or jerked my knee funny during games, but for the most part it was a successful returning season without any further injury.
I played in the first team the following season as well, and having read and learned a lot about more intelligently managing my training (how best to schedule my weight training in with training and cardio, stretching, anatomy for sport etc..) I remained injury free for that season as well. Something was missing though, and that was my passion and love for the game of basketball.
After the two years I had spent training and rehabbing to get back to basketball, once I was finally there, I realised that it wasn't the basketball I missed, it was the team. The feeling of being part of something and playing as part of a team is what I enjoyed, as well as the fitness aspects of the training rather than the actual technicalities of basketball.
So after the 2014-15 season, I decided to look to other sports and disciplines that I might enjoy more. Enter obstacle course racing...
I had already previously done a Tough Mudder the summer before, and loved the atmosphere and sense of camaraderie all the way round. I had also done the Edinburgh Survival of the Fittest race the same year, though it was the day after my best friend's wedding so I wasn't in the best shape to say the least. I remembered enjoying these races none the less.
So in the summer of 2015, when I saw an advert for a season ticket for all of the Men's Health Survival of the Fittest races I jumped at the chance without a second thought.
I managed to talk my wife into joining me for a few of them, including the first one in Cardiff, so it also provided a nice excuse for a weekend away as well. The first race went well, and I loved it. I hadn't done much training specific for the races so I was very surprised when I finished in the top 7% (and my wife came in as the 14th female!). That was it, I was hooked.
After we got home, I immediately started planning my training for the subsequent SOTF races, and I sent a message to my basketball team saying that I probably wasn't going to play this season. I had fallen in love with a new sport... Obstacle Course Racing.
The Creation of ObstacleMan
Everything in the following weeks, the running, the training, the weights, the races themselves, talking about the races after, editing the footage from my GoPro, I thoroughly enjoyed every part of it. In some ways, I think a lot of the training and the challenge of the races mirrored what I had experienced and felt during the two years of rehab for my knee.
The determination to get better, get stronger and get faster that I had during my rehab; I had lost it for a while once I had made it back to playing basketball. Now, with obstacle course racing, I felt I had found that level of drive and passion again.
I love OCRs, and I want to share that passion with others; as well as raise awareness of the sport in the UK and beyond. If through my race videos, reviews, tips, etc on ObstacleMan, I can inspire or encourage just one person to sign up and try an obstacle course race, then it will all have been worth it.