An organization called United States Obstacle Course Racing (USOCR) launched in January of this year. They announced their intention to be the official sanctioning body for obstacle course racing. With that in mind, USOCR produced a conference on April 10, in Atlanta, GA. The conference brought together race directors, athletes, and several vendors with the intention of starting conversations and moving the idea of this governing body forward.
This post attempts to serve as highlights from this conference and the social events that occurred around it. A complete list of companies either attending or in current conversations with USOCR will be listed at the end of this post.
There was a huge buzz in the room early in the morning as the 2nd speaker of the day was Hobie Call. We have not seen Hobie on the race course a lot lately, but he spoke about the future of OCR is and how it is near and dear to him. Hobie put together a presentation on what he thought it would take to get OCR on television. Some agreed with some of Hobie’s point, some did not. Regardless, almost everyone in the room spoke up to voice an opinion or ask questions that got others voicing theirs.
The next presenter was Mohammed Iqbal from Sweatworks. Sweatworks is on the leading edge of OCR racing technology. They are behind the scenes of timing, race photography, registration, event management and other services in the OCR industry. They talked about what is possible today, and what will be possible based on applications they are developing. Many in the room were impressed with presentation.
ESIX Global was the next presenter and one could say are the company that all of USOCR hinges on. They are an insurance and risk management company that specializes in sports and entertainment. They have been around since 1994. Their presentation was focused on the need for specialized insurance for race companies. Many questions were asked, and Mike Price of ESIX answered all of them with clarity and confidence. One of the key questions was “If this association is created and race directors get on board with ESIX, will races be granted a clean slate in terms of insurance rates, or rather will the rates be based on prior year OCR accidents and deaths?” Mike told everyone that a clean slate is established and the association would be given it’s own rates. Over time, as the association got a track record, the rates would be based on that track record. Mike also pointed out that USA Triathlon (another ESIX client) have been able to keep their rates without increasing over the years even with deaths and other injuries. Another key question was how obstacle course races would be “certified”. There was not a cut and dry answer for that yet. However, it was clear that the goal of ESIX would be to get races on board together and weed out those that don’t comply.
Later in the afternoon, several athletes were invited up as a panel to discuss a variety of topics. They were Hobie Call, Margaret Schlachter, David Magida, Hunter McIntyre, and Rose Wetzel. One of the topics covered was attracting sponsorships. A question brought forth by attendee, BADASS Dash CEO, Grant Smith was ” What is more important to you, cash or brand recognition”? Each athlete mentioned growing their individual brand, but all had a slightly different way of saying it. Other interesting question brought up was around paying for sponsorships. Should the races themselves be doing this or should they be focusing on outside products and services sponsoring the athletes ala NASCAR?
Some of the other presentations included information on web design, obstacle supplies, book publishing, and medical and safety.
Everyone in attendance seemed to agree on one thing, this conference was a great start to something. An overall feeling of who was at the event and what was discussed was secondary to everyone being in the same room together in the first place. It was the first time anything like this in the industry has occurred. Almost everyone we spoke to said something along the lines of this: The future of the sport is unclear, but races, athletes and vendors working together is going to be essential to the success or failure of where we go from here.
Obstacle Racing Media will have a podcast which include several interviews from the conference including Sam Mansfield, Hunter McIntyre and more in the coming days.
Bone Frog Challenge, Terrain Mud Runs, Badass Dash, Battlefrog, Dirty Girl Mud Run. Two other race companies who could not make it but are in “ongoing conversations” according to Sam Mansfield are Atlas Race and Hard Charge.
Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners, SISU, New England Spahtens
Mud and Obstacle Magazine, Obstacle Racing Media, Dirt In Your Skirt
ESIX,USOCR, Home Depot, OCRWC,Sweatworks, J-Chip, Mudrunguide, Novo Logic, Human Kinetics, Human Movement, Raptor Safety Mgmt/STAT Medical
Matt B. Davis is the author of Down and Dirty: The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs, and is a co-founder of Obstacle Racing Media.