Conquer The Gauntlet put on their first 2 races in 2012. They went on to add one event a year, for the last 3 years. At the beginning of 2016, they announced 9 events. Many of these are locations often overlooked by the larger race companies such as Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Wichita, Kansas.
On May 27, 2016 they sent out the following email to registered participants for their Lubbock, Texas event, scheduled for October 15th.
After much thought, we regret to inform you that we have come to the difficult decision to cancel the Lubbock event. This was never our intention and we are very sorry to disappoint each one of you. We are so thankful for each of you that have signed up and been a supporter of this event. CTG is growing in many cities, but Lubbock is just not one of them. We had a small yet fun event last year, but are on track to only have half the number of runners this year. Please believe that this is not something we wanted or are happy about.
As you have already pre-paid for a race you will have the option to run any CTG race this year or in future years. There is an Oklahoma City race on June 25th, and a DFW race in early 2017. We would love to see you at one of those or any other city you would like to attend. Your ticket may also be sold or transferred to another runner if you cannot make another event.
Again, we are very sorry that we will not be bringing a race to Lubbock, but there just isn’t enough interest in the area. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to seeing you in the future.
Several participants not satisfied with that response, sent messages to Conquer The Gauntlet. One participant, Daniel Loewen, from Seminole, Texas received this in response.
Refunds will not be given per race policy, but the equivalent of store credit will be issued. The no refund policy is stated on the website in multiple places and was in the agreed terms when signing up. The policy is no refunds and if we break the policy for even one person, then that isn’t fair.
We are a small, family-owned company. We don’t have a millionaire investor; we don’t have cash just sitting around. The registration money brought in for each event is used to pay for that event. We put on an awesome event last year and opened registration a month later and have been marketing the event ever since. Instead of growing, the numbers in Lubbock are exponentially dwindling and our large marketing budget has been ineffective.
To even put a race on the schedule involves massive up front costs. We must secure a location, in order to do that we must purchase an event insurance policy. We have spent thousands specifically on the Lubbock event for marketing, medals, and shirts, just to name a very few things. What I am getting at is that hosting an OCR and even saying you are hosting an OCR involves very substantial overhead.
I tell you all of this to say, we are not choosing to cancel the Lubbock race; that choice was made for us by the lack of registrations. There is no money to hold the event. We are not choosing to not give refunds; that choice was also made for us by the lack of registrations. We aren’t ‘keeping’ your money, your money is gone.
You still have many very viable options moving forward. First, you are still registered for CTG and can run a CTG at ANY of our future events anywhere. Second, you can very easily sell your registration and can likely make money. Most people paid $45-$55 for their registration- those can be sold in other cities for probably $65-70. This takes nothing more than writing a single sentence in any of our other event pages on Facebook. They could also be sold on Craigslist or other regional Facebook pages such as Lone Star Spartans, Cornfed Spartans, and Mid American OCR.
There is a reason there are no other OCRs in Lubbock. We tried to change that; we truly wanted it to succeed there. Unfortunately it didn’t. We appreciate your time and understanding.
Daniel told ORM:
I will went to last years with my wife we had a good experience so this year we got all these people together and this happens. I will not recommend nor go to another CTG.
More Locals Respond
We spoke with several other participants affected by this cancellation and the subsequent communication from CTG.
Sara Beedy from Brownfield Texas told us:
In my opinion they already scheduled it, spent money on it, and took people’s money, if it was smaller and not worth it they should have made this their last year, not just taken money and told people to spend more money and bend over backwards to claim what was paid for. I am a single mother, full time student, and I work. I choose to spend what little extra I have left on races with friends and family and they don’t want to go to Oklahoma City, or DFW either. We chose Lubbock because it was convenient for us as a meeting place. I had people from Pampa, Amarillo, Dumas, Wichita Falls, Brownfield, and most likely a few others wanting to participate. Instead I takes this event up and got them to commit only to be out money and disappointed.
Tiffany Skains also from Brownfield, Texas said:
CTG has taken my money and failed to do what I paid for, therefore I see no reason I shouldn’t get my money back. I will definitely never enter their events again , and unfortunately this has made me loose faith in other obstacle course races.
