Savage Race FINALLY Arrives in New England

After many years of begging, bribing, kidnapping, and other forms of threat and intimidation, Savage Race finally agreed to invade New England with a pretty fantastic course on the “venue of all companies” in Barre, MA. Here’s the course map:

Savage New England Map_BOS17

If you’ve never raced in Mass, and aren’t familiar with Carter and Steven’s Farm in Barre, let me tell you it’s an ankle breaking, thick mudded cow farm, and steaming cow patties are an unofficial obstacle at every event. It is a swampy, stinky course and cows gather in groups and moo in protest as you run along. They do have an onsite brewery and ice cream stand though, and it really is a great place to put on tough events.

And this Savage Rage was tough. Savage Race follows the gold standard of mandatory obstacle completion for the competitive wave, called “Pro” at Savage. Pro racers received a nice wrist band.  We had to surrender the band if we couldn’t complete an obstacle, multiple attempts allowed. I can’t say enough about how great this is. More and more events with prize money have adopted it, with one notable exception, our favorite burpeepalooza.

Savage Obstacles

This course was crammed with familiar obstacles, many had a unique twist. There were a crapload of rigs. These guys love rigs, and it’s hard to argue with them. Rigs can be arranged in so many crazy ways and Savage Race definitely put some insane stuff out there.

Below is a pic of Tree Hugger. This was a wooden rig that required traversing square poles and logs with foothold cutouts. The early morning rain made the poles slippery. It was a challenging upper body exercise. Very creative and fun.

After a short run, we came upon Wheel World. I’ve wanted to try this for a long time. It’s a momentum riding obstacle, as long as you don’t fight the spins at all, getting to the last wheel isn’t so bad. However, scores of folks couldn’t quite make the dismount. Savage Race very cleverly arranged the solid ground to be just out of reach unless one let go of the last wheel at the height of the centrifugal pull. Lots of racers were left hanging desperately for a while before trying again. Wheel World was a blast!

Savages Overcome Fear

I like that Savage Race combines challenging obstacles with ones that require you to overcome fears. It’s really a great combination. This is an undervalued asset of our sport. The next article I am writing for ORM talks about this in specific, through the eyes of a man trying to conquer his phobia. Savage Race has Shriveled Richard (think TM Arctic Enema) and Davy Jones’ Locker, which is reminiscent of the high jumps into water that other races USED to offer. Kudos to Savage for keeping it!!  Thor’s Grundle, pictured below, had a high freak-out potential.

Savage Race really cranked it up in the last couple of miles, this awesome slide below, Colossus, was HUGE and epic fun. I wanted to do it 13 times. Rumor has it that Savage Race installed several permanent obstacles, including Colossus, at the farm. Pre-registration is open for 2018 already, in the cow patties.

Savage Grip Obstacles

The last mile-and-a-half had three very tough grip obstacles. It was a straight up gauntlet. Grip strength is my thing, but by the end of the third rig, I was running on fumes. Sawtooth came first.  The rungs were all wet. It is long. Not easy. I’m filthy in this pic thanks to a face first swamp pit fall. You shoulda been there.

Next up was the Savage Rig. This obstacle was a series of rings and thick ropes. It was easy to get tangled in this rig. This one was tricky.

 

The last obstacle was a brute named Twirly Bird, and it was one of the hardest obstacles I have personally attempted. Basically it is an alternating field of single flat handles, and loose clumps of thin ropes that they describe as a mop. Accurate. I watched a video on this one where folks wisely just used the handles by swinging big. Well, they adjusted the distance on this one forcing you to grab the mops too, as a result it was far more difficult. I would have fallen off if this obstacle was any longer. This was an impressive obstacle. It wouldn’t surprise me if Twirly Bird had a 90% failure rate.

I was very impressed with this event. Good medals, nice shirt, and very involved owner as well. I have only two complaints: the first one is that there are really too many events at this venue, but I get that it is hard to find space near Boston, so this one is forgiven. Secondly, handing out full size bottles of water at aid stations is wasteful. Buy some Dixie cups. Everything else was righteous!

Savage Race, I’m glad you’re coming back next year, cows and all. I highly recommend this event. See you then!

Tough Mudder Goes Extreme(ly Short)

SKIP THE ARTICLE AND GO STRAIGHT TO APPLICATION

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Tough Mudder, one of the original giants in the OCR space, launched a 10-12 mile grueling obstacle race. Initially, only 75% of people who start go on to finish. It’s designed by military special blah blah blah. As I said, you’ve heard it.

Tough_Mudder_obstacle_Arctic_Enema

But then one day, they added a new event – World’s Toughest Mudder.

