Trouble in the Jungle

Miami Obstacle Course Gym

Race Owner Opens, then Closes, New Business

2013 was a major year for obstacle course racing. With the rise in popularity of the sport, many have joined the trend of beginning their own race. Race director and designer Dan Barrett was one of those who opened a new OCR event series. The race stared as Tarzan’s Cup and then became Jungle Cup in 2012. The Jungle Cup held their last race on March 23, 2013 in Baltimore and have since suspended all future races. At the time they closed their business, registration had already opened for future scheduled races. Those who had paid for registration were promised a refund. Those refunds never came to most racers.

jungle cup photo

A former participant, who wished to remain anonymous, an avid OCR athlete and member of team NE Spahtens, was one of those signed up to participate in April’s Boston Jungle Cup. She never received the refund she was promised when the race was canceled. She wrote two emails to Barrett, both of which were answered with further commitments to pay the refund. To date, the participant has still seen no sign of a refund.

Vanishing Posts

Before canceling their Boston 2013 race, Jungle Cup delayed the race citing issues with‘s registration. These were disputed, and resolution was never reached because shortly after the announcement of the issues, Jungle Cup cancelled their events. After the cancellation, athletes began to search for answers when their money didn’t materialize. They found unexpected answers. Dan Barrett had opened an OCR training facility in Miami after shutting down the Jungle Cup. Paul Jones (manager of the NE Spahtens team) posted that [Barrett] had opened his racing facility in Florida and one participant hopped on his Facebook page and posted “Hey this looks like where my refund money went. Where is my refund money?”

 Barrett replied directly to the post.

 I apologize for the long delay in responding to refund questions! The Jungle Cup grew too fast without a strong enough foundation of people and finances. We never intended to ‘cheat’ or disappoint any one. We got in over our heads and had to put a halt to races and focus on generating cash flow. It may take  more time, but we will refund everyone for the cancelled events. Please don’t think I spent your refund dollars on the new Jungle Jym. I spent 8 weeks building it by myself. As the cash flow comes in, it will go directly to refunds. Regards, Dan Barret”

Unfortunately, this reply was deleted shortly after it was posted. But, Jones was able to capture a screenshot of the reply. With no sign of a refund still, the athlete reported Barrett to the Better Business Bureau. When a complaint is filed, the BBB evaluate the content and then attempts to resolve the issue directly with the business owner in question. Barrett never responded to the complaint filed with the BBB.

With the indefinite delay in refunds, many athletes proceeded to get their refunds from their banks instead. The above participant chose to wait for Barrett to pay her back. “I probably should have [gone to my bank], but I wanted to get the refund from them. I thought Dan would eventually come through, but I guess not… It really looks like he took all that money and put it into his racing facility.”

No Trophy for You!

Still other athletes were owed participation awards like trophies and medals. Allan Ajoy, a racer from Miami, ran in two Tarzan Cup races and two Jungle Cup races. Ajoy won the Jungle Cup in January 2013. He said he contacted Barrett numerous times to receive his trophy but never received a reply.

“In January, I won the Jungle Cup and got [promised] a trophy. I sent several emails and it never happened. You know what? It’s funny because if I’d won money, amazing! But, I do like trophies and a nice medal when you win something.  So, for me, it’s not about the money, it’s about the principle.” – Allan Ajoy

Ajoy’s experience with Jungle Cup didn’t end positively and he didn’t sign up for another event. “After that, I was not amazed anymore by that race.”

Barrett never gave him the trophy.

Barrett’s obstacle training gym opened in October under the name “Jungle Jym.” The name has since been changed to Miami Obstacle Course. Ajoy attended their opening day and visited once more after an invitation from friends. He doesn’t plan to return.

“It was fun the first time. I went the second time and was there, but that was it. Now that I’ve seen it, I think it’s great but you’d have to have a lot of ways to make it fresh everyday. When people pay for a month for a gym, they don’t do the same thing everyday. [Miami Obstacle Course] would have to have amazing trainers that change their routine everyday or the obstacles all the time because people get bored.”

OC gym
Layout of the Miami Obstacle Course

Here today, gone tomorrow

On December 9, 2013, 2 months after their opening, Miami Obstacle Course posted a notice that they would be closed down indefinitely. “Miami Obstacle Course has been awarded a contract to fabricate obstacles for a national OCR. The course will be closed until further notice.” No updates have been made to the page detailing the time frame in which the course will reopen fully.

Miami Obstacle Gym is situated on a 24,000 square foot field owned by Legacy Fit. Joseph Stempien is an employee at Legacy Fit. He explained that the obstacle gym is still open despite the announcement on the Facbeook page.  ORM asked for clarity about the closure of the gym and Barrett’s contract to build obstacles. He answered, “That’s kind of what’s going on. Dan was hired by a few of the national obstacle races – we’re not allowed to say which races – to build and create new obstacles and sell them to races so they can bring them and use them as well. He’s actually coming up with some new stuff getting some inspiration from American Ninja Warrior and making them a little tougher.”

Before accepting Barrett’s obstacle gym proposal, Legacy Fit checked into his business past and required transparency with his issues. “Of course, we didn’t want to be associated with a dirt bag. When we first met him you know, we asked a couple of people about him. We asked Geishel Valverdes – she was the first person we talked to about the issues with him. We put those right out front in the open. We did our own research and went to his Facebook page and saw people posting ‘Hey, where’s my money?’ We asked him and he has every intention of paying them back. It’s not like he’s out there living a lavish lifestyle.”

Show me the money.