Another Brownfield resident, Karen Bynum told us:
I’m deeply disappointed in the manner Conquer the Gauntlet has handled the cancellation of the Lubbock race. I feel they are very dishonest and the fact that they encouraged us to make a profit from our misfortune is morally wrong. I cannot in good faith take someone else’s money for a race I cannot guarantee will happen. I have run several races and have never had a problem. I am upset about the money, yes, but I am more upset about not being able to experience the race with my group. Shame on you CTG for failing to provide a service you collected for, that is stealing. I will not ever sign up for a CTG race again.
OCR WORLDWIDE COMMENTS
The response from the rest of OCR community has been the typical chatter in this type of situation. One one side has “Defending Die Hards” like CTG Pro Team Member Evan Perperis:
I obviously don’t think its the best policy….but it is basically industry standard. They still had another 5 events remaining when the event was canceled (OKC, Des Moines, Louisville, Tulsa, Little Rock). Two I would consider driving distance (OKC, Tulsa) and one in long driving distance (Little Rock)
Transfer option is still better than anything I experienced in the road running world. Myrtle Beach Marathon (2010) was canceled the morning of the event…and they said no refunds but you can get 50% off next year’s event.
and Nick Cerone:
I’ve lost track of how many CTG’s I’ve run but these guys ALWAYS put forth a top notch event and have kept getting better… I wouldn’t crucify them just yet.
On the other side are vocal OCR participants like Keith Allen who stated:
This response assumes that the owners of CTG’s money is more important than the money people spent to sign up for their race. Every single person in here has issues and those issues don’t make your credit card bill due any later, your hospital bill any cheaper or your car repair any less. Lots of excuses. Do i feel bad for them? Sort of. But then again I also criticized them for funding a pro team and now they apparently “spent all the money” from a race that they say had barely any people sign up. Not a great sign. You can visualize unicorns and rainbows if you like, but just keep your eyes open and sign up with caution.
Dennis Welch added:
Oh, you ordered waffles?? Well here, we’ll give you spam and eggs instead and you should be happy because you’re at least getting something! If you cancel an event, you are obligated to refund the entry fees. Maybe not from a legal standpoint do you HAVE to, but if you want to keep your business around, you better provide the services or product that was paid for, or do whatever you can to make it right. Offering a race entry at a race in a completely different state is not the way to go, LIKE AT ALL!!
CTG Co-Owner Speaks
Earlier this morning, we spoke with David Mainprize of Conquer The Gauntlet. David runs CTG with his brother Stephen and his sister in law Courtney. We asked David about registration numbers in the previous Conquer The Gauntlet races. He told us they have been in the “1,000 – 1,300 range”. He went on to tell us they had as many as 2,300 registered in Tulsa in 2015. We then asked him what a break-even number would be from a cash perspective for CTG. He told us, It is “very event specific, so dependent on when people sign up (at what price), venue cost, weather, etc.”
David pictured here.
This is David Mainprize, owner of Conquer The Gauntlet. I am going to try to explain the Lubbock cancellation situation to the best of my ability and if anyone has questions, feel free to post them or ask me privately. I will do my best to get back with each of you; my schedule is very hectic right now, so bear with me.
As many of you know, we started CTG in December 2011, with nothing but an idea and the passion, skills, and energy to try to make it happen. We sold some old car parts our dad had sitting around and convinced our friend to build us a website for $500. We set up the first course out of the back of my brother’s 1993 four-door sedan with borrowed tools (again, thanks, Dad). I could go on, but the point is we don’t have billionaires behind us, we don’t have investors, and we don’t have trust funds or any cash just sitting around. All revenue brought in from the registrations of each race is used to make that race happen, if there is any left over after the event then we pay ourselves enough to live on until the next event, often times there is not. I’m not going to go into extreme detail here, but hosting a big time OCR event is immensely expensive- venue, insurance, shirts, medals, bibs, timing, waters, rentals, staff, hotels, food, graphic design, web design- you’re looking at a huge number and that just scratching the surface of hard, fixed costs to hold the event. Then you’ve got a laundry list of variable costs, including the ever-looming marketing budget. Then there are all the costs for when things go wrong- floods, theft, equipment breakage, lawsuits, etc. not to even mention all the other regular overhead that a business has, such as warehousing, internet, electricity, etc.
OCRs and recreational events in general are fun for those attending them, and they should be, but for those hosting and building them, they are hundreds of thousands of hours of labor and stress, blood, sweat and tears, and they are how house payments are made, children are fed, student loans are paid, etc. They are our livelihood. Ask any insider and they will tell you that it is very hard to make money hosting these events; ask any of the thousands of race companies that have gone out of business.
