State Of The Obstacle Racing Industry – 2019

Obstacle racing attendance

To set the stage for our first article of this kind in 4 years, let’s take a look back to some recent history in the obstacle racing industry.

In December of 2014, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash were well-established as the “Big 3” in OCR and we asked if BattleFrog Series had positioned itself as the 4th player in the space. Great obstacles and professionally produced races were quickly making BattleFrog a  fan favorite with participants looking to mix it up with something besides more Tough Mudder headbands or Spartan Trifecta medals.

Over the next year, BattleFrog announced a massive expansion to 44 races and the biggest payouts the industry had ever seen. They also announced sponsorship of a major College Football Bowl Game in January of 2016, which never made sense to anyone. Eight months later, they closed their doors.

Football fans (no pun intended) could considerBattleFrog as the XFL of obstacle racing. They were new and shiny, had money, and willing to take some risks. They were one of the first to promote obstacle completion over penalties, and they introduced obstacle difficulty lanes. However, the front office seemed to lack the basic know-how needed to compete with the big boys, long term.  There was the Bowl Game sponsorship, along with online ads that promoted sales, not unlike your local rug merchant.

Had BattleFrog been willing to take it slowly, stick to 12-20 markets a year, perhaps even stick to the East coast to minimize costs, and continued to innovate, we may have a different industry. They could have taken market share from the big 3 over time. But, like so many “take over the world today/gone tomorrow” business ideas, they tried to go nationwide overnight. They spent lots of money in wrong places, and could not convert that to high attendance numbers. Leo Fernandez Pujals, the money man at BattleFrog and one of the richest men in Spain, pulled the plug suddenly, after what would be their last event in August of 2016.

So how has everyone else been faring in the last few years? For the purposes of this article, Obstacle Racing Media will focus on industry changes on the United States based companies. We are working on some content for the future that will speak to the growth of worldwide OCR.

Update On The Big 3

*Spartan Race

When our last report went live, Boston-based Spartan Race was still undergoing expansion. They tripled their 2012 attendance numbers to a whopping 320 thousand finishers by end of 2014. While the exploding “hockey stick” growth has slowed, Spartan is still on the upswing. 2018 numbers saw them produce 63 events in the United States and their attendance was over 400 thousand participants. There are currently 57 races on the schedule for 2019.

*Of the Big 3, Spartan is the only race that we can confirm yearly, public-facing, finisher numbers through Athlinks. For Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, and most other races, we will base information on factors such as the number of events per year, and attendance numbers given to us by the race organizations themselves.

Warrior Dash

In our 2015 article, we spoke about how Red Frog (Warrior Dash’s parent company) has suffered the largest retraction in the OCR boom-bust of 2012-2014. However, Red Frog has been steady the last 3 years with 23 events nationwide, and the same amount scheduled for 2019. For their “10th season”, Warrior Dash is announcing new obstacles and launching a two-lap and 1-mile option.

Tough Mudder

Tough Mudder has undergone the most changes since our last report. Right around the time that BattleFrog went out of business in the fall of 2016, Tough Mudder began a year-long stretch of announcing new formats, large payouts, and media deals with CBS, Facebook, Amazon, and The CW. Along the way, they continued to produce 35-38 Tough Mudder events per year. Toward the end of 2018, there were rumblings of financial troubles as athletes complained of payment delays. Last month, TMHQ announced a new stripped down “back to our roots” campaign with the removal of all cash prize payouts. Currently, 26 events are scheduled for 2019.

Rugged

Why is Rugged Maniac in The Big Three subsection? Because they have proven they belong. The guys at Rugged probably do the least media/ self-promotion, and somehow have made some of the biggest splashes in our industry. Mark Cuban cashed out his famous investment in August of last year when Rugged got acquired by GateHouse Media. From 11 events in 2011, Rugged had brought their race weekend total to 24 events when ORM last did an update. Still growing steadily, they did 29 events in 2018 and will produce the same number of events this year. According to the participant numbers that they provided, their attendance numbers per race have gone down slightly. However, they now put on more events per year than Mudder or Warrior Dash and have very healthy registration numbers.

The Next Tier

Savage Race

Back in 2015, Savage received praise for doing things the “right way”. As opposed to the nuclear rocket-ship takeover plan of BattleFrog and so many others, Savage has continued to grow slowly. They still add a few cities every couple of years, expanding to 15 weekends in 2019. Their attendance has maintained the same or been slightly increased in their most successful markets. Last year they began adding a Sunday, short course “Blitz” with payouts.