“Off brand!!” – They screamed.  “Why are they timing?”- Said a person “WTF!!?!” – Said another.

Then Tough Mudder created Mudderella, It was just like Tough Mudder, but for women, and was purple. Similar cries of confusion were let out across the land.

Over recent years, all of us in the OCR world then had the same conversations and online arguments with Urban Mudder, Tough Mudder Half, Tougher, Toughest, and The Tough Mudder 5k.

And now the one you thought they would never do. The one that if I told you even 2 years ago,  you would have never believed me. The one that was created as a joke Facebook group because that’s how far from reality, OCR fanatics thought it was possible.

Are you ready for…DUN DUN DUN…

A Tough Mudder 1 mile course?

Tough Mudder announces an event they are calling  –“Tough Mudder X – The Toughest Mile On The Planet”.

 

The one mile course consists of 10 Tough Mudder obstacles and 10 “Functional Fitness Workout Zones”. The Zones will have exercises such as pull-ups, box jumps, and wall balls. All obstacles and workout zones are MUST complete. This means there are no penalty loops or penalty alternative exercises. You either complete the obstacle and/or workout zone or keep trying until the race is over.

Additional Highlights:

  • First event is Friday, July 14th at Wild Wings of Oneka, Minnesota. (Which is not a wing place)
  • It is not an open event – You must apply to be chosen or be personally invited.
  • 12 athletes per qualifying heat – Top athlete in each heat moves on.
  • Judges will be present for each obstacle and each “Fitness Zone”.
  • Last chance heat that allows top 12 non winners to move on.
  • One final heat for all of the marbles of $50k prize pool. ($25k to top man and woman)
  • Events to initially air on CBS, with repeats airing on CBS Sports.
  • For those looking to apply- go here.

When we asked TMHQ who they had already invited to this event, we were told:

We put it out to a wide range of athletes including top OCR competitors, Decathletes, Crossfit Pro’s, Ultrarunners, Parkour Athletes, a couple of the Harlem Globetrotters, etc… The event will have some of the best athletes in the world competing against each other”.

Since everything has been under wraps until today it has been hard to get in touch with athletes to confirm their attendance. However, a little birdie told us a certain “Macho Man” has made plans to attend.

Tough Mudder X

The complete press release, which includes TV air times for Tough Mudder X, and Toughest, is below.

CBS SPORTS AND TOUGH MUDDER EXPAND BROADCAST PARTNERSHIP

Tough Mudder Launches Tough Mudder X – The Ultimate Race to Determine Fittest, Fastest Athletes in the World

NEW YORK (June 1, 2017) – CBS Sports and Tough Mudder, Inc., a leading sport, active lifestyle and media brand, have expanded their multi-year media partnership to debut all Tough Mudder programming on the CBS Television Network. CBS will broadcast seven shows this year beginning July 22.

The deal features the launch of the new sports event, Tough Mudder X, named “The Ultimate Race to Determine the Fittest and the Fastest Athletes in the World.” With the new agreement, all Tough Mudder television programming – Tough Mudder X, America’s Toughest Mudder and World’s Toughest Mudder – will now debut on CBS. Encore presentations of the shows will air on CBS Sports Network in prime time.

The two-part Tough Mudder X event debuts August 27 (1:00-2:00 PM, ET) on CBS with the finale on September 3 (4:00-5:00 PM, ET).  Broadcast coverage of America’s Toughest Mudder, the eight-hour, regional overnight competitive race series, begins on CBS on July 22 and culminates with the World’s Toughest Mudder, the grueling 24-hour endurance race held in the Las Vegas desert, airing on December 23. Full broadcast schedule below. CBS Sports Digital will also feature 2017 Tough Mudder events on-demand across CBSSports.com and the CBS Sports apps for mobile and connected devices.

With $50,000 on the line, one of the largest prize pools in the fitness sport and obstacle course racing (OCR) industries, Tough Mudder X will pit top male and female athletes across multiple disciplines, ranging from OCR to HIIT/functional fitness training to racing, against one another. The competition will test their strength, agility and speed over a one-mile course in search of the fittest and fastest athletes in the world. $25,000 will be awarded to both the first place male and female finishers.

“The debut of Tough Mudder X , in partnership with CBS Sports, solidifies our commitment to innovation and continued leadership in the sports event world by debuting the ultimate race in sports that will capture all the hottest elements occupying elite athletes and sports fitness enthusiasts alike,” said Will Dean, Co-Founder and CEO, Tough Mudder, Inc. “Due to the overwhelming success of World’s Toughest Mudder on CBS, the expansion of our partnership to broadcast further positions Tough Mudder as a leading active lifestyle sports brand and video content company. We can think of no better partner than CBS Sports to bring this new sporting event and all of its drama, action, and excitement that makes for compelling sports television to millions of viewers and fans across the United States.”

