Last Updated on September 27, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
I’m not one to deliver breaking headline news. Truth be told I couldn’t if I tried, my average computer start up time in the morning is hovering around 34 minutes and our internet reliability is as spotty as the New England weather (but wait five minutes, it’ll change.) Regardless, if per chance you missed the news, the ever popular “fun run” obstacle race 5K Foam Fest announced last night that they have gone bankrupt and have cancelled all future races.
Anyone even remotely connected to the obstacle racing world knows that fly-by-night race organizers, promising the biggest, baddest experience yet, have been plaguing our community almost since its inception. Early last year I wrote a post for Obstacle Racing Media about this very topic, demanding that entities wishing to enter our community not only take their role seriously, but treat the community as a whole with respect by providing solid, well executed races instead of simply bold statements.
Let’s all take a moment and laugh at this, the best (worst) promo video of a race that never actually happened, before I get serious in the rest of the post:
But back to the subject at hand: what happens when a clearly well established race series goes under? 5K Foam Fest had been putting on what most rated excellent races for well over two seasons before things started to fall apart. They had over 650,000 facebook fans before they pulled the page at some point this morning. Clearly they were not another fly-by-night series. Now, I am not one to claim to even begin to understand how these businesses work, hell I’m probably Dave Ramsey’s biggest nightmare. But from what I gather, 5K Foam Fest was accepting registrations up until the day before it declared it was closing it’s doors….with NO refunds to participants. I wonder, along with thousands of angry participants, how a company can willingly take in that money knowing that it would be making this announcement within a matter of hours. Perhaps they really were trying to hang in there until the very last minute, fighting like hell to avoid the inevitable.
I don’t know exactly what happened. But I’m left shaking my head thinking “no wonder no one takes this sport seriously.”
Like it or not, it’s often true. I frequently bounce back and forth between social media events for the obstacle racing world (my passion) and the strict road running world (my first love). When I introduce myself as predominately an obstacle racer to my road running cohorts, I am often met with polite responses that have an undertone implying “aww, isn’t that cute.” Face it, much of the athletic community OUTSIDE of the obstacle racing world sees us as weekend warriors out for some ridiculous thrill seeking that takes little to no commitment or training, free finish line beer, and a new facebook profile photo. Of course, if you’ve ever tackled something like the Killington Beast, you know that a measly half marathon fails in comparison to the difficulty of what we do. (Hell, that course took me 3 hours longer than my FULL marathon PR, and I was a top 10% finisher).
But that is neither here nor there. I am certainly a little ranty this morning and it is no secret that I am incredibly passionate about obstacle racing.
Recently this article made its appearance across Facebook, claiming the Spartan Race, a for-profit company, didn’t donate what the news station deemed to be “enough” money to charity. I saw it posted in countless road racing groups as well as obstacle racing groups. The overwhelming response seemed to be “those races are too expensive anyway, they must be making a massive profit, Joe D (founder of Spartan Race) is lying about being in the red” so on and so forth. I don’t agree nor disagree with the charity article, the reality is that I personally have no idea what the financial statements of Spartan Race look like. But I do know this: obstacle course races clearly have a significantly higher overhead cost than your average road race 5K. If not, why would they be dropping like flies, with bankruptcy claims happening almost weekly?
This morning I saw a quote on my Facebook feed from a fellow racer named Aaron Ott, and I have to say I completely agree:
“This is why I say ‘Spartan Race’s first responsibility to me is making a profit.’ If they’re not making money – I mean a lot of it – then they can’t hold the events I enjoy so much. It’s like we used to say in the Kung fu studio: ‘We don’t teach to make money. We make money so we can teach.’ “
Do we fault a company for clearly doing it right? Can we have our cake and eat it too (well executed races at minimum cost), or will that be the demise of the sport we have grown to love? Can we expect anyone to take us seriously when the community as a whole is seemingly falling apart left and right?
I don’t know. I really don’t have a conclusion to this post, but I did want to open up a discussion to the endurance community as a whole:
– If you don’t consider yourself an “obstacle racer” , what are your views on the sport?
– Do all of the recent cancellations and folding race series make you hesitant to sign up for race?
– Do you feel the cost of obstacle racing is simply too high to sustain the sport long term?
I’d love to hear your input, please comment below!
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.