How obstacle racing is making a comeback

That was an obstacle course race Endurance sports Moloch of the last decade. With COVID-19 that came to a bruise. After a lost year, the obstacle race is recovering.

“Last year couldn’t have been worse for us,” he says Joe De Sena, CEO and founder of Spartan, the largest OCR company in an industry of weekend warrior brands like Tough mudder, Robust lunatic, Savage Race, Bonefrog and Conquer the glove. “We bring people together – now in 45 countries. In 2020 we were suddenly no longer allowed to do that. We were totally shut down. “

In June last year, De Sena was forced to cancel Spartan’s remaining events and keep three-quarters of its 500 employees busy. Smaller companies were in an even tougher shape.

Competitor in the Spartan Race Courtesy Image

“COVID-19 is crushing the industry,” said Kyle McLaughlin, CEO of Tough Mudder, in a press release last summer Endurance sports coalition, who warned that without further support from Congress, more than 80 percent of an industry that makes up 50,000 running, triathlon, cycling, and sports Obstacle course events in the United States would cease to exist every year.

OCR evolved from Boot Camp-inspired races that tested physical limits without marathon monotony and from the 1980s era Tough guy Pain-proof in England. Spartan’s earliest races were fringe events held at De Sena Vermont farm but quickly spanned to hundreds of 3 mile entry-level and full-day events at major outdoor venues around the world.

The biggest challenge for OCR is to get back into the fight in 2021 – in hindsight in 2020.

“We know it’s safer than anything inside like grocery shopping.”

“I think the numbers will be going down on purpose for a while, and slowly but surely, as the world goes back to normal, the OCR industry will steadily recover,” said Matt B. Davis, founder of Obstacle race media and a die-hard racing driver with more than 200 obstacle course events. “We won’t see these mass starts of 300 people. Wave sizes will be smaller and socially distant. But it’s an outdoor event that we know is far safer than anything indoors, like grocery shopping. We know that people are ready to start real races again – not the virtual ones we went through in 2020. “

Playing dirty: After a dark season, OCR athletes competing alone and as teams want a do-over.
Playing dirty: After a dark season, OCR athletes competing alone and as teams want a do-over. Courtesy Image

More than 70 Spartan and Tough Mudder events are planned for 2021 – including the iconic 24-hour event The hardest mud in the world (November 13-14, Laughlin, NV) and several Stadium-branded events held at Nationals Park in Washington, DC, Citi Field in New York City, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX and in the Notre Dame Stadium in Indiana.

Rugged Maniac, who calls their 3-mile obstacle course an “adult break unless our playground has a three-story water slide and fire jump,” is back with a list of 30 events in the US and Canada in 2021. Savage Race, specializing in 6 mile races and a 3 mile lightning bolt filled with some of the business’s most inventive obstacles, is back with more than a dozen events across the East Coast and the Midwest. Bonefrog, who is called “the only one in the world” Navy SEAL Obstacle Course Race “plans to run 10 events this year.

Participants can expect new protocols, including temperature tests, reduced crowd (by up to 70 percent), dedicated lanes, cleanup of touchpoints, and little partying after the race.

“I’m the eternal optimist, but I believe that when the world opens up, people will finally get out of the cage at events like ours,” says De Sena. “They’ll go outside and get dirty and do all the things they couldn’t. So let’s do it. We have to do it. “

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