It’s the beginning of a new year and for the OCR industry we are entering the 6th season as a sport in the United States, yes other events have been around for a while independently but it wasn’t until 2010 that the real rise of the Big Three took place and the industry truly formed in the US.
Several articles have already been written about the sport and looking ahead this year. Brakken Kraker wrote a great article looking at the elite athletes of last year and predictions of this year on Mud Run Guide. Ekaterina Solovieva wrote on her blog, 5 Racing Trends to Watch in 2015, a great quick read about trends we will most likely see in 2015.
While personal sentiments fall very closely to both of these articles, yes tighter regulation of elite heats will probably happen, yes the burpee is becoming outdated, yes companies and people are starting to merge and work together, and completely agree with being authentic. Hard to argue with any of the points both presented. But maybe it’s years of working behind the scenes at a few other sports, or growing up with a mother who ran trade shows, worked for events like the 1980 Olympics in the press room, Skate America, and more. It might just be my degree in Strategic Management and classes like Strategic Management in Professional Sports are proving useful, but I see not just trends that will happen but also what could happen, if egos were put aside and the industry decided to play together.
In 2014, we saw the rise of the OCR Majors, our sport’s marque events. Many with the name World Championships attached to the event. The influx of money, exposure and publicity was great for the sport and while people argued which was the real world championship, many missed the point that we finally have a series of races (most now you must qualify for) that the enthusiast and media can follow. The variety of distances and various terrain let us as a community watch the elite in the sport battle it out at everything from a quick 5k to 24-hour sufferfest. It was exciting and all the races were different!
For us in the media the development of the OCR Majors was one of the best things to emerge in 2014. It gave us a story, a timeline, and something to follow for the fall. But for the athletes it was terrible scheduling with so many events back-to-back. Athletes need time to recover and with 4-5 major events in less than 2 months the break never came.
With 2015 underway, we have new races attempting to enter the OCR Majors all of which are vying for those precious weekends in the fall only compounding the situation. At some point if all the races decide to have their championships in late September – Mid November every weekend will be a championship, meaning the top racers will pick and choose their races and probably skip half of the emerging races or be pressured to race fatigued and risk possible injury. A solution….
A Better System…
While most of what I write next might be a pipe dream it’s worth putting it out there. We create an OCR Season! What I mean when I say we create a season is the OCR Majors would be spread throughout the year with a period of time (late Nov. – April) where no major events take place but some qualifiers. While this system has almost zero impact on the casual racer, for the enthusiast it allows us to watch a series and follow a sport, root for our favorite athletes, and like other sports follow along for a reasonable season.
Here is a look at how a better system and OCR Season might look:
December – April – qualifying races where athletes can pick and choose or even take time off.
May – BattleFrog Invitational Championships (Florida/Georgia)
June – qualifying races (or some unnamed championship)
July – Atlas Race World Championship (Oregon)
August – Warrior Dash World Championships (TBA)
September – Spartan Race World Championships (Tahoe, Vermont)
October – World’s Toughest Mudder (Vegas)
November – OCR World Championships (TBA)
Before people get all upset some thought was put into when each championship or Major should be. BattleFrog is based in Florida and currently the majority of their races are in warmer or more southern climates so a spring Major would kick off the season for those wanting to watch and would allow BattleFrog to have qualifying races early on in the year.
If Atlas Race does have a Major this year and they were to host it in their home state of Oregon, nothing is nicer than Oregon in the summer. This would be the second stop on the tour of OCR Majors.
Warrior Dash could literally hold a race in almost any part of the country in August and it would be beautiful since their headquarters are in Chicago maybe the mid-west would be a good location.
Spartan Race would then move their championship race back to September in which it could be held in Tahoe (like it is for 2015), Vermont (2012-2014), or really even Texas (2011). However the mountains in September make a beautiful backdrop for racing. Vermont would give New England back a Championship event.
World’s Toughest Mudder would move back a month and remain in Vegas. The desert is an interesting place and weather would still be a factor in October just like Tough Mudder likes it.
OCR World Championships would be a natural fit to close out the OCR Majors for the year as it is an international event and all other countries could have their majors (tougher below the equator) before November as well. The location would most likely have to move to another warmer spot possibly even somewhere like Texas or the Southeast.
This leaves one open part of the country for expansion and possibly a new company to come in and have their own Championship possibly in the month of June filling the season with one major event a month.
The chances of all the major companies coming together and sitting down at one table are slim, however if something like this were to happen not only would it create a season, create a story, and create a sport with all the major companies represented, it would also create a marketable package to sell to a network and with qualifying races for each the opportunities to highlight the sport continue to grow. We would have, the road to the OCR Majors and create unification in our diverse sport.
This can all be done, but it takes companies working together, seeing themselves as a part of the whole instead of an island, and if done right creates a season and a sport for the elite athlete, and a story for the casual racer to follow. Realistically, we wouldn’t see something like this actually happen until 2016 or 2017 at the earliest. It works for sports like golf, tennis, horse racing, and others, so why can’t it work for us?
While my look ahead is more of a hope than a straight prediction this is my prediction for 2015 and beyond for our sport to continue to grow, prosper, and evolve.
Do you think our sport can ever organize itself?
What is your opinion?