Q. You are not somebody who has come from a sporting or fitness background are you?
A. Haha, No not in the least! Before 2014 I had very little linking me with sports or fitness in any way whatsoever! Let’s just say after my schooling years of consistently finishing third from last just narrowly beating the very worst of the worst at the horrendously cold and wet cross country, being consistently picked last and even having one of those slow-motion moments when the rounders ball was flying towards me and yes I dropped it – and notice I say rounders here and not cricket, this should all give you an idea of my sporting prowess. It just wasn’t for me, so instead at school I collected stamps. Far safer!
Q. I don’t mean this to be disrespectful, but you seem to have come from nowhere to putting Wrongens firmly on the map and really extending the awareness and appeal of Obstacle Course Racing…
A. That’s not disrespectful in the least, I’ve heard far worse! And it’s 100% true. The OCR Wrongens group really came about by chance. I was in a bit of a bad place and a friend (her name is Kerrie Fisher) gave me a last minute ticket to an Obstacle Course Race (OCR) called Mud7.
This was all new to me but it turned out to be just what I needed. And it was here that a picture was taken of me, and it’s no exaggeration to say that single picture has been the catalyst for everything since.
I’m ploughing through the course and looking worse for wear and it’s one of those shots that just caught the moment perfectly. There is nothing dignified about it I can assure you! It was very nearly deleted, instead the photo was shared on social media and was received very well indeed. I then made a throwaway comment about starting a Facebook group called OCR Wrongens. The rest, as they say, is history.
It’s now one of the largest OCR groups in the world with a huge level of interaction from the group members sharing unflattering photos of themselves as well as alternative funny content.
As well as the fun side to the group we support various good causes and it’s also become a safe place to openly talk about mental health issues. In fact one of my pages on www.ocrwrongens.co.uk is dedicated solely to wellbeing as well as links to websites that people might find useful.
Q. To outsiders OCR probably has an image of being rather niche and for those looking for extreme and punishing pursuits. They seem to be for the already super-fit and those for whom a military assault course was not enough. Would this be fair?
A. That might well be an external perception but actually nothing could be further from the truth. I’d say there are probably only a handful of athletes within OCR that you could class as elite, then there’s a small percentage who are pretty good…and then there’s the rest of us! Normal everyday folks; the classic ‘butchers, bakers and candlestick makers’!
OCR’s can range greatly from a 5k romp around a field jumping over some hay bales to endurance events that last for days. There honestly really is something for everyone and there are now hundreds of events in the UK alone. For the vast majority it really is all about the taking part and giving it a go.
There’s fantastic camaraderie and it’s perfectly normal for fellow racers to help others whilst forgetting any plans for a good time of their own in the process. You really do get the sense that you are involved in something that brings the best out of people. It’s being part of something other than the 9 to 5 jobs that people get hooked on.
Q. But there is much more to what you are doing. You are developing a huge online community, you produce a huge array of brilliant clothing and accessories, you provide motivation and coaching and there is also a charitable arm to Wrongens.
A. Thank you for mentioning that, the clothing is rather special isn’t it?! The vast majority of it is all my own handy work. It’s been a steep learning curve of trial and error but that side of the business is running pretty well now.
As well as my business, The Sports Clothing Company, producing clothing for the Wrongens, we have now produced kit for dozens of teams.
I realised early on that as well as the fun side to the Wrongens, as a group we had the opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives.
Over the last three years we’ve supported I think now over 20 good causes with fundraising, crowdfunding, donating old clothing to homeless charities, Christmas boxes for children and so on.
Back in 2016 I experienced my first depressive episode, it lasted about five months and it was hell on earth. I was fortunate enough to come through it and I honestly think this happened for a reason. I came out of it a far more grounded and relaxed person. I didn’t realise there was such a stigma attached to mental health issues, so Wrongens became a safe place for myself and others to openly talk about mental health issues.
This is something I feel very proud of. People regularly contact me for advice, which I signpost on of course, I only know what worked for me.
Q. It seems that you are determined to be as inclusive as possible and bring fun and ‘comradeship’ to the world of OCR. Is this your aim?
