Wing Airman maneuvers through obstacles to world championships

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Julia Sorber
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing
It's a cool, crisp, 50-degree morning in Blue Mountain, Ontario, Canada, at the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships. He nears the starting line, surrounded by more than 200 competitors, and that's when the self-doubt sets in.

"Just run your race," he tells himself.

The terrain is mostly dirt and mud. The only hints of color come from a large archway adorned with the flags of countries. His gloves, hat and long-sleeve compression shirt don't do much to keep the chill out. Thousands of spectators cheer and chant from outside of the course. The gun fires, and the race begins.

For Staff Sgt. Josh March, a chaplain's assistant with the 193rd Special Operations Wing here, qualifying to compete in the OCRWC Oct. 14 was no easy accomplishment. The first obstacle course race March participated in was the Warrior Dash in 2012, followed by three more the following year.

The Warrior Dash is the world's largest running series held on challenging and rugged terrains across the world, according to information from the Mud Run Guide website. Participants maneuver over fire, haul themselves through mud, and scale more than 12 obstacles during this intense 3.1 mile race.

It wasn't until 2015 that March became more serious about competing.

"I ran the savage race in Maryland last year where I placed 3rd in my age group, which was the lightbulb moment where I thought, 'Hey I might be good at this!'" said March.

After that, the 34-year-old Pennsylvania native committed himself to training specifically for these obstacle course races, where his biggest hurdle was the running.

The motivated sergeant said the race obstacles are less of a challenge because of his ability to train at his own facility. March is co-owner of emPower Training Systems, a personal training facility in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which houses equipment similar to the race obstacles.

"Staff Sgt. March enjoys the process of getting ready for the race," said Tech. Sgt. Tim Keller, NCO in charge of Chapel Operations, 193rd SOW. "He enjoys planning his approach to fitness and making specific goals to meet the demands of each obstacle. He also enjoys the unknown nature of the races. Many obstacles are surprises, so he has to formulate an action plan on the fly during the race, adapt and overcome."

March mentioned his favorite obstacle is the rig, which is a metal structure that has a variety of different contraptions, such as ropes and rings, that competitors must crawl across without touching the ground. His least favorite is the ice bath, which involves completely submerging in an ice bath to go under a wall.

"The running was where I could really make up the time," said March, "I started training with running coaches through track workouts, trail runs and road runs four to five days a week, in addition to all of my other training. So this year going in I knew I was set up better for an opportunity to win a race."

March ran a race early in 2015 in Delaware that was small, non-competitive and local, where he placed first. However, he considers his first "real" competitive win the Pennsylvania Warrior Dash in August 2016, which was his main qualifier for the OCRWC.

"It was pretty exciting because early in the race I had broken off with a couple other guys near the front, and the one guy that was in the lead was so far ahead that I couldn't even see him anymore, so I figured second place was the best I could do," said March. "With maybe about a mile to go I saw him again. I was able to push hard, pass him while going over an obstacle, and ended up winning!"

March won another obstacle course race in September and then started preparing for the OCRWC, which was just a few weeks away.

"It felt like we were at the Olympics," said March of competing at the OCRWC. "The championship course was on a ski mountain, so we were running up and down the slopes. They had obstacles from all around the world, some which I had never seen before. It was kind of a surreal event."

Finishing 105 out of just over 200 competitors, March received a finisher's medal and got to keep his wristband for completing all of the obstacles successfully.

"Now my goal is not only to win again next year, but to get to the world championships and do even better," said March.

This dedicated obstacle-course racer is now building an obstacle course in his own backyard. He's also preparing to send a submission video in for season nine of American Ninja Warrior in 2017.