“We are excited to expand our partnership with Tough Mudder and debut all programming, including the innovative new Tough Mudder X, on CBS,” said Dan Weinberg, Executive Vice President of Programming for CBS Sports. “We look forward to further showcasing Tough Mudder’s world class athletes and competitions, and all the drama surrounding their biggest events.”

Tough Mudder X is a one-mile course that combines the ultimate physical challenges and mental grit of a Tough Mudder course with the intensity of a timed, functional fitness workout and speed of a world-class mile. Elite athletes will be pushed to the brink of their limits as they conquer 10 of Tough Mudder’s most signature obstacles, including Kong, Everest 2.0 and Funky Monkey – The Revolution, and 10 functional fitness stations known as Workout Zones, in a battle to be the fastest to cross the finish line. 200 selected athletes will compete in qualifying heats with the top 12 male and female finalists progressing to the Final Rounds taking place on the same day. Tough Mudder X will take place on Friday, July 14 in Hugo, Minnesota.

The CBS Sports and Tough Mudder partnership began in August 2016, bringing Tough Mudder events to television for the first time. In 2016, CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network televised a three-part series on World’s Toughest Mudder.

The Tough Mudder broadcast schedule on CBS is as follows (All times Eastern):

  • Saturday, July 22, 4:00-5:00 PM – Toughest Mudder West, Los Angeles, CA
  • Sunday, July 30, 1:00-2:00 PM – Toughest Mudder South, Atlanta, GA
  • Saturday, August 19, 2:00-3:00 PM – Toughest Mudder Northeast, Philadelphia, PA
  • Sunday, August 27, 1:00-2:00 PM – Tough Mudder X Prelims
  • Sunday, September 3, 4:00-5:00 PM – Tough Mudder X Finals, Twin Cities, MN
  • Saturday, October 28, 2:00-3:00 PM – Toughest Mudder Midwest, Chicago, IL
  • Saturday, December 23, 12:00-1:00 PM – World’s Toughest Mudder, Lake Las Vegas, NV

For more information about Tough Mudder X or for interested athletes to sign up to compete, visit https://toughmudder.com/events/what-is-tmx. For more information on Tough Mudder and to see the 2017 schedule of events, visit toughmudder.com. Join the conversation on social by following Tough Mudder on Twitter at @ToughMudder, on Instagram @Tough_Mudder, on Facebook at facebook.com/toughmudder, on Snapchat at Tough.Mudder and on YouTube at YouTube.com/ToughMudder.

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About Tough Mudder, Inc.:

Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder Full event series of 10-12 mile obstacle courses, Tough Mudder Inc. has since grown to become a leading sports, active lifestyle and media brand. The brand includes: Mini Mudder, a 1-mile obstacle course designed for kids ages 7-12; Tough Mudder 5K, an accessible yet rewarding challenge packing signature Tough Mudder obstacles into a 3.1-mile course; Tough Mudder Half, an obstacle course challenge bringing the thrills of Tough Mudder to a 5-mile course; Tougher Mudder, a competitive start wave that takes place during all Tough Mudder Weekends; Toughest Mudder, an eight-hour, overnight competition series; World’s Toughest Mudder, a grueling 24-hour endurance competition; and Tough Mudder X, a one-mile short format course combining the most challenging elements of Tough Mudder with a functional fitness workout. The brand also encompasses an extremely vibrant engaging social and digital community and serves as a destination for fitness, nutrition and wellness content delivered across multiple platforms. The Tough Mudder family of brands and online community is united by a commitment to promoting courage, personal accomplishment and teamwork through unconventional, life-changing experiences. With more than 2.5 million participants globally to date, Tough Mudder Inc. will host more than 130 events worldwide in 2017 in nearly a dozen countries, including Asia, Australia and more through its partnerships with IMG, Seroja and Sports Media and Entertainment 360 (SME360). More than 20 of the world’s leading brands are sponsorship and content distribution partners, including Merrell, Jeep, Vega, Amazon, Olympus, For Goodness Shakes, Lucozade Sport, Aflac, Nexcare, Bosch, TREK, Head & Shoulders, L’Oreal Men Expert, Käserei Loose, Snapchat, Live Stream, Sky Sports, CBS, CBS Sports, ESPN Media Distribution and The CW. To join the conversation, follow Tough Mudder on Facebook at facebook.com/toughmudder, on Twitter @ToughMudder, and on Instagram @Tough_Mudder.

