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A Global View of Obstacle Course Racing

Posted on November 4, 2015 by Margaret Schlachter
Political World Map Poster

Photo Credit: Maps International


For the last couple of days,  I have been working on the announcement of the new location of the OCR World Championships for 2016 over on Mud Run Guide. Check out the full article about the event, location, as well as quotes from top Canadian athletes and the event organizers, Canada to Host OCR World Championships in 2016. In the back of my head, the entire time while working on the Mud Run Guide article was an old article I wrote here almost a year ago, Looking Forward At the OCR Industry.


For those who didn’t read the first article, at the end I talked about spacing out the championships throughout they year and moving them geographically around the country. Looking back almost a year later, I realize the folly in this article. When I wrote it, I was selfish in a way, instead of thinking of OCR on a global scale I was thinking about only us in America.


Accomplished British obstacle racer, James Appleton, was quick to point out my American bias in the article. At the time, I did not think much of it and gave it a quick, okay, then moved on. Fast forward almost a year, and the announcement this morning of the first American-based OCR company moving a championship OUT of the U.S. times are changing and so has my personal view as well as my opinion of the industry as a whole. I took my American blinders off.


It is easy for us in the United States of America to feel like we are the center of the OCR universe. While events like Tough Guy and other isolated series have been around for decades, it was the American market where we saw OCR go from a weird fringe activity to a massive industry worth millions and millions of dollars. But still we Americans are not the end all be all of OCR as I have witnessed this year.


Through the weekly updates on Mud Run Guide as well as broadening my OCR work network this year my grasp of the OCR industry has greatly expanded. Not only do I understand what is driving the US markets (hint not the elites) and what the general public wants in an event (Dirty Girl Mud Run regularly has 6,000-8,000 women or more per event). Internationally, we are seeing industry leaders emerge (Toughest) and evolving the sport side faster than we are in the U.S. Countries like Sweden, South Africa, Denmark, the United Kingdom and others are pushing the boundaries of how we define obstacle racing, in a good way.


Now with OCR World Championships in Canada for 2016 the question will be, are other major international race series ready to move their championships to another part of the world? 

Can brands like Spartan Race or Tough Mudder relocate their signature events out of the United States of America and be successful? 


As an American, we can naysay all we want, but looking at the international racing community all signs would suggest a move to another country would not hurt them but instead show that OCR is truly a global sport, not just ideas borrowed from the British then repackaged as American.


For me, the past year has been about personal and professional growth. As the OCR industry is continuing to mature, my grasp and view continues to evolve and hopefully grow with it. I predict in the coming year we will see countries like Sweden continue to emerge as dominant players in the OCR game. Who knows maybe some of those series will be exported to us in the U.S.! I am sure anyone that was at OCRWC this year wouldn’t mind seeing a Toughest come stateside. With all this in mind, let us pretend again and move championships around the world this time.


This Go Around: 

OCR World Championships – Canada

Warrior Dash Championship – United States

BattleFrog Championships – United States

Spartan Race World Championships – Slovakia

OCR European Championships – Benelux

Toughest Championships – Sweden

World’s Toughest Mudder – Australia

Most of these races will probably never move to these locations, but it’s fun to play the let’s move the Championships game. And I am aware I left some out of the map, but you get the general idea. Here is what the world would look like. In a few years, I imagine seeing a championship race or two pop up in South Africa or South America and new markets international continue to emerge. Spartan just held their first race in Korea so who knows maybe a championship one day will make it to Asia!


If all these were spaced out, wouldn’t it be a hell of an international sport to follow. A real series of “OCR Majors” slowly forming, like tennis or golf.

What do you think?

Do you think American Companies are ready to move their World Championships outside the U.S.? 

Can it be a World Championship if it always stays in the U.S.?

Weigh in with your opinions…