Why 25 People quit OCR

I have watched it happen.  OCR friends from elite to open, male and female, have been dropping out of the scene. It’s a minuscule drip, but just enough for me to notice. Not enough to be alarming, but enough to evoke my curiosity.  So why would people leave one of the greatest sports on the planet?  I asked (or they made it public) and it turns out that there are several reasons.

OutWho cares about quitters?  Why does it even matter? It’s definitely not our biggest or even a moderate concern, but it matters because our community, like so many others has the tendency to suffer from a confirmation bias and we tend to live within our own little echo chamber.  We only hear the opinions of those within our community – echoing back and forth the same thoughts to such an extent that we think everyone believes what we do.  That’s not good for an industry, sport, community, hobby or any other term you want to use for obstacle racing. Furthermore, as Brett Stewart recently alluded to on Facebook and last year’s Running USA’s industry report indicates,  growth and numbers of many endurance running sports including OCR, appear to have stalled in the U.S.

VERY IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This little research study is not scientifically valid.  These reasons are from 25 people that I know from all walks of the OCR life, so take it for what it’s worth – a short article to read, think about, and discuss.  No more. No less.


8 Reasons with my Synopsis

Several people provided a combination of reasons of why they exited obstacle racing and with the exception of numbers 7 and 8, all were cited multiple times.  Some might sting a little.

#8  A losing effort
As races became more difficult, the amount of time needed to train and still perform at an acceptable level became unreasonable.

#7  Tired of the drama
Too much arguing about burpees, mandatory obstacle completion, and cheating.

#6 Too many dollars
It started costing more than they wanted to spend.

#5 Narcissism abounds
Tired of the self-promotion.  Social media feeds inundated with “inspirational” workout and training photos. Enough was enough.

#4 It was breaking me
The toll that training and racing puts on the body was just not worth it.

#3 Commercialism
When obstacle racing became “big business”, the focus of the races and the people participating changed in a way that was no longer appealing.

#2 Alternatives
Found other sports they liked better (specifically trail running).

#1 Tick tock goes the clock
Loved racing, but it was taking too much time away from family.

My take on this information. None of these reasons are really surprising.  I was caught a little off guard by number five, but can easily recognize it.  I know the people who have left the fold and they are good people.  The reasons they gave were valid to them and that’s all that matters because they seem happy with their decision.


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17 thoughts on “Why 25 People quit OCR

  1. I’ve been “racing” in Open since 2012. Earned Trifectas since 2014. Not going to run Competitive, Ultra Beasts, or Tougher Mudder. 1 2017 Beast away from another Trifecta and 2 Tough Mudders from my 10x headband before retiring. It’s been fun but i’ve hit a point of diminishing returns. Moving on to new activities.

      1. SebDavid – that’s why we try to find something new every year, rather than just doing one race series (last year it was X-MAN and BattleFrog, this year it was Savage Race, next year it’ll be Rugged Maniac and maybe BoneFrog). It also helps that some of the races are getting more innovative with their obstacles: new or modified obstacles = new challenges. 🙂

  2. I get #5. For sure, this more of a knock on social media than it is on OCR, but when I see adults posing with face paint and flexing biceps, a part of me does wonder: is this really my tribe?

    The main reason I’ve drifted away from the scene is that trail running has captured my enthusiasm. Increasingly, I’m coming to believe that, just as golf is a good walk spoiled, OCR is a good trail run spoiled. If I’m running through some inspiring scenery and terrain, why would I want to stop and climb a rope? Just seems so random. On top of which, trail runs really do tend to be held in inspiring surroundings, while OCR is hit and miss – I refuse to do the numerous races that have you running round farms wallowing in animal crap.

    I’m grateful to OCR for introducing me to trail running and bouldering, but I no longer find it terribly attractive in its own right.

  3. 3 and 6 are my main reasons with 5 and 7 following. I’ve done more than 50 races since October 2012 and the fun is simply not the same any more. This years races have seemed more a chore to get to and through than and enjoyment.

  4. #2 is approaching for us, but we’re not going to moving entirely away from OCR since we love the sport and our daughter (who turned 11 this year) is just getting into it, and we’re looking forward to her being able to compete outside of the kids races. So we’ll keep OCR on the back-burner for the next couple of years (doing races here and there, especially where they’ll let 11+ kids run the adult course with their parents) while we focus on trail running, and then return when our daughter is old enough (in the meantime, she’ll be running with us and continuing her rock-climbing).

  5. I certainly don’t take OCR as seriously as many I know. For me, it’s a hobby, a good excuse to maintain a regular workout routine and push myself. I don’t do a lot of races, maybe 3 – 5 a year of various lengths, and I don’t think of them in a competitive way beyond pushing myself. I’m in it to have fun with friends, get dirty, and maybe drink a few beers. Sure I push hard, but if I’m not having fun, in the end, what’s the point? That’s probably why I’ll never do a Spartan Beast. It’s not that I couldn’t, it’s that they just sound miserable… and way to serious. Maybe one day I’ll get bored and move on from OCR, but I don’t really see burnout being a problem. To me at least it’s like all things in life – it’s about moderation and balance.

  6. For me it’s the trolls… They try to hard and just not amusing… And the vegans.. You don’t run faster because your salad weighs less than my steak.