About CBS Sports:
CBS Sports, a year-round leader in television sports, broadcasts a portfolio of events on the CBS Television Network, including THE NFL ON CBS; “Thursday Night Football;” college basketball, including the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship; golf, including The Masters®, PGA Championship and PGA TOUR; college football, including the SEC ON CBS; and CBS SPORTS SPECTACULAR. In addition, the division includes CBS SPORTS NETWORK, the 24-hour home of CBS Sports; produces INSIDE THE NFL for SHOWTIME; and partners with CBS SPORTS RADIO and CBSSports.com in creating recognized leaders in sports radio and digital.

CBS Sports Network is available across the country through local cable, video and telco providers and via satellite on DirecTV Channel 221 and Dish Network Channel 158. For more information, including a full programming schedule and how to get CBS Sports Network, go to www.cbssportsnetwork.com.

Media Contacts:

For Tough Mudder PR:

Angela Alfano, angela.alfano@toughmudder.com

Jodi Kovacs, jodi.kovacs@toughmudder.com

For CBS Sports Communications: 

Dan Sabreen, dsabreen@cbs.com

 

The American Ninja Warrior Experience – Fans and Competitors: Come One, Come All

If you are a fan of American Ninja Warrior…
If you have a favorite Ninja…
If you train at a “Ninja Gym”…
If you love being challenged by new obstacles…
If you like racing against the best of the best, American Ninja Warrior Experience is for you. Fans and athletes of all ages and ability levels – spectator to pro – are welcome.  This is an immersive event with something for everyone.  Pssst…your kids (and you) can meet your Ninja heroes.  With the backing of NBC and Universal Brand Development, American Ninja Warrior Experience is sure to be high quality, challenging, and fun.

Here are the down and dirty details:

I know. I know.  Those aren’t a lot of details.  How much will it cost?  Which Ninjas will be there?  Is there swag and bling for competitors?  Obstacle Racing Media is in contact with Tom McCormack, Senior Vice President of Live Events at The ATS Team, and we will bring you the answers to these questions and more as they become available.  For now, you might want to revisit your Fall 2017 OCR calendar, especially if you live in/near Atlanta or Houston. This new brand in the OCR market is sure to be an event worth attending and fun for the entire family.

Read the full Press Release below.


NEWS RELEASE

NBC AND UNIVERSAL BRAND DEVELOPMENT COLLABORATE WITH
THE ATS TEAM TO LAUNCH

AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR EXPERIENCE

Touring Obstacle Courses From the Emmy®- Nominated Hit NBC Series Challenge
 Fans of All Ages to Test Their Own Ninja Skills

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif, MAY 22, 2017 – NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” (ANW), the premiere obstacle course competition series that is revolutionizing sports entertainment, is coming directly to fans through an immersive live event experience geared for the whole family, it was announced today. Created in close collaboration with NBC, Universal Brand Development and The ATS Team, the specialists who design and build the obstacles and courses for the show, the American Ninja Warrior Experience will give fans of all ages an opportunity to test their “ninja skills.” Tickets for the American Ninja Warrior Experience will go on sale in June, with the first event scheduled for the fall of 2017.

Bringing together the show’s fan-favorite obstacles including, the Warped Wall, Quintuple Steps, Salmon Ladder and many more, the American Ninja Warrior Experience allows participants of all fitness levels to compete against friends and other athletes on a multi-stage adult open course. The best adult open course competitors can even earn a chance to run in the Pro Course Competition against the best Ninja Warrior athletes in the world. Pro-athletes also will be offering tips and tricks during adult workshops. Event attendees also will have the unique opportunity to be spectators and watch the best-of-the-best compete in pro-competitions.

Youth competitors will have a chance to get up-close and personal with professional athletes while they learn proper obstacle techniques during one of the many workshops held throughout the day. Kids also will revel in the fun of competing on two youth open courses, which will feature smaller versions of the obstacles seen on TV with varying degrees of difficulties.

“We’re incredibly proud to announce our partnership with NBC and Universal Brand Development. Together, with a groundbreaking show, we will bring the American Ninja Warrior Experience to cities around the country and give people of all ages the chance to compete on the official obstacles from the show,” said Tom McCormack, Senior Vice President of Live Events at The ATS Team. “This is set to be the authentic and fun, family friendly ‘American Ninja Warrior’ fan festival that audiences have been asking for.”