Legacy Fit is fully aware of Barrett’s background in Tarzan and Jungle Cups and the money that is still owed to athletes. This has also not escaped the OCR community. Barrett’s reputation has affected the success of his obstacle gym. “I have not heard good stories about [the races],” Stempien said. “Well, that was part of the problem was that originally [the gym] was called Jungle Jym and now it’s actually called the Miami Obstacle Course because we had to get away from that negative stigma he had associated with that name.”

OC Gym

Stempien stated that Barrett opened the gym in order to support his plan to refund racers and also why he has put the gym on hold to work with creating obstacles. Reportedly, Barrett continues to say he will refund the money to athletes who paid for cancelled races. “Yeah, he has every intention to right all his wrongs. That’s kind of where the whole fabricating obstacles and everything for races [came in] because he can make more money doing that than you can running a course right now,” said Stempien.

Unfortunately, Dan Barrett remains very difficult to contact and maintains a lack of response to emails and phone calls. Stempien said he hasn’t heard from Barrett in weeks and has had trouble communicating with him. Similarly, ORM was unable to speak directly with Barrett. We tried numerous times over a few weeks to speak with him about the end of Jungle Cup and the new Miami Obstacle Course. To date, he has not replied to emails or returned our phone calls.

Kaitlin Stein

Kaitlin Stein is a journalism student at UMass and is an avid runner and OCR enthusiast. She has previously written for ORM on the state of the Cornfed Spartans. While she claims to maintain her royalty, she is a princess who lives in dirty running shoes instead of glass slippers. When not outside covered in mud, she can be found with her two rescued hound dogs and husband (not rescued) traveling the world and trekking around Charlottesville, Virginia. 

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1 comment
  1. I had a similar problem with Dan. Please see the below email chain from myself to Dan and his response promising a refund. I spoke with him on the phone various times after the confirmation email that he would refund us our money. He promised the refund but never provided us with the refund. it has been over a year since this promise. He stopped answering his calls and emails. I spoke with Val his assistant at the time from jungle cup and she advised me that she was directed by Dan not issue any refunds.

    Date: January 15, 2013, 1:36:55 PM EST
    To: ————
    Subject: Apologies from The Jungle Cup

    I was very disappointed and embarrassed when I read your email. There is no excuse for our confusion on the 1:00PM start time. We will refund your fees. We can not credit the card as “closes” the account on race day. We can send a check payable to Nicole Rosen at the address provided below.

    Please accept our apologies and if you are willing to give us another chance, you and your team mates will be our guests at all future Miami Jungle Cup events.

    Valeria Oropallo
    Dan Barrett

    ——– Original Message ——–
    Subject: Jungle Cup Miami- Complaint
    From: ———-
    Date: Sun, January 13, 2013 9:34 am
    Good morning Val,
    This note is on behalf of the four members of Team Bulletproof. My name is Nicole ***** a team member of team Bulletproof. Maria ******, another team member of bulletproof purchased 4 tickets ($50 per ticket) for our team (Team Bulletproof). On the day of the event, our team arrived to Virginia Key at around 10:00 a.m. Our family decided to prepare a BBQ in a Tiki Hut located at the main beach, walking distance from the start/finish line. At around 11:30 a.m. our team walked to check in and receive our package. The woman who provided us the release forms and our package advised us to arrive to the booth at 1:15 p.m. because they were running 30 minutes behind. Our race time which we signed up for was 1:00 p.m. We were skeptical about arriving fifteen minutes after our actual starting time but the women re-confirmed to arrive at 1:15 p.m. We walked back to our Tiki Hut and at around 1:00 p.m. we decided to head back to the booth. When we arrived to the booth the woman who advised our team to arrive at 1:15 p.m. was no longer at the booth. Another woman was there and she told us the 1:00 p.m. group had just left. She tried her best to accommodate us and find out if we could even race. The last race was at 1:00 p.m. She even told us that initially they were running 30 minutes late but eventually had caught up by the 1:00 p.m. race. However, the information we received at the time of our check in was to arrive at 1:15 p.m. not 1:00 p.m. She was very apologetic and spoke about providing us a refund. While we were waiting to see if we can race two other men arrived. However, there excuse for arriving late was because of traffic, which was definitely not ours. After about 20 minutes they allowed my group and the two other men to race.
    We were not able to have the experience of competing against the people who signed up for our time slot. When we arrived to the obstacles locations no one was there to assist us with instructions as to how to perform the obstacles and no one was present to advise us whether we were going in the right direction. Within about 5 minutes of running 5 of us were completely lost. One of our teammates ended up walking back to the start line because he was completely lost. One male from the other team, 2 of my teammates, and myself ended up having to stick together in order to find our way to the obstacles, of which we only found four (4). The only obstacles we were able to complete because the others ones were either taken down or we couldn’t find them because no one was there to direct us were the following: money bars, arrow throw, jump in the water, and the last obstacles located at the start/finish. Therefore, we completed four obstacles out of the 25 obstacles in which we signed up to complete. We were not able to receive what we paid for which was the “Jungle Cup experience.” The Jungle Cup is not a typical 5k race; it’s the obstacles which set this race apart from any other race. We were unable to leave with that experience due to the women advising us to arrive at the incorrect time. We have been training for this race for many months.
    Due to the above, we are requesting a full refund issued to Maria **** for all 4 tickets ($50 per ticket) for a total of $200.00. We are looking forward to the next Jungle Cup next year. However, we do not want a credit issued for a future race we are requesting a full refund in the amount of $200.00 issued to the following credit card:********I hope this matter can be resolved quickly and efficiently. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the above feel free to reach me at the contact information below.

    Nicole Rose

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