BoneFrog Challenge

BoneFrog was created by ex-Navy Seals in Western Massachusetts back in 2013. The put on 10 events last year and are scheduled to put on as many this year. Even though they are an early player in the space, they’ve struggled to get big attendance numbers and may need some help to stay afloat long term.

Regional Series

Conquer The Gauntlet started in Oklahoma and Arkansas back in 2012 and in their largest year, had 9 events. They’ve scaled back to 6 events for 2019, and those appear to be healthy.

Florida’s Mud Endeavor and the northeast’s City Challenge both have been producing 4-5 events since the early days of OCR and are well received in their regions.

Epic Series, which focuses on CrossFit style exercises combined with obstacles, minus the mud, are expanding to 7 events in the southwest region of the U.S. in 2019.

Whatever happened to:

In our 2015 article, we listed Down and Dirty as a potential “Big 4” member. Down and Dirty snagged Subaru as their title sponsor after losing Merrell but seemed eager to leave the industry and closed up shop in early 2016.

Other races with multiple locations that have also left the scene since our last report was Dirty Girl, Ridiculous Obstacle Course, Bad Ass Dash, Men’s Health Urbanathlon and West Coast-based Gladiator Rock N Run.

Summation & Forecasting: Since our last report, the industry apparently still had some market correction of the 2012-2015 boom-bust to experience over the next two years. Since 2017, the dust has had lots of time to settle, and we are left with what appears to be a healthy industry.

Some may see the reduction in events of Tough Mudder and their loss of TV contracts as a sign that they are on the way out. It’s very possible, that they are experiencing their own personal market hangover later than they should have. Putting on 26 events (which is essentially every other weekend in a year) has worked well for Rugged Maniac and Warrior Dash. If Tough Mudder tightens the financial reins and can still build quality obstacles while creating a first class experience like their competitors, they can probably rebound.

*Special thanks to Stuart Clark for his assistance with extensive data research. Art direction by Patrick Keyser.

 

2.14.19 Obstacle Discourse with Davis and Chace


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A weekly news show with Josh Chace and Matt B. Davis discussing items of the week for Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and all other OCR related news.

This week’s topics:

Terrain Race first weekend success and exciting buildup to the first Spartan USNS of the season in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Spartan 24 Hour Championship 2019 – Sweden

PRESS RELEASE

The Snowcapped Mountains of Åre, Sweden to Host the Third-Annual “Spartan Ultra World Championship” 24-Hour Obstacle Course Race

World’s Largest Obstacle Course Race and Endurance Brands Brings the Word’s Most
Challenging OCR Event to the Alpine Heart of Scandinavia November 8

Åre, Sweden (February 7, 2019) – Spartan, the world’s largest obstacle course race (OCR) and endurance brand, will bring the third annual “Spartan Ultra World Championship” to the picturesque mountain village of Åre, Sweden November 9-10, 2019. Combining the beauty of the Scandinavian country with the grit of Spartan, the 24-hour endurance event will test the world’s best athletes as they face harsh winter conditions, high elevations and miles of technical terrain, just 350km below the Arctic Circle. As in the first two editions of the Spartan Ultra World Championship—held in Iceland—competitors in Åre can expect full-spectrum extremes of Mother Nature’s beauty and fury.

[Read more…]

Press Release: Spartan and Airstream Team Up for Basecamp X Giveaway

Spartan and Airstream Team-Up to Inspire Transformation and Adventure  with #SpartanConfessionals Airstream Giveaway

Experiential Brands Invite Spartan Athletes to Share their Transformational Stories

with the World for a chance to win an Airstream Basecamp X

BOSTON, MA (January 24, 2019) – Airstream, innovative maker of the iconic “silver bullet” travel trailer, rolls into Spartan events across the U.S. as the brand that’s built for adventure, teams-up with the world’s largest obstacle race and endurance brand to inspire the nation and give away a brand new 2019 Basecamp X travel trailer. The #SpartanConfessionals Airstream Giveaway encourages Spartan athletes of all skill levels and backgrounds to share their transformational stories and the inspiration that drives them to race, both on-site and via social media.

 

To enter the contest, racers participating in Spartan’s upcoming events in Southern California January 26 – 27, Arizona February 9 – 10, Las Vegas March 9 – 10 and San Jose March 16 – 17 can rest and recover from the race in a spacious Airstream with comfortable amenities and healthy snacks while discussing their experience in front of a camera. Spartans can also enter by posting their story on social media using the hashtag #SpartanConfessionals and tagging @Spartan. One winner will be selected at random and announced at the San Jose race.

