From the novice exerciser to the seasoned athlete, OCRs have drawn consumers worldwide.
In only a few years years, obstacle racing participation has grown from approximately 200,000 in 2010 to roughly five million in 2015. Obstacle races and challenges continue to grow as consumers look for motivation to get off the couch, “shake up” fitness routines, connect with others and have fun!
What Are Obstacle Course Races (OCRs)?
OCRs, short for obstacle course races, are typically used in reference to running-based events that incorporate a series of physical challenges, natural and man-made, along the race route. Other terms often used interchangeably with OCRs include mud runs, obstacle races or obstacle racing (ORs or OR), obstacle runs, obstacle sports, non-traditional races and MOB runs (Mud, Obstacle, Beer). Common obstacles include mud, walls, man-made tunnels, hurdles, monkey bars, carrying heavy objects, hills, ropes, cargo nets and slides.
The industry of obstacle challenges are led by three organizers, each with a unique offering.
The Spartan series attracts thousands of participants per event through a range of races for all fitness levels (and ages):
Spartan Sprint: a 3-5 mile race with at least 15 obstacles.
Spartan Super: an 8-11 mile race with at least 20 obstacles.
Spartan Beast: a 12-14 mile race with at least 25 obstacles.
Spartan Ultra Beast: a marathon-long challenge with up to 50 obstacles.
Spartan Kids: a one-mile race with child-friendly obstacles.
Spartan Race also organizes obstacle races in select major league ballparks in the U.S., starting with the Fenway Spartan Race in 2012.
Tough Mudder is a challenge filled with roughly two dozen proprietary obstacles over the course of 10- 12 miles. Camaraderie and teamwork are musts in order to finish the Tough Mudder as several obstacles require the help of others in order to complete.
Unlike most obstacle course events, Tough Mudder is untimed. In this sense, the company sets apart their course as a challenge, more so than a race.
Warrior Dash (WD) sets itself apart as a 5k race for all, an alternative to the traditional road race 5k. The course has more than a dozen obstacles and is typically doable for participants of most fitness levels. The Warrior Dash has attracted more than 10,000 participants per event.
Warrior Dash is owned by Red Frog Events, an event-development firm that organizes other participatory events.
Other Key Players
Although Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash are considered the three pioneering leaders of OR, there are many more organizers that have made obstacle racing the dynamic athletic and sport business it is today.
Tough Guy, Rugged Maniac, GORUCK, Zombie Run, Dirty Girl, Savage Race, Mud Hero, Civilian Military Combine, Battlefrog Series, and others have all shaped and defined the industry.
Looking ahead, although obstacle racing has grown significantly over the past few years, it may be too early to predict that this rapid growth will continue over the next several years.
There are challenges that can either limit or spur on further growth, depending on how OCR developers and advocates respond. The reputation of failed OCR businesses, undefined safety standards and protocols, high registration costs and venue accessibility may hinder established and start-up organizers from reaching consumers.
Nonetheless, we believe OCRs will continue to have a positive outlook for a number of reasons. For local economies that can handle the influx of traffic, hosting a well-known obstacle race or challenge may result in added revenue for local businesses such as hotels, restaurants and venues. Feeding off social media, OCRs connect people online and offline, expanding one’s personal community. Finally, obstacle course events encourage participants to exercise and train with a specific goal in mind.
Considering the variety of obstacle races for all ages and fitness levels, the industry can continue to grow by attracting a wide demographic of fans eager to share their OCR experience with family and friends.
More on the Business of Obstacle Course Races (OCRs)
At Obstacle Race World, we are devoted to following the growth and forecasting the outlook of obstacle course races and challenges. To date, we have published two reports on the OCR market.
Obstacle Race World: The State of the Mud Run Business is the first industry report on obstacle course races and challenges. Released in May 2014, this publication examines the rapid growth of mud runs and OCRs, starting with their brief history and roots in other popular sports and activities. Also included are estimates and projections on market size (industry revenue), number of participants, and market share. Lastly, the report contains interviews with leading OCR organizers.
Click here for more details on Obstacle Race World: The State of the Mud Run Business.
Obstacle Race World: The State of the Mud Run Business (Second Edition) is an update to the first industry report on obstacle course races and challenges. This publication examines the state of obstacle racing as well as interviews with leading OCR organizers. Also included are estimates and projections on the market size (industry revenue), number of participants, and market share. Lastly, this publication contains a special report on the globalization of obstacle sports.
Click here for more details on Obstacle Race World: The State of the Mud Run Business (Second Edition).