“Now in its ninth season, ‘American Ninja Warrior’ has become a national sensation, with millions of adults and children tuning in every week,” said Carol Nygren, Vice President, Worldwide Live Entertainment, Universal Brand Development. “The show inspires everyday people to test their own athletic abilities at home, and we’re excited to collaborate with NBC and The ATS Team to build the American Ninja Warrior Experience for the fans, bringing some of the show’s most popular obstacles to participants of all ages and all fitness levels.”

For additional information visit www.ANWexperience.com

About American Ninja Warrior
Now in its ninth season, American Ninja Warrior has become a national sensation with over 6 million people tuning in every week to watch incredible athletes and ordinary people alike challenge themselves mentally and physically on the most daunting obstacle courses ever seen on TV. The series has become a fan favorite for families and young adults spurning an entire athletic community to train year round for the show, build their own backyard courses and participate in American Ninja Warrior style competitions. Season 9 will air on June 12 on NBC.

About the ATS Team
The ATS Team is an international entertainment specialty company with offices in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and London. Our work can be seen in 193 countries. With complete entertainment industry solutions we offer development, production services, set construction, challenge and stunt design rigging, underwater and high angle life safety, camera solutions, special effects, and staging/truss rentals for all aspects of live and pre-recorded productions. Current clientele includes Netflix, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, Hulu, Amazon, Disney, and many more.

About Universal Brand Development
Universal Brand Development globally drives expansion of the company’s intellectual properties, franchises, characters and stories through innovative physical and digital products, content, and consumer experiences.  Along with franchise brand management, Universal Brand Development’s core businesses include Consumer Products, Games and Digital Platforms, and Live Entertainment based on the company’s extensive portfolio of intellectual properties created by Universal Pictures, Illumination Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, and NBCUniversal cable and television.  Universal Brand Development is a business segment of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, and part of NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA).

###

CONTACTS:

THE ATS TEAM
Tom McCormack
SVP, Live Events
tom@ANWexperience.com

NBC
Traci Saulsberry
818-777-6649
Traci.saulsberry@nbcuni.com

Leslie Schwartz
818-777-3233
Leslie.schwartz@nbcuni.com

Kevin Castech
818-777-4816
Kevin.castech@nbcuni.com

UNIVERSAL BRAND DEVELOPMENT
Lauren Purnell
818-777-9311
Lauren.purnell@nbcuni.com

 

A look back at the first USA OCR National Championships

Take a look at the start line pictures from your local mud run, or “obstacle race.”

Unlike a 5k or marathon line-up showcasing emaciated, linear body types, these photos are usually more of “type-A” line-up. Your OCR start-line is dominated by big arms, distended abs, tattoos, and spandex, lots and lots of spandex. You’d be forgiven in dismissing this strange collection, this burning man/cross-fit baby, as being nothing more than a fad that takes itself a bit too seriously.

But look closely and you might see, sandwiched between heavily tattooed Cross-fitters in checkered board shorts, juiced out powerlifters, and hobbyjoggers with dad-bods, a glimpse of one or two thin, serious-looking runners rocking short shorts and bright invov8 shoes. You’d be remiss if you thought they were nothing more than a marathoner trying something new.

No, these are the first of the professional athletes of this new sport, battling week in and out on the muddy for chicken-scratch prizes and sponsorship, much like the Steve Scotts or Prefontaine’s of track and field’s early post-amateur years.


Despite its lack of experience as opposed to other sports with Olympic dreams (the sport, in the US at least, has been around just under 10 years) obstacle racing has serious Olympic aspirations. This past weekend some of the top athletes in the OCR world met up in Miami to compete over a 3 mile course. At stake were spots on America’s newly-announced Pan-American team, which will spend the coming year racing exhibition races in North and South america before heading down to the Pan-am games.

While the aforementioned weekend-warrior crowd might pay OCR’s bills, it was the runners who were the focus on this special course. It is these same runners who are instigating an identity crisis in a sport attempting to be both commercial and Olympic in its aspirations, ideas that time and time again have proven to be mutually exclusive.

While participation numbers may be down as a whole since, say, 2010, the mainstream popularity of obstacle racing has exploded in recent years. Tough Mudder and Spartan Race have defied their fringe labels to become household names, benefiting from renewed interest in natural, gymnastic-like movements thanks to the explosion of Crossfit and shows like the ratings-dominating American Ninja Warrior.

NBC, NBC sports, ESPN, and CBS have all begun to devote substantial airtime to their own specific versions of the obstacle race. Even Netflix (Ultimate Beastmaster) and CMT (Broken Skull Ranch) are cashing in on the obstacle/mud-run movement. Sponsors the likes of Panasonic and Reebok have jumped into the fray, marketing action cameras and sport-specific shoes (with built in drainage and extra grip for obstacles like rope climbs) to the mostly middle-aged, upper-middle class participants who shell big bucks for a few miles of mud and object carries on a weekly basis (A typical Spartan race entry costs around $125). Jeep, Coors light, Subway, and others have highlighted the sport in their TV spots.


