As the clock begins to reset on a new season of obstacle racing for most of the big companies it's the time of year when bold statements of new obstacles “coming soon” begin to appear from race organizers. With such bold claims of new obstacles and new innovations are these obstacles truly new or just recycled? Do we have truly innovative and engaging new obstacles popping up each year or at the companies recycling them from each other? These are the questions to ponder as we begin to look forward to the 2015 season.
Tough Mudder has announced that at the upcoming World's Toughest Mudder (WTM), they will be featuring WTM only obstacles as well as debuting new regular season Tough Mudder obstacles for 2015. The question will be are they similar to what we in the industry have already seen or is it truly something new, unique and different. Spartan Race recently debuted one of their new obstacles, a traverse wall with two sections, that looks strikingly like the walls designed by Rob Butler of Shale Hill and Viking Obstacle Race at Sunny Hill Resort. Other companies are about to reset their seasons so expect to see new obstacles from them as well.
The Big Guys
The dilemma for the large obstacle race organizations is creating new and unique obstacles to keepthe veteran racers coming back as well as offering a fun experience for the new racer. Races like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Warrior Dash and other big companies face an additional problem of creating new obstacles that not only fit the mold for the two groups but also accommodate up to 1,000 racers an hour without creating huge bottlenecks. This poses a unique challenge for the obstacle designers and race directors to try to “keep everyone happy.” Keeping all that in mind the big companies are up against some big challenges when it comes to new obstacle creation
The Little Guys
Where does more innovation seem to be taking place in OCR? The little guys. The smaller races are the ones who seem to be able to take the bigger chances on new obstacle designs and have more innovation. While many small obstacle race series are content with taking all their ideas from the big guys many are throwing in a couple obstacles that are truly unique and different. However, only so much innovation can happen without a big budget which often constrains the small race series from truly building their dream obstacles.
The Permanent Courses
Where does the most innovation seem to be taking place in the obstacle racing industry? The permanent courses. Permanent courses have a leg up on all other obstacle race series or events when it comes to obstacle innovation, they're permanent. Course designers often live or work on the property their courses are on and can tweak obstacles and design new ones as they want. If an obstacle doesn't work they can always re-imagine it. It is no surprise that the new Spartan Race obstacle is similar to the Shale Hill obstacle that is 2 years old. Permanent courses don't put anything up or take it down so it's always there, always in the face of the creator.
But still how many of these obstacles are truly unique? Sometimes it feels like there aren't any other obstacles than what we already see. However, at the recent OCR World Championships speaking with racers from around the globe we have only hit the tip of the obstacle iceberg. While our races in the US often feature tall walls, heavy carries, crawls our friends across the pond seem to have more technical obstacles and more “American Ninja Warrior” style obstacles. A quick look into Sweden's Toughest Race obstacles shows innovation can happen in the OCR industry.
It's our jobs as the racers to continue to demand innovation in our obstacle races. It's time for us to all start to think outside the wall at all the possibilities we have yet to tap in obstacle racing.
When was the last time you truly saw an innovative obstacle?
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of Mud Run Guide LLC, or their staff. The comments posted on this Website are solely the opinions of the posters.