 

“Spartan athletes from all over the world have overcome great obstacles in their lives, both on and off the course, and working with Airstream to share their stories is a natural fit given our shared passion for adventure and healthy living,” said Spartan CEO and founder Joe De Sena. “Together, Spartan and Airstream want to inspire positive transformation and we are excited to work with the iconic brand.”

 

Whether it is losing weight, overcoming addiction, fighting through the loss of a loved one or battling an injury, Spartans have incredible, inspirational stories to share and Spartan and Airstream want to hear them all.

“As a brand that encourages consumers to get outdoors, be active and thrive in positive community environments, we are delighted to partner with Spartan on this Giveaway,” said Bob Wheeler, President and CEO of Airstream. “Each of us has had obstacles to overcome – we are looking forward to the racers’ inspiring stories. Our Basecamp line is made for exploration and is built tough, like Spartan athletes, and we hope the winner of this Giveaway will utilize this trailer to tap into their adventurous side.”

Spartan events focus on sport, athleticism, and transformation, pushing the bodies and minds of competitors to the limit across miles of unforgiving terrain while they conquer signature obstacles such as the Spear Throw, Bucket Brigade, and Barbed Wire Crawl.

 

For contest rules and information and more information on each race, please visit Spartan.com.

 

About Spartan

With more than 250 events across more than 40 countries on six continents, Spartan is the world’s largest obstacle race (OCR) and endurance brand. Providing transformation through sport, Spartan attracts more than one million annual participants across all fitness levels, from beginners to elite. More than five million participants have finished Spartan events, creating a lifestyle that extends beyond races including health and wellness products, training and nutrition programs, and popular media content, which has made OCR one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Spartan events feature races at various distances, Stadion and Sprint: 3-mile/5-km and 20 Obstacles; Super: 8-mi/13-km and 25 Obstacles; Beast: 13-mi/21-km and 30 Obstacles; and Ultra: 30-mi/50-km and 60 obstacles. Visit spartan.com for more information and registration.

 

 

 

About Airstream

Airstream, the manufacturer of the iconic “silver bullet” travel trailer, is the longest-tenured recreational vehicle manufacturer in the world. The company’s mission, as set forth by founder Wally Byam, is to create well-designed, high-quality products that allow people to follow their dreams and explore the world in home-like comfort.

A steadfast commitment to Byam’s credo, “Let’s not make changes, let’s only make improvements,” has made the aluminum Airstream travel trailer a timeless classic. An unwavering focus on innovation keeps the company at the forefront of technology and customer experience in both the towable and motorized sectors.

Airstream is based in Jackson Center, Ohio, where a team of skilled craftspeople builds each trailer by hand, adding daily to the brand’s reputation for quality and innovation.

For more information, please visit Airstream.com, call 877-596-6111 or mail us at Airstream, Inc., 419 West Pike Street, P.O. Box 629, Jackson Center, Ohio 45334.

Learn more about Airstream, our dealers, and current travel trailer and touring coach models at airstream.com. For the latest news on Airstream, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.

Airstream is subsidiary of Elkhart, IN-based Thor Industries (NYSE: THO), the world’s largest manufacturer of RVs.

2019 Race Season Preview: Spartan Race

It’s 2019 and that means it’s time to start planning another year of racing. What better way to decide which company gets your hard earned dollar, then by taking a look at what all of the major players will be offering participants in the coming year.

This is the first preview in a 4-week series looking at the 2019 obstacle course racing season.

Spartan Race

With over 200 events in 40 different countries, Spartan Race has solidified themselves as the top dog in Obstacle Course Racing. So how does Spartan keep it “fresh” in the new year? Let’s take a look.

Obstacles

OCR is nothing without the obstacles. And in 2019, Spartan has finally admitted that it’s time for some innovation in this space. Joe De Sena once took the stance that he didn’t want to be the company trying to release 2 or 3 new obstacles every year “like those Orange guys” but it becomes quickly clear that after 2 years without something “new”, the time is right.

Spartan announce in October of last year that they are bringing SIX (6) “new or updated obstacles” to their events in 2019. We’ve seen at least one of those obstacles – The Helix (video below) – confirmed by Spartan. The other’s have been rumored. Mike Morris, Spartan’s VP of Production referred to one as “The Egg Beater”, which may be this – seen in Spartan Malaysia in early 2018.

