Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Present and Future of Obstacle Course Racing...and other secrets of the universe (Part deux)

[continuation from part one (the present and future of obstacle course racing - part one)]

In part one, I talked about the need for fans...and to have fans, the need to be able to watch a good portion of the races in real time...whether at the race or from somewhere else.

The fact is, that the only fans of the sport you have right now are the very racers attending the events. I would be surprised if many others (outside of some family and friends) were following any of these races at all.  Even if anyone wanted to watch or follow them, there's no practical way of doing it.

So what you have right now is the typical OCR racer paying to race and indirectly providing whatever prize money the elite racers receive (with some corporate sponsors of course). However, most of the racers don't know even a quarter of these elite racers and the ones they do know, they rarely get to see other than a few Facebook pictures. Many may not even care...the focus of these events so far has been primarily on the racing itself and the competition/teamwork.  Neither the NFL, the NBA or any other professional sport is like this...why would one expect OCR to somehow become successful in this strange fan arrangement...or in the absence of any fan base to speak of?

[Editor's note: in the time between part one and part deux, a blog was written on the definition of "elite"...(Ekaterina Solovieva - "Are You Elite?" blog), in all likelihood, the elite racer is actually a figment of the author's deranged imagination anyway]

There are also other factors in the sport that vary greatly from promoter to promoter.  Some events don't even keep times...they consider the challenge to finish and value teamwork over times.  Race lengths vary from 3 miles to over 26 miles...and that isn't even considering the World's Toughest Mudder or Spartan Death Race.  Not only do the race lengths vary, but so do the number of obstacles and density (obstacles per mile).  Some people feel there should be a balance between the running and obstacle challenges.  That will be another aspect that will play itself out in the competition between the events themselves.

The greatest efforts will likely have to be made in the area of viewing the races.  Initially it will be the families and friends of the racers and the racers themselves that want to see.  Spartan Race has recently started using their chip technology for tracking the racers to identify their personal videos.  What if you used that same technology to track a racer over the course.  A smartphone app could be developed for their fans to monitor their progress.  Maybe even use this tracking to notify their fans that the racer is approaching a particular obstacle.  Then they could watch a monitor at the event that was live broadcasting the obstacle and actually watch...or even watch remotely.  I'm sure there are many other ways to bring this about, and some may already be in some stage of  planning.

Coincidentally, another blog post came out since yesterday after part one of this blog.  It seems like the changing of the "sport" has been on a lot of people's minds.  It's another perspective on the growing trend towards the reality of professional obstacle racers. (Amelia Boone - "Walking a tightrope")  Certainly, money will change things...some things for the better, some for the worse.  And which is which depends on who you ask.  But there will be opportunities for people in all types of ancillary, equipment, health products too.  It might be a few years from now, but make no mistake big changes are coming to OCR.

However, as with any change, there are always those that feel it's the wrong direction.  Sometimes it's because they just like the way things are and have no interest in seeing anything change at all.  Sometimes it's just about the way it will change the sport for the racers themselves.  Personally, I like the idea of each race course being unique...and changing from year to year.  I really believe that not knowing what's ahead is one of the greatest challenges these races offer.  Others think course standardization is the way to go.

What motivated me to finally write about this was a post I saw on Facebook...actually a link on another racers timeline to this post (Ekaterina Solovieva post).  Whatever you think about the future of OCR, the only certainty is that the sport will change...that is guaranteed.  It may grow into the Olympic sport that some want to see.  It may peak soon then fade back to what it is now...a weekend challenge for people that enjoy the feeling of accomplishment by simply finishing.

The one thing all the OCR powers-that-be should remember is that the golden geese are the racers.  Whatever lofty plans they have and whatever changes they make to reach their particular goals, they'd better make sure the hordes are with them.  Because once you lose them, getting them back is like herding chickens...or maybe geese!  Now that would be a real challenge....

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