But why mess around with the massive headaches of properly planning and executing a race when the potential of TV money lies waiting? Battlefrog, previously one of the biggest competitors to Spartan Race, and one with a large, passionate fan base, had a similar thought. They disbanded their race series, fired their staff, and are attempting to jump to ESPN or other networks with a televised racing series.

In this streaming age ESPN is seeing its lowest ratings ever and even dropped 1.5 million subscribers in 2016, according to adage.com. Yet the show has been reviewed well and BattleFrog seems to have no intentions of returning to the original fanbase that made it a household name. 

They say once a rapper uses your name in a song you’ve made it, and in late 2015 Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller dropped the first known OCR-related line in his song “Brand Name” :

“American-ninja to these obstacles, no stopping me…” (Things go downhill quickly from there with euphemisms to ladies of the night and services but you get the point)

I think its safe to say OCR has officially become more than a fad; it has established itself as a concrete societal mainstay. So it’s here, but what’s its identity? Is it a cash cow, a grassroots movement, a professional runner’s sport, or some combination of the three?


Back to that Miami starting line. For an event with as much buzz surrounding it as this, the photos told a different story. The participant #’s were slim, the obstacles borrowed from other sports (Spartan has decided to use biathlon’s lazer pistol as its featured penalty-inducing obstacle), and the athletes fast, fit, runners competing on a fast, flat course where the more traditional cross-fit body-types didn’t stand a chance.


This was labeled a “short-course” by Spartan, and it was shorter than usual, at least by OCR standards, with a sub 30-minute completion time.

But that’s not a “short-course” by any other sport’s standards; after all, the longest track and field event, the 10km, takes around 27 minutes to complete. From an aerobic standpoint, the same athlete who wins an 11-minute running race will, with proper training, be the best in a 2 hr race, and this is often the case, with Ryan Atkins, Hunter McIntyre, Amelia Boone, and other endurance mainstays winning events no matter the course. Spartan attempts to change this by introducing heavy obstacles to even out the playing field, but it could be argued that when events attempt to even out a playing field, the opposite as actually being done.

Fast-forward 30 minutes and Mark Batres crossed the line in first for the males, followed by former Spartan World Champion Robert Killian and upcoming speedster Mike Ferguson. An upland, California native, Batres boasts prs of 13:44 in the 5k and sub-30 minutes in the 10km.

Obstacles can be learned; aerobic capacity can not. If the sport continues this way we may be seeing a field of Kenyans sweeping podiums 5 years from now. 

And Batre’s prize for being crowned the first USA OCR champ and Pan-American team member on the most-hyped weekend of the year? A meager $300.

Throw in a flight from Cali, rental car, hotel, and race entry, Mark likely left in the red (disregarding sponsors, and any unmentioned payouts of course).

So we’re seeing progress on the corporate side of the sport, but we’re not seeing much of a trickle down to the athletes themselves.

But that will change. 

Although optimists were saying the same about track and field some 40 years ago…

\

Hobie Call Back On The Spartan Pro Team

Hobie Call will once again, be back on the Spartan Pro Team. Sources close to Spartan have told ORM that an announcement will be coming later tonight. Hobie joins Amelia Boone, Ryan Kent, Faye Stenning, and several other rising stars on the Pro Team.

For 2 plus years, Hobie and Spartan Race grew up together and affected our sport the same way Michael Jordan and Nike did. Each athlete pushing the brand forward, and each brand propelling the athlete into bigger stardom.

In early 2013, Spartan and Hobie parted ways as Hobie went on to pursue sponsored relationships with other races. First was Extreme Nation, then BattleFrog, followed by Atlas Race.  All 3 race series are now defunct. When Atlas died (for the 2nd time) in May 2015, Hobie retired (sort of) and said he was no longer going to continue to do OCR full time, and would go back to focusing on HV/AC work to support his family.

He continued to show up to the occasional high stakes race, and shocked the industry when he won last year’s Spartan Race World Championship, becoming the first and only 3 time winner in the process.

Will Hobie return to dominance? Is this his last hurrah?

We’d love to know your thoughts in the comments.

*Photo Credit – Spartan Race.

 

Safety Standards Heading to Obstacle Course Racing?

Terrain-Race-Chicago-Cargo-After

“I know I signed a waiver, but this is still safe, right?”

