Just before this beard craziness all began, I was playing B-ball with one of our athletic, 16 year old African-American kids.  He was trash talking me from the start, and about halfway through he called me an, “old, big, hairy, ugly, white dude.”  He predicted that he was going to, and I quote, “cross me up and break my ankles,” making some comment about it having something to do with his “swag.”

Now, my shooting percentage is terrible, but as the old proverb says, “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.”  After defeating him, I informed my arrogant opponent, “you just got beat by old, big, hairy, ugly, white dude with bad knees and no fingertips.”  As it turns out, his swag was no match for my beard.

It’s all about the beard. For as long as OCR has existed, beards have held exulted office simply because of the fact that they are beards. As a beard wearer of many years, Zack Paben saw this as a niche that bizarrely hadn’t been tapped into yet.

The morning following the basketball incident, I saw a random post on Facebook about boys having swag and men having beards. Inspired by the quote, I posted a picture of myself coming out of a frozen mud bath with the caption ”Boys keep your swag and I will keep my beard” to the More Heart than Scars (MHTS) Facebook page.  Billy Findeiss (Now forever known as Mr. December) asked me if I was trying to start a beard contest.  Of course, I said, “yes,” then Michael Caudell joined in and started posting all kinds of pure self-loving beard pics.  Jimi Da Beard Hughes  was next to enter his mud-faced masterpiece and then came Steve-o Opie Bones‘ entry.

Zack clearly had people in mind already. While the idea was one of those, “hey, you know what would be cool….?” Moments, things started to take shape, albeit slowly.

“I had hoped for (Spartan Death Race veteran) Steve-o, having seen pictures of him and his beard doing heroic things.  I have heard other men giving praise to my mud beard while participating in various OCRs. I have seen lots of pics of my Facebook friends’ muddy faces.  When I saw a post with a hairy visage I would pester/encourage them to join the competition.”

And so the idea of a “Bearded Men of OCR” calendar, with the proceeds going to charity was born. With Zack having worked for 22 years with at risk youth, it was a natural progression to have an idea and then have charitable causes benefit from it.

“The response was overwhelming once Steve-o entered, I never expected to have the incredible support and involvement that came from the OCR community. As time went on, it was clear that some rather amazing men were entered into this fun contest.  During a conversation with Steffen Cook, (Mr. February), the subject of what the winner gets came up.  Obviously, the first prize for all participants is having a beard, but it was decided that the winner would be awarded the title of “Sir Mud Beard,” with each of the top 12 winning a spot in a calendar. Mr. February said the only thing a Brit could to such an idea, “Brilliant!”

He could tell I was making it all up on the spot but he was still all in, and we love him for it.  He has been instrumental in refining the MHTS calendar vision, as well as being a great person for me to chat with about MHTS projects. It has been great to get to know this amazing group of guys.  Some of our private messages got a little hairy being that we all have a zest for life, and great sense of humor.

It started with just one picture but after a week it was clear we needed an album so everyone could look at the pictures side by side and find them in one place.  The last week, we included a collage along with some more questions to learn about our hairy friends.”

Selecting the final 12 was easily done, as Zack explains, “Once it was clear that our goal was to have a Sir Mud Beard Calendar we decided to have the top 12 guys represent their corresponding month (e.g. January would be the person with the most votes, February would be the person with the second most votes, and so forth…).  You can talk about encouraging others to vote and the vote counting process and so on.”

This throwaway comical idea about beards and OCR quickly became something to take seriously. The final 12 were selected and were even interviewed, so that each page of the calendar has a bio of the person that adorns it.

With the charities of Combat Wounded Veterans Challenge and Spartan Race regulars Operation Enduring Warrior benefiting from the sales of the calendar, the causes are close to the hearts of all involved.

The third and last portion of the proceeds will go to Zack’s own cause, More Heart Than Scars.

“The 3rd portion will go to us to More Heart Than Scars to become an official 501(c) (3) organization and to continue to assist and help individuals overcome both physical and or mental challenges. One of our primary goals is to sponsor John Powers, a full left hip-disarticulation amputee to hike the Appalachian Trail. We plan to list inside the calendar the dates of upcoming OCR events.  We also plan to have some OCR companies support by sponsoring our calendar and giving a one-time discount to a race with proof of purchase of one of our calendars.”

With Spartan Race being well represented within the pages by not only by staff members and even Death Racers, what’s your excuse for not owning one?

Contact Zack via the facebook page More Heart Than Scars Facebook page for more information.

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