John Penland

Age: 18

Height: 5'11

Weight: 153lbs

Date of Birth: 4/17/2000

Born: Overland Park, KS

Lives: Clarendon Hills, IL

Course Specialty: 

Mid Distance (6-12 miles)

Long Distance (12+ miles)

OCR Team Affiliation: FitLincMedia



John Penland is one of the most promising, young 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 briefly in high school. In the Fall of 2018, John entered Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado to study Biomedical Science, and to take his training and racing to the next level.   



  • 21 AG Podiums; 8 Overall Podiums, with 18 AG Wins and 2 Overall Wins
  • 2018 North American OCR Championships Pro Team, Stratton, VT - 3rd Place


  • 10 Spartan Elite Top 10s; 3 Top 5s; 3 Podiums
  • Spartan Super Elite, Laughlin, NV - 5th Place
  • Spartan Sprint Elite, Laughlin, NV - 5th Place
  • Spartan Super Elite, Tri-State NJ - 6th Place
  • Spartan World Championships Elite, Lake Tahoe - 19th Place
  • Spartan Super Elite, Palmerton, PA - 6th Place
  • Spartan Sprint Elite, Indiana - 3rd Place
  • Spartan Sprint Elite, Chicago, IL - 10th Place
  • Spartan U.S. National Series Chicago Super - 19th Place
  • Spartan Sprint Elite, Minnesota - 7th Place
  • Spartan Sprint Elite, Ohio - 3rd place
  • Spartan U.S. National Series San Jose Super - 15th place
  • Spartan Sprint Elite, Seattle, WA - 5th place
  • Spartan U.S. National Series Seattle Super - 15th place
  • Spartan Sprint Elite, San Jose, CA - 2nd place
  • Abominable Snow Race - 3rd place (Overall)


  • OCR World Championships 15k – 1st place (Age Group – 17 & Under)
  • OCR World Championships 3k – 3rd place  (Age Group – 19 & Under)
  • US OCR Championships 15k – 1st place  (Age Group – 17 & Under)
  • US OCR Championships 3k – 1st place  (Age Group – 19 & Under)
  • Spartan Age Group Championships – 1st Place (Age Group – 19 & under)
  • 2017 Spartan World Elite Points Series  - 81st (Overall)   2nd place (Age Group)
  • Spartan Killington Beast – 5th place (Overall)
  • Spartan San Jose Sprint – 4th place (Overall)
  • Terrain Race Wisconsin  10k – 1st place (Overall)


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.



Strength & Speed: John Penland and the Future of OCR August 2018  HERE

Natural Running Network: Spartan World Championships with the Young Guns, October 2018  HERE


Chicago Tribune: October 2016  Article

Colorado State University: The Collegian, October 2018  Article






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