Medal Addict Founder and OCR Athlete Justin Manning Explains How He Got Addicted to Medals
MEETING OF THE MINDS
There are three similarities between me and Justin Manning. First, we both started our own fitness blogs. Second, we’re both obstacle course racing athletes and enthusiasts. And third, we’re both big professional wrestling fans. How did we link up?
I commented on one of Manning’s online posts in the “Spartans of the Northeast” Facebook group asking “How do I write for Medal Addict?” Manning’s reply was simple, “Message me.” Fast forward a few weeks: I found myself wearing a Medal Addict shirt, recording Manning interviewing the winner of a Warrior Dash in Warwick, New York and contributing a recap article for the same race.
A high school cross country and lacrosse athlete, Manning was a residential advisor during his collegiate years and got involved in politics, so he wasn’t on his A-game athletically. Once Manning stepped out of the classroom and into the office of a college, he decided it was time to pursue his fitness goals.
“I figured OK, I’m about to be 30 let me do something that I’ve always wanted to do,” says Manning. “I now have a first-degree black belt in Tae-Kwon-Doe, specializing in Hapkido and I do OCR."
What Manning really wants to do, like myself, is become a professional wrestler. But we both share a fourth similarity, we might not ever actually reach that goal and we’re OK with that.
“I’m a fan of professional wrestling and used to watch it for the entertainment but now I watch it for the athleticism,” says Manning. “In Hapkido, you learn how to fall and in wrestling all you do is fall so when I see guys take big bumps, I try to do the same thing but it usually doesn’t work out well for me [laughs]. I’d consider starting professional wrestling if the finances and timing lined up.”
RACING FOR A REASON
In addition to tae-kwon-doe training, Manning lifts weights and runs, trying to hit the gym three times per week with the goals of improving speed, flexibility and grip strength. He uses both low rep/heavy weight and high rep/light weight methods during strength training and for running, it’s a combination of treadmill and outdoors. Plus, Manning will take on Matt “The Bear” Novakovich’s fitness challenges that he posts to the “Spartan 4-0” Facebook group.
“In the mornings, I treadmill run at a 20% incline for 30-second intervals followed by yoga,” says Manning. “If I can do that for three sessions, hopefully I can do four or five sessions the following week.”
Post-running, Manning does a weighted lower body exercise such as squats or legs extensions to really prepare his legs for the mountains that OCR offers. The training has paid off and Manning qualified for Obstacle Course Racing World Championships (Age Group) at the 2016 Citi Field Spartan Race Sprint. As for Manning’s toughest OCR yet, it’s a tie between the 2016 Spartan Race Beast in New Jersey and the 2014 Spartan Race Super in New Jersey.
“Prior to the Beast, I went through all of the forums and Medal Addict articles, prepared my gear well, and it was still hard for me,” Manning says. “The 2014 NJ Super was my first OCR ever and I couldn’t believe this was OCR. I started walking during the race and thought, ‘I don’t like this’ and within a week I was like ‘When’s my next one?’”
Manning is no stranger to accomplishment, as his walls are covered in plaques and awards. Last year, Manning noticed the number of medals he earned were growing while his budget was depleting. However, his desire to continue racing didn’t decrease. “I sat there and thought, ‘How are the other racers affording to do this stuff?” says Manning. “That’s when I thought I might have an addiction to a healthy lifestyle, but also getting medals became an addiction for me.”
MORE THAN JUST THE MEDALS
On his downtime, he found himself trying to consume as much about obstacle course racing as he could. He joined Facebook groups, befriended other racers, and gathered news about the obstacle course racing world. He soon realized he needed an outlet to share his thoughts and findings as well as give a platform to the racers he met and became inspired by along the way.
When he shared his desire with his girlfriend, Simone, who often joked about all of their recent dates taking place at the gym or the obstacle course, they decided to start a blog with a name that captured Manning’s latest obsession. She suggested that he name the blog “Medal Addict.” Manning ran with the name, and the couple started a blog about OCR, their travels and the people they came across.
Founded in September 2015, Medal Addict has evolved from a blog with a strong community on social media to an Incorporated business that has amassed sponsorships, and partnerships among many of the leading brands and affiliates that support the OCR community. Due to the continued support of the Medal Addict community, the company will soon be launching their own brand ambassador program, dedicated to further highlighting what it means to be a Medal Addict with selected athletes.
“People will say ‘Medal Addict is just about getting medals’ but that’s not exactly the case,” says Manning. “Medal Addict is about inspiring people to race. The overall objective is to build another community of people of different backgrounds, share all the medals that are out there, and share the power of positivity with people that want to compete.”
“I just came for the medals” is the print on the official Medal Addict shirts (Buy here) so it’s easy to think that someone wearing this shirt had no other reason to attend an event aside from bringing home a piece of metal. Manning’s reasoning for running OCRs isn’t just to get a medal, but that’s one of them."
“I keep doing OCRs because of the people, the sense of accomplishment I get when I cross the finish line, and the medals,” Manning says. “There’s no other sport where a stranger gives you a Clif Bar to keep you going. That’s what Medal Addict is about.”
The content manager goes on to explain that every medal has a story, providing the following story about the Spartan Race at Cornell University as an example.
“I woke up at 7:15 am and my car didn’t start so I missed the Elite wave,” says Manning. “Nonetheless, I was proud to be a part of the event and it was one of my favorite courses.”
My most intriguing question was: What if OCR companies only gave medals to the top 20 finishers, thus eliminating medals for most racers?
Manning’s response: “I’m not going to change the name and everyone else already does bibs. Plus, in OCR bibs get damaged. The obstacles are dope but there has to be something that I can take home.”
A large part of Medal Addict, and any fitness website, is featuring the type of athletes that you know will resonate with your brand. Medal Addict chooses people not based on their skill, but based on their overall package.
“What makes the people we feature stand out is that they are social and leaders in their communities in a sport that has individual achievement,” Manning says. “My audience sees the people I feature and think, ‘If that person can have 2-3 kids and still medal every weekend well so can I.’”
Residence: Brooklyn, New York
Occupation: College Administrator
Number of OCRs Completed: 25
1st OCR: 2014 Spartan Race Super in New Jersey
Facebook: Medal Addict