The Hardest Part – Getting to the Starting Line


As obstacle course racing and mud runs have exploded onto the national scene, more and more people are looking to jump into this emerging market. The “Big 3” – Reebok Spartan Race, Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash have set the standard from the beginning of the sport and now many other companies are racing to catch up to them in terms of participation numbers and more. Then there are the other races…


Dead in the Water

In the last year alone the industry has seen several races promise big prizes, televised views and more only to disappear before anyone gets to the starting line. In 2012, Epic Arena announced a revolutionary race that would “change the sport as we know it” only now to find out it’s been canceled for this year before the event even got started. Then their was Extreme Nation, offering again a “course that had never been seen before” and the “first truly spectator friendly race”. People buzzed with excitement about it, elite athletes jumped on board with huge cash prizes, then again the company crashed and burned before anyone made it to the starting line. Countless other smaller races, with no cash prizes are suffering the same fate. It’s an unsettling trend that has happened this summer and is impacting the entire industry.


The Impact

Just the other day, a woman commented in an online forum that the last two races she had signed up for had both been canceled before the race even started. She was worried about the next one suffering the same fate. With now dozens of different race/event organizers for the new participant in the burgeoning sport it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. All it takes is a good website and a few photos of dirty people smiling and a race/run can be born. It’s great to see the industry growing at such a fast rate however with races never jumping from cyberland into reality it places a mark on the industry as a whole.


Thunder-Dash-5K-Obstacle-Mud-Run-Comfort-TX-Saturday-April-6-2013The new participant to the sport often goes online and looks for a race close to their home and within their budget. It’s often hard to decipher the legitimate races/runs from those that “look good online”. If a new participant signs up for an event and it never actually happens, the industry may have lost that participant for life. From the outside as obstacle course racing tries to earn clout as a legitimate sport in the eyes of other more traditional sports, these races, especially the high profile ones that promise much and fizzle before they even start makes the whole industry look bad.


The “Big 3” might not see these events coming and going as an issue when their start lines are packed weekend after weekend, however for the future of the sport and the legitimacy amongst it’s fellow sports, we NEED those events to succeed. Each time an event promises big and doesn’t deliver it makes it harder for the “Big 3” to sell their offerings to those such as television markets, sponsors, and eventually international governing bodies (such as Reebok Spartan Race wanting it to be an Olympic sport). Basically, it’s one step backwards each time one fails on a big level.


A Good Race

For every failed race/run there are at least 3-4 great ones. Finding the good races/runs isn’t hard it only takes a google search or two in order to find out a little more about the event. For the first time participant, one of the bigger series is preferable when beginning, an established brand will have worked out all the kinks and is sure to offer a good/great product. Some of the good-great companies currently established in the industry in alphabetical order:

Alpha Warrior

Down and Dirty

Reebok Spartan Race


Rugged Maniac

Run for Your Lives (themed zombie race)

Savage Run

Superhero Scramble

Tough Mudder

Warrior Dash

There are many other race/run series that put on well organized and safe events and more entering the market each day. Many have the goal of being an untimed run for fun while others are starting to add “elite” heats and pay out cash prizes. Whatever an individuals aim is there is a race/run to fit those specific wants and needs.


The New Guys

With races never making it to the starting line many now stray away from new events on their first go. It’s hard to part with hard earned money only to find out the event was canceled. Thankfully, although an unfortunate trend of races never making it off the ground, most refund participants and Extreme Nation even sent t-shirts as well. However, not all new races are bad nor are they all going to fail, take a chance on a new race series if it’s near home. It might turn out to be the next big thing. We suggest not traveling too far for those beginning races after a few burned hotel rooms later, but give them a chance.

Small_MR_picThere are two events we have high hopes for this year and are rooting them on to succeed. The first is a crazy event in Utah called Man Games which has 12 events over one day to test your strength and will in traditional and non-traditional athletic endeavors. Rumor is their maybe some cash on the line, but nothing officially has been confirmed. The second event many are looking at is Atlas Race taking place in Oregon – only a week after the Vermont Reebok Spartan Race World Championships. Atlas Race is claiming large cash prizes much like Extreme Nation did on it’s first go around. For the sake of the sport and for everyone involved, their suggest is vital for all those other companies looking to follow suit. If they are successful they will be the first NEW company to successfully not only put on a new event but also have large cash prizes to follow. A step needed to continue to grow the sport in the eyes of the world as a whole.


So finally, give the new guys a try, but know going into it that it’s not a Spartan, Mudder, or Warrior Dash. It’s a new race, and might have a few hiccups along the way. But without new races and innovation the sport will not continue to grow and push the envelope. Events like Alpha Warrior prove a new event can be great as the industry saw in the spring at it’s first event. So sometimes it’s a little bit of faith in the new guys but who knows the new guy just might be the next big thing.


What are your thoughts on new races? What are some other good-great race series or runs that we missed?


Margaret Schlachter

About Margaret Schlachter

Margaret Schlachter is Founder of She has been part of the OCR Community since 2010. When not working on the next article she can be found running from race-to-race. She is Editor-in-Chief of She authored the book Obstacle Race Training.
This entry was posted in Musings. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Hardest Part – Getting to the Starting Line

  1. ObstacleRacingMedia says:

    Hi Margaret,

    Great article. We at ORM are not exactly sure when “The Bubble” will burst, but at some point, the good races you listed will thrive as the less successful ones stop cannibalizing each other. As far as adding to your list, it looks like nationally Hero Rush and Muddy Buddy are here to stay to name just a couple.

    There are also some “local only” races which are thriving like They put on multiple races throughout the year at the same location. plans on covering as many of these races (good or bad) as we can.

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