Clad in fatigues and hiking boots, Christopher Acord strode across the race grounds, eyes firmly affixed ahead at athletes struggling to complete the Platinum Rig obstacle. His gait was indicative of one who possesses the power of purpose. That purpose, although sometimes erroneously masked by the “soul-stealing” persona displayed on social media, is one of strengthening and empowering others. While he doesn’t come right out and admit it, his greatest fulfillment may be when racers on his course achieve success after their struggles with one of his heinously-designed obstacles.
Most know Acord as “Beard” because of the iconic feature that appears as if it came straight from the face of a Civil War general. Although one of the most recognizable figures in OCR, he is actually a relative newcomer. His introduction to OCR was that doozy of a Super Spartan at Wintergreen in 2013. Less than a year later he was directing his first event, the BattleFrog Mines & Meadows race. It was such a huge success that he became a mainstay with BattleFrog and along with Ryan Atkins, is the most visible figure for the company. If Joe DeSena is synonymous with burpees, then Acord is the poster child for racing wrist “bands.”
As the designer of a mandatory obstacle completion race, the pressure is on to deliver a course that is challenging to elite level competition, but is still fun and doable by the bulk of the participants. It is easy to sway too far in either direction. To him, course design is an art form. His background in engineering, logistics, and project management allow him to practice his art at the highest level. To the untrained eye, course design may seem like putting colors on a canvas, but the novice may not realize how much obstacle placement locations compound upon each other and affect the flow of a race. Getting the difficulty level right is never easy and he is always trying to find the “sweet spot.” When asked what the optimal statistics for course completion look like, he cites his personal research that a 61-65% overall completion rate will equate to 95-100% success rate of top athletes. Quick to deflect personal praise, Acord attributes the success of BattleFrog events to the family and team-oriented atmosphere of the race crew. “Success is for us all. The failures fall upon me.” In the end, though, he concedes that a race director needs to grasp what is happening on the course at all times and make quick decisions to provide the best racing experience possible. Very few doubt his ability to do just that.
Obviously an event like BattleFrog invites feedback, sometimes so much it is overwhelming. Although he aspires to build the perfect race course, criticism and negative feedback is inevitable, especially with a newer company that has invested serious funding in an attempt to become a major player in the OCR market. While many men and women counter any form of social media criticism with further backlash, vitriol, and insults, Acord always appears to handle it in stride. He insists that this feedback is necessary and when fair and objective, the criticism helps him improve as a race director.
Rarely will you find the Beard far outside the OCR world, but when he does it is usually to participate in other outdoor adventure activities and/or simply veg out by playing guitar. Although he states his real forte is wrestling in which he competed and coached for 22 years, his passion now lies within OCR and his contributions to the sport go beyond designing courses. As a volunteer athlete for Operation Enduring Warrior, he once again demonstrates the giving of himself so that others may feel the joy of accomplishment.
When asked what it is you want everyone to know about you and/or the job you do, his response was simply “I do what I do, for you the reader, you the racer, you the spectator and you the one who will eventually go out and live beyond limits. If you live boundless, your potential will follow.”