I expect I am not the only person who has gone to a race, seen an obstacle and wondered how safe it really is. Was it something that looked like it had been assembled hastily, or was it something sturdy that is cleverly designed to look like it is less stable than it really is? The whole point of the sport is to get people outside of their comfort zones, but no one wants a race to end with a trip to the emergency room – not the racers, not the race directors, and certainly not the organizations that are trying to build the sport up.

Another question I find myself asking at races is “How can this obstacle possibly be insurable?” Unfortunately, as a lawyer I tend to see far too much of the world through the lenses of liability and litigation. As the sport of OCR has grown from practically nothing to a major industry in less than a decade, more participants and more dollars being spent has meant that more lawyers have gotten involved, often with the effect of making things less fun for everyone. Sorry about that.

Nevertheless, it is in the best interest of everyone involved to keep the risks of OCR in check, and to make sure that the sport challenges us, and even sometimes scares us, but that it doesn’t hurt us (at least not too much). This is why races are coming together around the idea of implementing safety standards.

For most organized events, there are industry standards about what preparations must take place to make sure the event is safe enough for everyone to enjoy and to make sure that in the event something goes wrong, the problems can be addressed quickly. Some of these precautions we take for granted: the lifeguard at the swimming pool. Others we may not even notice: your garden variety 5K will have lots of safety measures in place, even though most racers will never be aware of, say, the medical staff hanging back ready to react if someone gets hurt.

Sometimes these safety measures are put in place because local laws require them – the health code that mandates testing the water quality of a swimming pool, or a building code that requires enough fire exits for a concert venue. For other events, it can be an insurance company that mandates how much safety planning has to occur before a policy gets issued (those medics at the 5K). The regulations and insurance policies have all been developed over decades of trial and error, and people in those industries know what to expect. The organizer of the local triathlon will know that the insurance carrier requires so many water safety staff per 100 racers or medical personnel with radios every so many miles on the run course.

OCR is brand new, and therefore decades behind in developing standards that race organizers and the companies that insure their events can rely on. To make up for lost time, a number of the largest race companies approached ASTM International to put together safety guidelines. ASTM is a non-profit that brings an industry’s constituents together to agree to safety standards. These standards turn into guidelines that insurance companies and government agencies can then turn to when issuing policies, granting permits and drafting regulations, though ASTM itself goes to great lengths to make sure that they play no part in that role, in order to maintain their independence. For more on how ASTM is involved in recreational safety, you might watch this helpful cartoon.

How do the standards come to be? Interested parties are invited to draft standards. The drafts are circulated to the committee of people who have volunteered to assemble the standards, and ASTM facilitates the process. The committee then asks for comments. Based on those comments, they tweak the rules, lather, rinse, and repeat until a consensus is reached. ASTM then publishes the rules, putting them out in the world for the industry to rely on. The drafters meet twice a year, and at least very five years the rules are reviewed to make sure they work in the way the drafters hoped. Any unintended consequences get ironed out, and any previously unforeseen needs are addressed.

What does it mean for race organizers? Once the standards are agreed to, insurance companies can require that races comply with the standards in order to have policies issued. This may sound intimidating, but practically speaking it can benefit both sides. Insurance companies want to avoid risk. When they can minimize risk by requiring the insured races to implement features that will minimize potential harm, they can charge the races less for those policies.

Tough Mudder Block Ness

How deep is that water?

It’s not easy to make an explanation of insurance policies entertaining, but I’ll try with some made-up examples: if a race has water crossings on the course, that makes it more expensive to insure, because when you put people near water, there is a risk they will drown. The standards might say that, if the water is no deeper than three feet and the crossing is less than twenty feet, at least one safety monitor must be present to make sure the racers do not trip and accidentally drown (you can drown in as little as six inches of water! Lawyers worry about this!). However, if a water crossing is more than three feet deep, then the organizers need to have, say, two safety monitors at the crossing, one equipped with some kind of buoyancy life-saving device. This means getting more staff and more equipment and paying a higher premium for the riskier crossing on the course. At the same time, the race that has the shallower water crossing will pay a smaller premium, because the standards show that the crossing is less risky. The standards give the insurance companies something to work with, a technique to determine which races are bigger risks and which are smaller risks. This benefits the race organizers because, without the standards, the insurance companies would have simply categorized both races as equally risky, and they would have charged higher rates accordingly.

How do races try to work with their insurance carriers? They approach ASTM. Here’s a statement the Big Three issued:

“Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash are currently working together with other interested stakeholders in ASTM International, a globally recognized standards developer, to help formulate obstacle course racing industry standards. As industry leaders, we recognize the need to harmonize standards and provide guidelines to existing and new event producers to ensure that the industry continues to make participant safety a top priority. We invite and encourage other OCR producers, operators and safety leaders to help with this process. Anyone interested can contact ASTM International F24 Staff Manager Katerina Koperna at kkoperna@astm.org.”