Other possible additions to the 2019 obstacle lineup could be the Irish Table that we saw at the Spartanburg, SC and Central Florida Beasts. The Great Wall, a variant on the current Stairway to Sparta could also be in the mix this year.

David Watson, VP of Product for Spartan Race, also made mention of different “modes” for obstacles in 2019. Modes are, as he explained, a different setup for obstacles depending on the course and distance you’re competing in. The Spartan Rig in a Sprint may be made up of all rings, whereas the Beast Mode (see what they did there?) will include Rings, Ropes, and Bars. These modes could impact obstacles such as the Monkey BarsHercules Hoist, and even Olympus.

Finish all of those “new and updated” obstacles? You’ve got one final challenge before you jump the fire. Spartan is bringing back the Gladiators to select events in 2019. So while training this off season, be sure to practice your fancy footwork, if you don’t want to fall victim to a mud-covered pupil stick.

Spartan Trail

Not a fan of the new obstacles? Spartan has got you covered. After a couple test runs in Virginia and Los Angeles, Spartan is rolling our a 12 event Trail Series in 2019. The Trail Series has been met with tenuous responses from would-be consumers but Spartan has already ensured a captive audience by announcing that Spartan Trail races would be included in the Spartan Season Pass.

Spartan Trail will offer a 10km and 21km option, depending on the venue, with prices ranging from $65 to $95 and include a finisher shirt and new teal Spartan medal.

Stadion Rebranding

Thousands of competitors have gotten their start at Spartan Race at a Stadium event. The short-form Sprint style event hosted at iconic locations such as Dallas’ AT&T Stadium, and Boston’s Fenway Park, is getting an upgrade in 2019.

Spartan proclaimed that the Stadium event was no more, and thus, Stadion was born. What is a Spartan Station event you ask, and how is it different? Well beyond the claims of “going back to its roots” and offering competitors “new challenges and ancient traditions”, we only know that Stadion events have claimed the color yellow for its medal and finisher shirt, but little else is known.

In 2019, “It’s ON like StadiON” (copywrite Josh Chace – all rights reserved)

Elite & Age Group Competitive Series

One Series to Rule Them All

Planning on visiting all the Stadion events in 2019? There’s a series for that. Mountains your thing? There’s a series for that. In 2019, there’s a series for any type of Spartan Racer out there. The one Series probably most anticipated, and most polarizing, is the Championship Series – leading up to the World Championship on September 29 in Lake Tahoe, CA (for a 5th straight year).

The World Championship is the culmination of a National Series season consisting of 5 (US) races ranging from February in Jacksonville, FL to July’s Utah finale. The Regional National Championship is next (in West Virginia for the US) which all helps filter the sports best athletes in to Lake Tahoe for a first-time Sunday World Championship event, where the eyes of the world will watch Jon Albon claim another Spartan top spot, before moving on to win the $1,000,000 purse. Yes, that’s a bold prediction. It would be great, wouldn’t it?

2019 Spartan Championships

Age Group Revisions

New for 2019’s Age Group competition, is the announcement that the 30-39 and 40-49 will be broken up into 5-year increments. Long overdue, the 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, and 45-49 waves look to be some of the most competitive of the year.

Need full details on how to qualify? Matt B. Davis interviewed David Watson and broke down the full qualification paths here.

Medals & Finisher Tees

Let’s be honest. Few things drive obstacle course race enthusiasts to sign up for an event, quite like a well-designed finisher medal.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

The 2019 medals are updated all around. And while opinions have varied, Spartan gets high marks for a wholesale update to the medal lineup, including this amazing variant available to Winter Spartan Race finishers

And lastly, to go along with your fancy new Spartan Race Medals, there’s new Craft design, finisher T-shirts, complete with … branding! You’ll now be a walking, talking, Spartan, Craft, Rakuten Billboard.

Summary

If you’re a fan of Spartan Race, there’s a whole lot to be excited about in 2019. From new obstacles to updated medals and tees to an all-inclusive competitive series, leading up to Championship caliber events to finish off the year. Spartan looks to be the most well-rounded branding once again, heading into their 9th year in the industry.

Interested? Sign Up Here

Spartan Spain – Night Sprint Review

In the hunt for my first trifecta, Spartan Race Spain delivers an irresistible twist on stadium races, the Night Sprint!! A no-brainer at race selection.

As a parting gift from my 19-month old I was hit with a mild plague days before the race (ok ok just a cold), which the flight, kindly rammed into my sinuses leaving me jelly-legged and out of it until only a few hours before the race! Thankfully, adrenaline, ignorance and? Hopefully painkillers? (#notaspaniard #craptourist) cleared my vision and pain long enough to go for it, I set off.