At the end of the day, there are only three options for any event- it makes money, it breaks even, or it loses money. We pride ourselves in bringing an incredible and affordable OCR event to an area of the country where those events do not otherwise exist. Last year was our first year in Lubbock, and there was a very promising turnout, but we still took a loss hosting the event in hopes to build a base of customers and increase our numbers in 2016, as has happened at all other cities where we have held events. We held an awesome event and opened registration immediately for the 2016 Lubbock event and have been marketing the event ever since. Instead of growing, the numbers and interest level in Lubbock exponentially dwinded. I’m not going to get into a detailed discussion about SEO, impressions, click-through rates, remarketing ads, conversion rates, and customer acquisition costs, but suffice it to say that people in Lubbock did not respond to CTG or OCR. We can theorize about the what and why of it, but it’s a reality we cannot change. We as a company take the blame for that, but at the end of the day, the implications are a reality that we cannot magically avoid.
We are not choosing to cancel the Lubbock race on a whim or just for fun; that choice was made for us by the lack of registrations. There was simply no money to hold the event. When faced with these facts, the choice was either to cancel the event or attempt to hold the event and bankrupt the entire company. Obviously, the cancellation of the event was and is the only tenable option.
This brings us to the issue of the refund policy. The “no refund” policy is a standard policy for any event- concert, festival, road race, etc. I have personally lost money by purchasing tickets for festivals, concerts, and a road race that were canceled and no refunds were issued and I was given no backup options. The “no refund” policy is also an industry wide standard policy within OCR. This policy is there on every OCR website for a reason- tens of thousands of dollars have to be spent to make an event happen and even get it on the schedule. If a company finds itself having to cancel an event, they’ve already lost a large sum of money. If that company has to turn around and refund registrations after that loss, they are likely going to start cancelling other events and go out of business. Yes, some companies with deep pockets have given out refunds on rare occasion, but unfortunately we do not have that luxury in this situation. No one at CTG is keeping Lubbock registration money, as has been stated by some, that money was spent long ago. It’s gone. I would love nothing more than to be able to refund these registrations, but outside of robbing a bank or printing money, I don’t know how to make that happen.
As for those who were registered for the Lubbock race, they have each been contacted and given very reasonable options for moving forward. All those registered for the Lubbock race were immediately given a registration voucher to be used at any future CTG race in any city at any time at absolutely no cost. This is also an industry standard response. In fact, almost all of the Lubbock registrants were very understanding of the situation and have transferred to our Dallas or OKC races without issue. Registrants also, of course, have the option to sell their registration to someone in another city who wishes to run a CTG. To facilitate this, we have created the Conquer The Gauntlet Entry Transfer Marketplace on Facebook.
On behalf of CTG, I want to extend a heartfelt apology to the OCR community. Hindsight is always 20/20, but perhaps if we had worked a little harder, planned a little better, or communicated with more precision we could have prevented this situation from happening. Anyone who has attended our events knows the amount of passion we have for this sport, the love we have for our runners, the work we put into every facet of CTG. This situation will only strengthen our resolve moving forward. Registrations are very strong in all our remaining cities this year. The Des Moines, Louisville, Tulsa, and Little Rock events are happening WITHOUT QUESTION. We will absolutely be there and hope to see you there.
Conquer The Gauntlet is not just something we do, it’s a way of life for us, it’s who we are. We will continue to give our all to providing quality events at an affordable price. We will not be stopped and we will never give up. Again, if you have questions, please let me know or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back in 2012, standard operating procedure for most races in the OCR industry (including The Big 3) was to inform participants there would be no refunds if they pulled the plug on an event. Those race companies would go on to inform those customers they could transfer their paid registration to another city or a future year’s event in the same city. The backlash was so strong, that Tough Mudder and Spartan instituted a “refund or transfer” option. Meaning, that, at the end of the day, you could always get your money back.
Tough Mudder and Spartan have continued to grow and narrow their geographic focus. They have been able to “bite the bullet” with some smaller turnouts and put on events regardless of attendance number. Some smaller companies have not been so lucky. Several have folded leaving customers (and in many cases, vendors) holding the bag.
Time will tell for CTG if this is looked back on as a bump in the road, or a continued practice in races to come.