Date of Birth: 4/17/2000
Born: Overland Park, KS
Lives: Clarendon Hills, IL
Mid Distance (6-12 miles)
Long Distance (12+ miles)
OCR Coach: Brakken Kraker
John Penland is one of the promising, emerging athletes on the Elite Obstacle Course Racing scene. John won the OCR Junior World Championship (15k) in 2017 as well as the 2017 U.S. OCR Junior Championships at both the 3k and 15k distances, and is poised to be a fixture on the podium in OCR for years to come. Prior to focusing on obstacle racing, John played 11 years of club soccer and ran Track and Cross-Country for one season. This fall, John will attend Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado to study Biomedical Science (Class of 2022), and train to take his racing to the next level.
What was your first obstacle race and why did you do it?
My first race was the Abominable Snow Race outside of Chicago in 2016. I had recently watched Robert Killian and Cody Moat on NBC on Christmas Day battling in the 2015 Spartan World Championship and decided that obstacle racing looked to combine my love of fitness and my love of the outdoors. My dad and I got on the internet and found the next obstacle race in our area, and the Abominable Snow Race was it.
What drives you to compete?
It’s fun. I like to see what I am capable of, and I enjoy the pain.
If you could run an obstacle race anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Anywhere up a mountain. Could we do a race up Pike’s Peak? I really enjoy mountain races like Killington & Tahoe. Generally, the tougher the venue is, the more I like it.
What interesting fact do most fans of OCR not know about you?
I plan to change to my middle name to “Danger." My parents were going to name me John Danger Penland, but chickened-out at the last minute and named me for my uncle, Christopher. Sorry Uncle Chris :)
Who is one of the OCR athletes you admire most and why?
Robert Killian because of his grit. At the World's Toughest Mudder last year, he had already run 100 miles and had locked-up 2nd place. He did not need to run another lap, but it wasn’t a question for him. He went back out and ran another 5 mile lap after 22+ hours on the course because he could. That exemplifies grit and toughness.
If you hadn't found OCR, in what sport(s) would you be competing?
Running, soccer, and weight-lifting. I was primarily a soccer player growing up, but in the summer before high school I really got into fitness - both running and weightlifting. That made my transition to OCR two years later much easier.
What are your goals with OCR?
Short-term, I want to join the highest tier of elite obstacle racers. Long term, I want to be a dominant athlete in the sport, and when obstacle racing makes the Olympics, I want to represent the U.S.