It is undeniable the explosion of the world of obstacle course racing and other fun runs over the past year or two. In 2010, when I first starting competing in obstacle course racing there were about three or four major players in the market. Now today there are dozens, and seemingly more each day. With the explosion of the sport so quickly we seeing the consequences of such growth in the form of copycat races, poorly organized events, and the worst, those that turn out to be more scam than race.
Inevitably every sport goes through this process of growth, however it is undeniable that now is the time for obstacle course racing to be taken seriously, and it needs a governing body. Every established sport has a governing body, a universal set of rules that they hold themselves accountable to. The true purpose of most governing bodies is not to regulate every aspect of what happens but to make the sport, safe, fair, and enjoyable for all participants.
This is a call to action, Obstacle Course Racing needs a governing body, An International Obstacle Course Racing Federation (IOCRF). I am not saying we need standardized obstacles, or that we need a universal points system. These things will probably eventually come.
What the OCR Governing Body Does:
First and foremost every obstacle course race looking to be a sanctioned event under the IOCRF is that the obstacles are inspected prior to the race by a structural engineer and safety commissioner to ensure they are not only well built but also have the appropriate landings and footings for participants to decrease the risk of injury. Obstacles can be as challenging or lame as the race organizer wants but they need to be safe.
One of the number one issues with new events today is they have bad parking, bad registration check-in lines, and do not offer enough facilities for the participants. To be a certified event you would submit all this information to the IOCRF before the race along with obstacles. As well you would include proper permits acquired and volunteer plans.
Unifies A Sport
Currently Obstacle Course Racing is scattered, events doing whatever they want and each claiming to be the premier event. Ultimately the customer, the one who pays the entry fee just wants a good race and wants to have a good time. A governing body can help bring together all the different factions and ultimately make the sport better for all by lifting the bar.
In order for something like this to happen many race organizers will have to put egos aside and learn to play together in the collective sandbox. For if one race organizer is scamming participants it can draw a dark cloud on the whole industry.
Ultimately if the race organizers can meet a certain set of standards their race will be considered a sanctioned event or sanctioned race series. This lets the participants know what they are getting before they sign up for an event. Not all events need to or should be sanctioned but the consumer needs to know what they are getting before they sign up for a race or run. With a stamp of approval from a governing body you know certain expectations are met.
The only way for a sanctioning body to work is to have the support of the major race organizers. I am looking at you Reebok Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, as well as Hero Rush, Rugged Maniac, Savage Race, and Superhero Scramble. It will take these organizations to band together and come up with a set of standards they as race organizers want to hold themselves to. Once these standards can be set a board for the new organization can form and a governing body can be set.
Once the organization sets up it’s rules and standards for running obstacle races and mud runs then a official rule book can be written and distributed within the industry. To both race organizers and competitors. This will be a huge step in the right direction as it will make clear what standards should be upheld and even possibly certain race events rules as well to make it clear across the board for the event (this is secondary, I see each race series having there own written set of rules in the case an event is touted itself as a race).
The second step is membership. This will be where the racers are integral in the process. Racers will become members of the organization and governing body. It is through membership fees that the organization can start to get off the ground and hopefully some corporate funding and backing. Organizations will pay to have their races sanctioned, athletes will pay to be members. All of this helps to cement the sport.
Once the governing body is up and running each year you have or bi-annually have meetings where rules and standards are looked at and amended. Once all of these initial things are in place, then we can talk about an universal points system and true world championships each year.
But for now for the sake of the racers, we need to have someone watching our back, making sure each event is not only fun, but safe and well run. For the betterment of the entire industry now is the time for action. I have heard rumors that some in the USA are trying to set up a league like they have in Australia, but this is one step further and requires those at the top of the individual events to join in on the conversation to truly give us a legitimate governing body that the race events buy into.