  7. It seems sad to me that people who are quitting are generally those who were the best of ones at it. And I understand their reasons. I don’t know where you are from but this happens also here, in Czech Republic, Europe. The problem is, as I watch it also while my opinion is changing about these races, it became to be more business than racing itself. On my holiday in Australia I spent over 300 dollars for the fee. Here in Europe we spend about 100 dollars for each race fee, not counting the way, hotels etc. And then, when it comes to race day, there are about 4k people. Can u imagine that? It became so so so commercial, especially the Sprint races. You can’t even place you car at the park lot and when you do, they want extra money. You spend an entire hour on your way out from the park lot after the race. And what’s even worse for me, there are too many people stuck on the obstacles that you need to wait. Or they cheat. Or they don’t even know how to do a burpee. The trend of “I ran a Spartanrace, I’m cool” is getting so popular that people who don’t even do any sports signs up for a race calling it “challenging”. No offense, I’m glad that people are trying to be active I just don’t like the way the Spartan Race team does it commercial.

  8. The commercial aspect is not a turnoff for everyone. I’ve been to small races that were disorganized, had problems with parking, etc. and I’ve been to large commercial races where everything ran smoothly. I actually really like it when I get to a race and the organization seems to be doing really well, lots of people are attending, sponsors and branding everywhere… it tells me that race is here to stay. We don’t need more Battlefrogs where the races were great but they never got the commercial aspect right and died off. We need more Warrior Race and Savage Race and Spartan Race type series to keep offering lots of options for people.

    I consider myself a bit of an elitist, but I just don’t understand why you would be unhappy to see people who don’t do sports try obstacle racing. It’s great that they’re outside challenging themselves instead of watching football on TV eating junk food! You have to be such a snob to want to keep YOUR sport to YOURSELF and only the people that deserve it.

    As for the price, we have to stop thinking that races can remain profitable and active charging a pittance. It is extremely expensive to put on a race, between the marketing, obstacle development and assembly, renting the venue, insurance, taking care of volunteers and staff… I think €100 or $100+ is not unreasonable for a big, well-run event with lots of cool obstacles in an interesting venue. And there often are early bird and other specials if you want to pay less, or you could volunteer and earn your race that way. If you think OCR is expensive, try motor racing!

    Maybe if you don’t like the way Spartan Race does it, you could try other races? There are PLENTY of great races all over Europe and the USA, and plane tickets are pretty cheap.

    I love OCR and don’t plan to quit anytime soon. Some of the bitching and moaning in this thread is making me think it’s perfectly fine for some people to move away from it… like any activity, there will be turnover, not everyone can or wants to do it forever, and like anything super addictive, lots of people overdo it and get burned out. That’s on them, not the sport/activity itself.

  9. You are absolutely right that the commercial aspect has improved aspects of the sport tremendously – particularly in organization. I’ve said before that if that companies didn’t grow and improve business operations, OCR probably wouldn’t exist. I think there are several sub-elements of the term ‘commercialism’ as I used in this post for sake of brevity. Not all the people in my “study” cited or alluded to the growth of numbers in the sport itself as a factor, but more of a focus on money versus people. That’s a tight line for any growing business/industry to walk! I didn’t ask, but I surmise most of this points at Spartan, but not all. Some of these people did every race imaginable. Keep in mind, that not all 25 cited that. There were 2 or 3 who didn’t like the influx of people, but not so much in a “selfish, this is my sport” sort of way, but for how some of them acted. That’s a story for another day though! I hope the point of this study and article doesn’t get lost – which is that every individual has their own life situations, attitudes, interests, finances, etc. to deal with and sometimes OCR is just not in the cards. That’s okay because there a thousands more, like you and I, whose life situations, attitudes, finances, interests, etc. drive them toward and keep them in OCR!

    1. Jeff, I was mostly referring to the comment above mine by Deni.
      However, a focus on money is to be expected for pretty much any company. How well they hide it is a matter of marketing and communication but you cannot escape the fact that they have to be profitable to keep going. There are no Apple-like race series hoarding billions in OCR. Most series are happy if they break even and have to carefully manage expansion to avoid overreaching. I wouldn’t call that an “over-commercialized” industry.

      For people who prefer the mom & pop operations where everyone knows your name and there are 300 participants, there are some races like that. Some of them are even really good. But most of those cannot offer the type of smooth running, large-scale, safe race with large spectacular obstacles the big biys have come to be associated with. There may come a day when the only races available are overly commercial with slick logos, smooth marketing, expensive fees and average bland racing, but that is not the case now, by a long shot.

      As for the point of your article, as you said, everyone has their own set of circumstances to deal with. Many peope burn themselves out being over-enthusiastic, others find out they can’t afford it anymore, yet others get bored or hurt… as with any other sport/hobby/activity. I don’t see how OCR is any different in this respect. Interesting to know the reasons behind those decisions however. I would be curious to see a larger-scale study, but how to reach ex-ocr runners?

      1. David, got it! Computer-mediated communication leaves a lot to be desired at times. As I started this project, it crossed my mind to go big, but had the same question as you. “How do I reach a large number of people who quit OCR?” I don’t have the time or resources for that. The only way I could even do this is because of FB friends. Even then, most had just quietly faded away and it wasn’t until I really started diving into it that I noticed how many were gone. I could have went beyond 25, but probably not a whole lot further. I have appreciated this discussion with you. Would be nice to sit in a room with a few people and talk about stuff like this all day!

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