A. In truth OCR as far as I see it has always been inclusive, however there seemed to be a fair amount of focus on the small percentage of young elite runners and quite a few ‘clicks’ within OCR, however not as much focus for the vast majority of us that are winging it. So for me I’m simply trying to make Wrongens as inclusive as possible and encourage people from all walks of life and all ages to get involved and give it is a go, often leading by example when things don’t go according to plan.
Q. And you are currently building a retreat in Bulgaria. What will this be used for?
A. Initially this beautiful place will be available for holiday lets for groups of up to six people who simply want to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. It’s situated at the top of a hill in a village in the middle of nowhere and 40 minutes away from one of Bulgaria’s main towns.
By summer 2019 I’m hoping to permanently move out to the property and have three small self-contained chalets built on the grounds. These chalets will be available to rent and will be home to people for a few nights when the retreat hosts boot camps, yoga retreats, stag and hen do’s to name but a few things.
I’m hoping to get local villagers on board to help and cater these events with fresh traditional Bulgarian cuisine. The possibilities are endless to be honest, and very exciting. There’s a bit more information about it here – www.wrongens-events.com
Q. What future plans can you let us in on?
A. I have a few. First and foremost my priority is always keeping the Wrongens group and brand on track. Occasionally I can stray off what the Wrongens is fundamentally about, fun and inclusion and get distracted with everything else that’s going on.
I didn’t mean to set up a business, yet here I am designing a producing clothing, arranging events and property renovation to name but a few things!
Once the Bulgaria property is up and running I’d like to find a second property and then a third and so on. I’d like these to become a chain of properties where people can go for a workout by day and drinks and party long into the night if they wish. These will be beautifully kitted out places but still at a good price.
I am also working on a project with a fitness expert which will be a training event geared towards all thing OCR, trail running and outdoor fitness and initially aimed at teenagers. The combination of my business partner’s 20 years in the fitness industry, coupled with a guy who found fitness later in life, could make for a winning formula!
To host my own Obstacle Course Race would be amazing, however I’ll see what the market looks like in five years’ time. I’m in no rush. I’d love for the Wrongens clothing range to go mainstream and I do believe this will happen. That’s probably it for the moment, more than enough to keep me busy!
Q. You have got some interesting celeb associations, can you tell us about these?
A. They’re loose associations and collaborations but it’s so wonderful to have them help spread the Wrongens name! As you know I met the lovely Diane Youdale better known to millions as ‘Jet’ from the 90’s hit show Gladiators after a few exchange of emails between us. I can’t begin to tell you how honoured I felt seeing her repping Wrongens gear. Diane and I have gone on to chat about her providing an element or training at the Bulgarian property, watch this space.
Then James Crossley aka ‘Hunter’ again from Gladiators came about as a result of my Diane connection. By the wonders of social media we exchanged a few messages and a few phone calls and it was job done. Again it was great of him to share a few images of him repping Wrongens and we too have discussed a few other possible projects.
Also there is the lovely Emma Blocksage. Emma is local to me and growing up I always thought it was amazing someone from my own town was out there doing what she was doing, a model, a TV host as well as many other things. She’s still very much a babe and a nice person and perfect for the Wrongens brand.
And we are about to do something with the amazing Joey Bull who is a former 4 x UK fitness champion, a GB Adventure Athlete, mountaineer and world renown fitness trainer. Another perfect fit for us!
Q. What is your ultimate goal for Wrongens?
A. Oh good question! Many people have joined the group having never done a race or even exercised before.
These people, much like myself, have gone on to do things they never thought possible.
I’m not just talking about completing a race, many people have gone on to tackle other parts of their life that they thought were too difficult. So long may this continue but tenfold. It sounds cheesy, but when I go to sleep at night I don’t think about t-shirts and sports clothing, I reflect on what a difference my community is making.
So the plan is to continue building a worldwide brand that stands for all the right things, but also to continue making a difference one person at a time…
In Part 2 Vince will team up with both Diane Youdale and Joey Bull to bring you some hints and tips for training to take on obstacle course racing and have the best time possible!