Eckington’s Conor Hancock finished eighth in the World Obstacle Championships in Ohio last month - and has already set his sights on becoming the best in the world.
Hancock, a 21-year-old scaffolder, completed the gruelling Mud, Guts and Glory race in an impressive time of 1h:32m:30s - battling over eight miles of demanding terrain against steep hills, deep ravines and tree-tangled creek beds with 57 intimidating man-made obstacles.
The Muddy Racers athlete was delighted with his performance - and is confident he can improve to compete against the world’s best, despite finishing 11 minutes behind the Elite men’s winner and British-born competitor Jonathan Albon, who now lives in Norway.
“It was an incredible race to be a part of and, considering I’ve only been doing this properly for a year, I am delighted with where I placed,” the former Hallamshire Harriers runner said.
“I know I can improve and maybe even be number one, one day.
“Everyone that beat me was a sponsored athlete so they can dedicate everything to the sport whereas at the moment I work full time alongside training.
“The obstacles were bigger than any I’ve ever faced in the UK and I coped fine - it was running on the difficult training which I found the hardest.
“In parts I just had to scramble up rocks and grab onto anything I could.
“I need to work on my speed over the terrain because once people got out in front it was so hard to catch up.
“The winner is a really good fell runner and practices in the mountains in Norway, so he was like a whippet on those tricky bits of the course - which gave him the extra time.”
The former Thai boxer performed particularly well with the upper body strength obstacles on the course - which included challenging monkey bars, tricky traverse ropes and difficult ring work.
“I was very nervous standing on the start line because I was placed around 30th and I knew it was going to be difficult to push my way to the front and stay there,” Hancock, a former Eckington School student, added.
“Luckily, I am an all-rounder and the course played to my strengths as there was a lot of upper body obstacles which quite a lot of the other competitors failed on.
“I was very aware that athletes who couldn’t finish an obstacle had their bands cut, which meant time was then added on and you were then eliminated from the final elite results.
“I just made sure I stayed focused and took my time on tough obstacles which definitely paid off.
“I just need to work on my terrain running now.”
The extreme obstacle racer qualified for the American race after winning the UK Championships in the 18k Dirty Dozen Destroyer Race in September.
And after a short rest period after the competition, Conor is now targeting victory in the UK’s Men’s Health ‘Survival of the Fittest’ challenge, taking place on November 22 at Wembley Park, London.
“Every single ranked guy from the UK will be there, so it’s going to be extremely competitive,” he said.
“But if things go right for me on the day, I think I could definitely win it.
“Of course it’s going to be tough, especially going up against Jonathan - who has won the last two World Championships now and everything there is to win in the UK.
“I just need to get my head down now and work really hard in training. Hopefully it will be my day in London.”
Despite the popularity of extreme races increasing rapidly in the UK over the past few years, funding for athletes is still very limited compared with the likes of America and currently Conor has to fit in training alongside his full time job.
“More money is involved in America so a lot of the guys I was up against in Ohio are able to dedicate themselves completely to the sport,” he said.
“Things are slowly getting better over here but right now, it’s really difficult for me to train because I fit it around work.
“When I get in after a hard day, it’s straight out again to put in the sessions I need to.
“I want to become professional because I know I could achieve so much more but right now the funding just isn’t there for that in the UK.
“But hopefully people will continue to buy into this sport and things will change.
“Year on year it just keeps getting bigger and bigger - and I’m not surprised because it’s such a thrilling sport to watch and be part of.”
Conor and his club, Muddy Racers, are trying to raise sponsorship to cover the costs for the World Championships and future events. Interested parties are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest event, visit www.mhsurvival.co.uk.