From the perspective of the casual outsider it would be easy to dismiss the OCR World Championships on October 25-26 as just another capitalist venture attempting to cash in on the sport’s popularity. However, having watched this event develop from the ground up, the OCRWC is clearly not “all about that money” nor is it “all about that bass”. It is about the racers, not about a brand nor about the company organizing it. That has been the guiding philosophy from inception and the organizers have stayed true to this. There are a number of reasons why the OCRWC is groundbreaking including the substantial international contingent, qualifying criteria, age group heats, team races, and the well thought-out rules and regulations. Margaret Schlachter discusses some of these in detail in her about.com article.
The combination of all those unique elements is substantial enough to establish the OCRWC as a landmark occurrence. However, those reasons alone are not what makes it monumental. I believe that the success of the OCR World Championships is crucial for the SPORT of obstacle racing. Notice that I didn’t say the OCR “Industry”. The sport and the industry are two different creatures, chained together in an uncomfortable fashion. This is the first big time championship race with a primary focus on the athletes and the sport — not a company brand. As consumers of race experiences, we need the companies to be successful, and because we live in a capitalist environment we should expect them to be looking out for their own business interests. As consumers we must support them in order to actually have a sport. As athletes, however, we need a “non-denominational” event that unites racers across the globe and across racing company allegiances. #OCRUnited has powerful meaning behind it. For the sport to flourish, racing companies need to start playing nice with each other. I am not the first to voice this opinion, but this is the first opportunity for that to happen. Several OCR companies have jumped on board, but not all of them. Obviously the industry leaders do not have the incentives to participate that smaller, emerging companies have. The athletes need to show that we support this concept regardless of which companies do or do not decide to give credence to an independent entity.
We compete in the sport of obstacle racing….not the sport of Tough Mudder, not the sport of Spartan Race, not the sport of Warrior Dash. Regardless of the outcome of the OCRWC, the obstacle racing industry will remain intact and the major players will go about business at usual. At stake though, is the worldwide recognition that we can and will forego company allegiances once a year to compete head-to-head in an independent race designed for the athletes. This is our opportunity to show the OCR industry that obstacle racing is our sport. #OCRUnited
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Disclaimer: I have played a minor role on the OCRWC competition committee. That has given me insight to the race, but did not influence my reasons for writing this post.
Spot on. I am glad to be representing the USA Masters at this amazing World of OCR changing event..- The Warrior- Ralph Avallone
Interesting post Jeff! I certainly see where you’re coming from on this, as a frequent (elite?) racer with real concerns over the future of the sport. I believe though, there are several other issues here that are related to the idea of a World Championship or even the concept of a coordinated sport. Last year I wrote several pieces on where the sport was and what I thought it needed to do in order to make itself “relevant” to sports fans. Unfortunately, most of those steps haven’t happened as yet. As a fan of the sport, and infrequent racer, I still have no way to follow the races….real-time. This past week I actually watched the Crossfit Games…again…and was mesmerized…again…by the physical displays of what is basically exercising. I’m sure a lot of that was due to the nature of it being an obvious race, as well as the often emotionally charged announcing. And I hate to say it, but both of the Spartan races that were televised were about as exciting as watching metal rust (and I LIKE documentaries!…and I like Spartan races). The problem I would expect with getting excitement brewing for the OCRWC is that, in general, people just don’t care. Outside of knowing a few names (maybe), they don’t follow the sport and have no interest outside of what races they do run. Even those that qualify to run (and I think I may have actually), while curious, are not motivated by any need to show the “industry” they support this. Nor believe they would have any real chance of bringing home some cash if they spent the time off and money to get there. So, my feeling is, until the industry develops a way to attract a fan base and “televise” the races in an interesting manner, the “sport” will remain the occasional distraction for athletes and not a mainstream, championship caliber event to follow.