When I learned that the main drivers behind the move to implement standards were the big three races, I was worried that they would draft the standards in such a way as to make it difficult for other operators to enter the market. While the big races have been great for getting OCR into the mainstream, the early days of the industry showed that the companies behind them were willing to play a little dirty (poaching race venues, etc.), and I thought the standards could discriminate against the mom-and-pop races, as well as new races that help keep innovation alive. ASTM is aware of this risk, and they told me: “having a standards development process in place is helpful to entrepreneurs and small businesses that want a seat at the table.  Our process is open to them, and anyone can submit what are called ‘negative’ votes that must be addressed before the standard is published.” The standards can help these smaller races, not only by making insurance easier to come by, but also in providing guidance in how to create a safe obstacle course. As new races popped up all over the country, the wheel got reinvented over and over again as course designers tried to figure out how to build safe course, not always successfully. If a new course designer can rely on published standards, he can build an obstacle he knows is safe. Trial and error isn’t always the best way to design an obstacle, especially when error can lead to a trip to the hospital. Finally, if a small operator doesn’t have the ability to design and build a course that meets with basic safety standards, maybe that operator shouldn’t be in the business of organizing obstacle course races.

muddy-red-deer

Defying certain death on the monkey bars

What does this mean for racers? For starters, it means safer obstacles. We all want to feel like we cheated death by pulling ourselves across the monkey bars. We don’t want to go to the hospital after an A-frame collapses . It can also mean lower race fees, if lower insurance costs get passed along to the racers. It can mean that new races aren’t as much of a gamble, as their organizers can rely on the standards as guidelines for safe obstacle construction. I worry that it might lead to some cookie-cutter standardization of obstacles, but that is something that can happen even in the absence of published standards.

The process of drafting the standards is long. What does it mean for the sport today? It means that you should get involved. Anyone can send the committee suggestions: ASTM values openness as part of the process, and the more people who get involved, the better the end product will be. An ASTM spokesman told me about the father of a hockey player who was concerned about his hockey-playing son’s safety and got involved in drafting the new standards for neck guards. People who work first hand with any product are going to understand the pros and cons even better, and this is why I would suggest that racers get involved. Elite racers, who are hoping to make a living on these courses, have even more reason to get involved, not just to offer their personal expertise, but to have an influence on making their workplace – the obstacles – a safe place.

No one wants to remove all the risk from OCR, and these standards will not prevent the cuts and scrapes that show up as pictures on social media every Monday. The standards will not prevent some more serious injuries either. While the races keep very quiet about this data, anecdotal evidence suggests that the biggest cause of race injuries is when racers take bad landings off 8- and 12-foot walls. Racers get so involved in how they are going to get to the top of the wall that they ignore the importance of a soft landing, and twisted ankles are one of the main reasons racers need medical attention. Risk and the perception of overcoming risk are at the heart of the sport – otherwise we would all be running 10Ks every weekend, right? Keeping that risk at an acceptable level, by implementing industry standards, is a good thing for us all.

Tacoma Mud Run Fire Jump

Will fire jumps still be OK? Get involved and find out.

 

Here’s ASTM’s press release on the subject:
Proposed ASTM International Standard Will Support Land-Based Obstacle Courses

ASTM International’s committee on amusement rides and devices, and its subcommittee on adventure attractions are developing a standard that will provide guidelines for building and operating obstacle racing courses. Anyone interested in helping develop this standard is welcome to join and get involved.

The obstacle course racing community has grown significantly in recent years. Designers, owners, builders, and operators could benefit from this proposed standard, currently known as the work item: “New Practice for Design, Construction, Operation, Inspection, Safety, and Maintenance of Land-Based Pedestrian Obstacle Courses” (WK54714).

The scope of this proposed standard also includes removing obvious hazardous conditions by logically applying existing standards and model codes.  Also according to its scope, this standard will not address attractions such as ropes courses or zip lines, nor will it purport to address all of the safety concerns associated with the standard’s use. (It will be the responsibility of the user of the standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices prior to use.)

This animated video shows other examples of ASTM International standards that help support safety of recreational activities.

ASTM Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices Next Meeting: October 11-14, 2017, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

Media Inquiries: Dan Bergels, tel +1.610.832.9602; dbergels@astm.org

ASTM Staff Contact: Katerina Koperna, tel. +1.610.832.9728; kkoperna@astm.org

Release #10282

March 22, 2017