Discussion: Is Obstacle Racing the Death of Adventure Racing?
in: Adventure Racing; General;
Check out this really good article by Mark. Is Obstacle Racing the Death of AR?
I love AR. I do it because it caters to my need of real adventure, teamwork, challenges & it takes me to beautiful places! The above question has crossed my mind seeing the recent popularity of Obstacle races and confusion the event names/brand is creating !
I am a triathlete as well but I do it purely because of the challenge it offers and been part of a paddling teams for couple years as it provides opportunity to enjoy teamwork - but above question never crossed my mind in those sports!
So why AR is not as popular as it can be considering it offers all the above and lot more!
- not enough interest in the public?
- not enough awareness or promotion/branding?
- high requirement in terms of skills & gears to get into the sport?
- lack of suitable locations to host good event?
I was just curious to see what Attackpoint AR community feels about this and may be share some thoughts & ideas around that we can use to promote our awesome sport of AR.
I've thought about this many times as well. I have participated in one of those Obstacle Course races. (warrior dash 2011). Judging from most of the people Ive spoken with about it, its is less daunting for a number of reasons. Distance, most of them are 5km. Under 20 km max. The obstacles are simple. No real training necessary. If you drink beer 7 days a week and play hockey or anything athletic at all, you will be able to complete it. And have a few pints in the very publicized beer tent and party afterwards and all day. It is 45-60min out of a weekend warriors day.
AR on the other hand, 75-100km is the first thing people read. 4-8 hours. and a party in small letters after the fact. I know differently about the parties, but only the hard core obstacle racing types will make the jump. I don't mind that at all. I enjoy the ARing for its competitiveness and challenging nature. I encourage many of my friends to give it a go, but only the few i know can handle it.
I would definitely love to race against more people. But i wouldn't want to turn it into a free for all.
As for helping people make that jump. Maybe a few short courses (1.5 hours max) kinda like a tri a tri, try an AR. Maybe even sponsor an Obstacle course race, top ten in each division gets $25 off or free entry to the tri an AR.
When I heard about the Tough Mudder a while back I emailed it off to a few people I know (they all have a couple screws loose somewhere!). The immediate response was that I should form a team and be the captain! I thought about it for all of 5 seconds thinking that I really don't need to be electrocuted after running around with a bunch of people a little more crazy than I was!
The real funny thing was when I turned this lady down she replied that it was because I was not up to the challenge (she was joking I think) - and then I realized that the W.T. was the same weekend (we are entered, Team Mountain Goat) - and I told her if she wanted a real challenge to camel the Tough Mudder and enter the W.T.!
Needless to say she did not bother me about doing it anymore!
I agree with C.C. above though, one does not really need a whole lot of training to complete one (Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, Mud Run, Tough Mudder is a bit different), cost is low, you can do it with a wide variety of friends with all sorts of varying levels of athletic abilities and still succeed.
In comparison, to do an Adv Race, a Storm the ... event can be done fairly inexpensively if you have a bike, helmet and rent a canoe/life jacket so entry fee +$100 and you're good to go. But change that to a 24hr or more and the cost goes up exponentially which I think kills some of the possible market + that breed of people is also a lot harder to find. I think getting dirty, really dirty is a big thing for a lot of people!
Those "mud run" events are marketing the PERCEPTION of being rugged & only for outdoor sportsmen, but the reality is more about casual athletes who want to brag about their weekend and a photo to frame on their office cubicle.
Real adventure racing, as anyone on this forum knows, is about the REALITY of being rugged outdoor sportsmen and the commitment to training and a lifestyle that supports that pursuit. AR isn't something you prep for 4 weeks and then take-on (at least not very successfully), and then forget about until next year.
AR is much less convenient, far less contrived, and infinitely more rewarding -- and yes, I'm biased. It's like comparing Taco Bell to an authentic Mexican restaurant; Taco Bell makes billions of $, but I know where I would go to eat a meal. Just because lots of people go to Taco Bell doesn't mean real Mexican cuisine is dead . . .
And Osteo, great photos from last week, by the way!
Good points all.
Clearly the whole AR crowd is feeling the same frustrations about obstacle courses.
Now let's all go out and get electrocuted or find our hidden demons lurking in 3/4 submerged culverts! after-all, those are the real adventures!! haha!!!
Funny thing, is I think there is a guy hosing everyone down before they run the electric fence wires!