Park and Arch

Locating, parking, and finding your way to registration at the Ricardo Turmo Circuit race track is fairly easy. Although, clearer signage when entering the car park, which was huge, would have helped too.

Registration was easy, and donning your glow-in-the-dark night sprint tee and mandatory headlamps mean you’re all set. As darkness drew in, the pre-race pump up began! Moshing, rugby scrums, piggyback wars and British bulldog style games were there to kill the 10 mins delay in starting, but then we were off!!
Racers leaving start line in night sprint

As the novelty of night running reached its peak, you hit the first few 4′ walls and the O.U.T. It’s then, that Spartan Spain goes and throws the proverbial bucket on the fire you just pumped up by moving off the pleasantly springy race track, onto loose, fairly deep, gravel!! Good gosh, what a proper energy sapper!

And oh, they didn’t stop there. I had assumed, it being a stadium race, it would probably be a longer distance, but I didn’t expect any trail running, maybe more obstacles?? How wrong I was!!!!! The route led off gravel and out of the stadium altogether and onto some SOLID inclines. Half, being wide long concrete steps followed by steeper concrete trails. Oh and the cherry? The BENDER.

As one of my favourite obstacles, the bender has the appearance of simplicity, until you reach the top where physics seems to abandon you (unless you’re one of those salmon jumping immortals). It is an obstacle that breaks many a spartan to tears, and as such, I did notice a number of people skip this obstacle all together (so easy at night), burpees and all.

Although, I can also understand why, with only one spartan on each of the three sections allowed at a time, it’s a BIG time sink. I easily lost 10 minutes here, waiting for my turn, helping and being helped with the obstacle. Get there first if your running for time!

Spartan Spain went on to milk the hills a little more, with some sweet, steep switchbacks and a sandbag carry to the hilltop, and then a return back down over some DODGY rocky trails for doing at night!

Day-time-sandbag

I added this day shot, to give you an idea of that tasty INCLINE! 

On the return to the stadium, the route loops around and over some crash barriers and onto 3 decently long MUDDY barbed wire crawls, dotted between 8 ft walls, the slip wall (with hoses running!) and the inverse wall. All of these made lovely and challenging to grip, due to a fair bit of thick goopy mud!

I found the whole section very satisfying, albeit, that wonderful gravel finding its way into the mud, and shredding my knees and elbows! At least it made for some solid knee/elbow grazing battle scars!

Barbed wire crawling

At 1.5K left on the course, glow sticks (which marked the whole course) led back onto that wonderful gravel, and brutally, all the way back to the festival area where you’re almost allowed to feel you’re reaching the end but alas, there’s still more to go. 

Arrive next at a confusingly light herc hoist, especially as the preceding obstacles seem adapted to INCREASE difficulty.  Lighter weights here seem to merciful for the spartan races of recent months (Ashton down, Windsor etc). Shoulders were definitely grateful 😉

A short crawl under a walkway leads to the spear throw, and back around to the side of that entrance archway. On closer inspection, this is actually an obstacle. Spartan netting sprawls up, over and back down. A neat little challenge for the vertigo-ed among us.

Descending this obstacle, and on to the last km takes you back out of the stadium boundary and on to the multi rig, consisting of monkey bars, tyres and rings, which is a really nice mix, creating a new challenge to all abilities.

The olympus wall, seems heavily aimed towards elites and those with insane grip strength. Everyday runners/OCRs, especially of the “more meat on bone” variety, may find this completely impossible, and may as well head straight to the burpees. Unless, of course, you have some spartan help nearby.

The finish area includes the rope climb, balance beams, straddling a weird little “product placement” obstacle; 3 Mercedes SUVs (see picture below), to crawl or squat past. The finish fire was the best I’ve seen yet. An actual jump! Maybe even high enough to trip over, but a great incentive to bust a pose….

Firejump

The post-race goodies were standard for a sprint, with coconut water, water, tee etc; which leads me onto my biggest complaint of Spartan race Spain, no free photos for the race. The group Sportograf gives well taken and finished. 6 Euros each (around £5/$6), leaves a bitter taste to a wholly sweet experience.

The race was satisfying and well organised, and I cannot recommend the night experience enough really. Only a slightly under-powered herc hoist and no free photos to complain about. An impressive mix and adaption of well-known obstacles over a 6.2km course presents a decent challenge for most. A backdrop of beautiful area and city to enjoy afterward, what more does a Spartan nomad want?!