A TEENAGER from East Kilbride became a World Champion in Obstacle Course Racing last week.
Harvey Mitchell-Divers, aged just 16, was crowned best in the world for his age group at the Spartan World Championships in Abu Dhabi at the weekend.
The youngster began training for the brutal form of endurance racing a little over one year ago. Around 16-months on, he is now champion of the world.
OCR involves tackling a series of activities, such as monkey bar rigs and heavy weight carries, while on the move for several hours in tough conditions. In this specific race, Harvey was faced with covering 13-miles in the desert, with an elevation of 2,700ft.
Harvey’s determination, motivation and sheer skill levels are hugely impressive. Speaking to the young man, he is clearly a special talent and a credit to himself and his family.
Fresh from a dream few days in the Middle East alongside top coach Scott Brown, he exclusively told Herald & Times Sport about the unforgettable experience.
He said: “It’s quite difficult to put into words. The whole experience was unbelievable and I’m grateful for all of it.
“Typically, with Spartan races there’s a tablet you can look at to see where you placed among all the other competitors. Normally you know where you’re going to be placed.
“When I came in, I was lying in a heap at the side. The medics had to come over to make sure I was okay. So once I’d had some water I asked where I’d finished, and was told second. Apparently there was a mix-up with the age categories and the company who time the races.
“The category had supposedly been changed from 14-17 to 14-19. So the guy who had won was 18, and his time was 3hrs 31minutes. I was second in that, but I was pretty buzzing anyway. I was so proud. So, I was under the impression all day that I’d come second.
“When it came to the awards ceremony later, the second place spot was announced as having a time of 4hrs 27minutes. But I knew my time was 3hrs 47minutes, so I was thinking ‘oh no, I must’ve had a lot of penalties or even been disqualified’.
“When they called first place they announced ‘from East Kilbride’ and my face lit up. I grabbed the Scotland flag and I ran up to the stage.
“It’s indescribable really. I’ll never forget it. The best feeling ever.”
Harvey’s dad, Jason, got in contact with well-renowned OCR coach Scott in 2020 amid the height of the Covid pandemic.
Scott runs SBF Fitness in Ayrshire, owns a gym in Irvine and competes in various events around the world relating to hardcore running and endurance. However, due to restrictions at the time of Jason’s contact, gym work was out of the question. So for the first two months they had to revert to outdoor workouts.
At their first session in Scott’s back garden, Harvey was sick due to how hard he was pushed. From that moment on though, their relationship has gone from strength to strength.
Harvey holds his coach in extremely high regard, as he labelled him one of his biggest inspirations.
He paid tribute: “Scott and I clicked as soon as I had that first session with him. We get on so well. I look up to him so much, he’s one of my biggest inspirations.
“He’s so humble and I’m so thankful for all of that. I would not be where I am today without Scott.
“We’re just getting started. There will be more crazy adventures to come. Hopefully I’ll be doing some pretty big races in the future. I’ll always look up to him and try to follow in his footsteps.”
As Harvey admitted himself, he would be nowhere without Scott’s training and tutelage. The Ayrshire-based fitness fanatic deserves a huge amount of credit for helping Harvey achieve world champion status.
On top of all the training Scott put Harvey through, the dad of three took time out of his busy work and family schedule to travel to the UAE with Harvey. Jason works offshore and knew he was unable to take his son over to Abu Dhabi for the event when the invitation arrived.
But Scott knew he had to step up to ensure the teen got to fulfil the once in a lifetime opportunity.
He said: “I’ll always remember it. I told Harvey and his dad that he could go all the way with the right guidance as long as he was willing to listen, turn up and do as I said he would go far.
“Firstly, we entered into the regional Spartan races in the UK and Scotland. We trained towards them with running plans and things to do in the gym for his grip. He entered his first race and won. He went on to win his next two as well, so that was three out of three.
“At this point, he got an invitation to the Spartan World Championships in Abu Dhabi. His dad asked what I thought about it. I told him it would be a great opportunity for him, but the only thing is it’s a lot of money to go over there. I guaranteed him that Harvey would have a chance of winning because he’s a real talent.
“His dad works overseas as an engineer. He knew he couldn’t be there to take him to the event, so he asked if I would.
“It was a difficult decision for me because I’m very busy. But I spoke to my wife and said ‘this boy needs to go’. If I was that age and I had the opportunity to go to something like that, I’d want to go. So we did the sums and I decided that I was going to make it work. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for him and in that age group I didn’t believe there was anyone better.
“But then, his dad called me to say he would pay for both of us to go, with all of our expenses covered for the trip. That made me feel a lot better about having to take a lot of time away.
“The first couple of days we spent on Yas Island, close to where the Grand Prix track is. It was proper down time, we had time by the pool to relax and the food was amazing. It was then time to switch on. The venue was in the middle of the desert.
“I told Harvey before setting off to never miss a water stop and to take as much in as he possibly could. I also said don’t go too hard too early, the worst thing you could do is to blow up early. Even though he’s 16, he’s got quite a mature head. I was quite confident that he was taking it in.
“On the day he raced there was a nice breeze which was good to keep cool. He set off at a good pace, and that was it – I didn’t see him again until the half-way stage.
“He looked in good condition at that point. Normally you can tell with someone’s legs if they’re struggling, but his were fine. He missed a spear throw when I saw him there, and then he had to do 30 burpees before climbing up a hill to continue running. I thought missing would get his head down, but he just kept going.
“When he finished, I could see he had nothing left to give. He left everything out there. The conditions were brutal with the sand and heat. It was a gutsy performance and he more than deserved to finish first.
“As soon as they announced he was first he was over the moon. I was so proud of him.”
Scott has plenty of achievements to his name through coaching and competing personally, but he does admit this is probably top of the list.
He reflected: “There’s not a lot who will take up their time and go away to be a mentor abroad.
“I would do it for any of the guys, but I am so over the moon for Harvey.
“I’ve got lots of achievements in coaching. Whether it’s with weight loss, or even in my own performances from competing. Now, I’ve taken someone from scratch to being a world champion. It’s hard to beat.
“On paper, it’s an amazing thing to have on my CV. It’s probably as good for me as it is for Harvey. A proud moment.”
Harvey’s focus will now turn back to his studies, as he prepares for his fifth year exams in 2022 at St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High School.
He explained: “My mum is a headteacher, so she’s always on top of my school work. I’m pretty self-motivated with it anyway, so I’ll just crack on with it. I need to do well with school.
“I would love to get five As in my Highers. I managed to do that with my Nat 5s so hopefully with taking the foot of the gas I can achieve that.”