Great article, and I think spot on about brand confusion. I wouldn't consider them remotely in the same category.
But I don't hold any ill feelings towards it. If a couple people enter an obstacle course, and then eventually jump to AR, that's a great source to ensure the long term stability of local AR races!
Those in the know are definitely not confused by the difference. The trick is that many of the obstacle races are calling themselves AR or marketing their races as AR. Dilutes the AR brand itself and complicates marketing for actual AR races.
I absolutely think there's a bridge that some obstacle runners will want to cross once they get over the usual AR barriers (training time, race length, gear, etc).
Both are physically demanding, both endure the elements, both make participants feel like they've overcome personal physical barriers. If we eliminate the duration factor by comparing a 24hr AR to the Spartan Death Race (not to be confused with the Canadian Death Race) I think the selling point for AR will come from differentiating between a race based on pain endurance vs a race based on strategic decision making and multiple skill sets.
In a nutshell, I would say that where obstacle races give racers a sense of physical fortitude, AR does this but also provides a sense of mental fortitude as racers work out how best to get to the finish line with the resources they have.
When the first sprint AR events popped up in North America many of them had team dynamics checkpoints that included doing things like climbing a wall or pushing a bale of hay across a field or running with a tire strapped to a rope. They were popular among the corporate teams but those elements of races seem to have disappeared over the years and perhaps the obstacle racing saw that as an opportunity. If my knees weren't so trashed I think I would have enjoyed obstacle racing just like I enjoyed racing internationally in orienteering and enjoyed AR for many years. Throw in multisport, and rogaines and ultra trail running and there is a large sector of 'adventure sports' that could do much better at cross or co-promotion instead of taking the us vs. them approach. rogaine splitting from orienteering for example doesn't help navigation based sports nor are single discipline nav sports like O helped by being split from AR.
When I think of cycling I see a sport that has embraced a large range of disciplines between road, cross, mtb, bmx, etc. then different race formats. the sports are brought together by the bike.
Here in southern Ontario (as I've said many times before here on AP) we are lucky to have an annual set of race seasons developing much like has happened in cycling. Late autumn to early spring is adventure running with O on the shoulders of that season, then summer is AR and obstacle racing. some careful planning, marketing strategy and perhaps another hybrid race format with race directors and associations like CARA and OOA could really result in growth in our collective races and/or training events or clubs. Not sure it would work as well in other locations in North America though.
Great points Hammer. It needn't be us vs them and cross promoting these events seems a natural fit. Curious though, why wouldn't it work in other locations so well?
I think the main frustration comes from obstacle races promoting themselves as AR. If there's no nav I maintain it's not an AR and to promote it as such muddies the water for AR marketing.
I'm cool with obstacle courses. Did the Spartan and loved the course - the event was a bit crowded for me but I loved the course. And I can absolultely see a connection between the two. AR with obstacle challenges is also fun (ESAR). I just want to be clear they are different. It's important to identify the differentiator for marketing or it's hard to get people's attention. What's the appeal of paying $150 for an AR race when I can pay less and have a condensed version of the same thing in an obstacle course?
I'm concerned that I haven't hit the nail on the head in my previous post. I'm not convinced it's the mental exactly but that's maybe part of it. I'm still digging to find out why people do go the extra mile(s) for AR. Why pay so much more, sign away a full day/weekend/week, and commit to the extra gear and training? Obstacle racing is not AR so how do we differentiate it and create effective cross promotional campaigns?
Interestingly an obstacle race here in the Hammer called the Punisher Adventure Race was handing out postcards at an expo that Dontgetlost Adventure Running was also at. On the first day they were handing them out saying 'Try and Adventure Race'. Then the next day they were saying "Check out our tough trail run". Not sure if some of the Attackpoint AR crowd set them straight or not but the web site still says AR and I agree that makes if confusing and muddies the water as you say (great pun).
I believe that race lost a fair bit of money.
Great questions, 1L. I can understand why some people enjoy obstacle races but my feeling is "meh". I think Grant described it well above. AR includes a commitment to training and a lifestyle that supports the pursuit. That can be attractive to some. It requires skills, strategy and real problem solving in addition to physical and mental strength, which makes it complex and interesting. Some of the appeal comes from the fact that it's not something everyone can do or handle. We end up sharing unique and crazy experiences with other adventure racers. Maybe that's a marketing differentiator or maybe it's seen as a negative!
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