Interview with Rob Butler, Creator of the $300,000 “Put Up or Shut Up” Challenge

Update: This event has since been canceled…


Rob and Jill Butler have never been ones to settle. Plenty of hard work has gone into the sport’s first permanent course, Shale Hill, which over time has come to resemble OCR’s version of Disneyland. Visit the course and you’ll find an ever-changing landscape of trails, obstacles, and fitness fanatics spread out over the Vermont landscape.

The 6 mile, 90 obstacle course is home to daily training sessions, workshops, team building events, and races.

But this next summer they have a challenge planned that is poised to shake the industry up.

July 2nd, 2016 the Benson, Vermont course will be home to the “Put Up or Shut Up” Challenge, which will attempt to crown the world’s most well-rounded, or “universal” athlete. Details are still being hashed out, but rough estimates involve 8-12 miles of running, as well as 120 obstacles encompassing all sports. And by all sports, we mean ALL SPORTS. So far the Put up or Shut Up page has hinted the need to master skeet shooting, running, long heavy carries, shooting a bow, riding a bike (and unicycle), rugby and Lacrosse.

The event will offer the largest purse in OCR history, with $100,000 being paid out to both the male and female winners of the challenge. On top of that, the challenge also promises payouts to the top 10 athletes overall.

The promised prize money certainly peaked my interest, so I decided to do some research to figure out exactly what was involved.

This proved harder than expected. The website itself is a strange mixture of random sports stock photos and testimonials to Rob Butler’s credibility from industry insiders. The homepage has a, well Idk how else to put it- a scammy feel to it, resembling more of a high school media class project than a professional event offering close to a quarter million dollars in prize money.

The two pictures chosen to represent the epitome of today’s best athletes, strangely enough, both involve basketball- the first, someone shooting a shot in the dark with, and the second, unicycle basketball. It’s almost as if someone googled “athletes basketball skills sports bicycle challenge event,” then chose the first two photobucket pictures and called it a day. Even the name itself has issues. “Put Up or Shut Up,” if I recall correctly, is the name of a Broken Skulls Ranch episode from last year.


That may sound harsh, but it just didn’t feel RIGHT to me.

The thing is, we’ve seen these claims before.  And for some strange reason involving history, facts and statistics, we’ve become suspicious of new and hyped events.

So I got in touch with Rob to clear up any misconceptions people (myself included) might have about this challenge.

Obstacle Racing Media delved into the logistics of the event during a recent podcast with Rob. If you’re interested in hearing more about the actual race rather than training talk, head over to ORM and check out the podcast.

1. What made you decide to put on this new challenge?                                 

I have always wanted to know who is truly the world’s best athlete.  Living and working at Shale Hill, I see a lot of different athletes come through here and realize that they all have different strengths and weaknesses.

Then I see a farmer kid from down the road come in here (after he was up at 3 am milking the cows) and he sweeps the whole place, and runs like a Deere! (pun intended)

So I have put together “Put Up or Shut Up” to offer the opportunity for all types of people to compete against one another and show what they are truly capable of.  I have never seen a competition that encompasses so many sports in one event and I’m convinced that it will produce a winner that will truly be universal.

2. As an unfortunate side-effect of our kickstarter-style OCR economy, fans have become all too familiar with getting “burned,” whether it be from un-refunded registration fees or withheld prize money.  New races with lofty ambitions are typically met with skepticism, and rightfully so. You have the facilities on hand, so that obviously helps, but what else makes you different from those who have come and gone, or have been announced and never came to fruition?

I have been in the industry since its inception.  I own and operate the first fixed location obstacle course to open in the U.S.  I am not an unknown, my track record is flawless.  I have never cancelled an event, for any reason.  You can ask anyone in the OCR industry to vouch for me, and they will without hesitation.  If we have 250 racers register, this event will happen with the payouts described.

I am often asked why it isn’t less money.  The people asking this question have no idea what kind of funding it takes to put on an event of this caliber.  This will be a pro run event.  It is racer sponsored instead of corporate sponsored.  I want this to be about the athletes, not about what company has what products for sale.  I will still have companies with relevant equipment on hand for this event, but they are not paying.  They are here to support the athletes.

I have been directing races for a lot of years, I have made some mistakes along the way just like everyone does, but one thing I can say for certain is that I have never screwed anyone.  If the race does not happen due to lack of registration, then those who have registered will receive their money back….PERIOD!  If you don’t know me, get to know me.  I don’t mix my words.  This is not a race that has been just thrown together on a whim. Several years have gone into the planning of it.   A lot of thought has been put into it and the Worlds Most Universal Athlete will prevail.  This is not an event put on by someone that has no track record.  I have a couple million dollar facility here to hold the event and there is no contract issues with the owner, I own it.

The Universal Athlete Challenge will happen if the racers want it to.  They will never have been to an event like it, I can promise you that!  I hope that this will be the first annual event and will hold it on Independence Day Every year from now on.   I just want to repeat this one more time:  THIS RACE WILL HAPPEN IF THE RACERS REGISTER.  THEY WILL GET THEIR SHOT AT TAKING HOME $100,000.

Another way to look at this is:  With other events that are unknown and corporate sponsored, they are at the mercy of the sponsoring corporation.  If the numbers are not there, the corporation, in a lot of cases, will back out.  With The Universal Athlete Challenge,  all of the racers will know that the money is there on December 25th 2015.  WE will know that day if all is a go or not.  The race purse money will be put into an escrow account that week and will sit there until we write the checks on Race Day.  All of this will be documented just like any real business would do.  We are not some fly by night company that has no history. Although the Universal Athlete Challenge is a new event, the people behind it are far from new to the sports industry.

3. How would you recommend a prospective athlete prepare for this challenge?  
An athlete that is willing to take on this type of challenge will be someone who has already had years of training in a specific discipline. This person will need to start practicing all sorts of other sports to hone their abilities and be prepared for almost any type of sport. The athletes will need to train to have finesse even when their heart rate is elevated, will need to retain their composure even when put into a situation that is uncomfortable for them, and will need to learn to never let go, as hand and forearm strength will be a big key to success. Endurance, speed, agility, strength, power, commitment, and diversity will prevail.

4. If you had to guess, which sport’s athletes do you think will have the easiest transition to/excel come race day?
I would think that athletes that are currently participating in multi-sport events will have the easiest transition.  That being said, I don’t believe anyone is going to have an easy transition! Adventure racers, obstacle racers, triathletes etc etc. may have the proper training to help excel in this race, but I would not count anyone out!

5. So the goal of this challenge, other than finding out what the participant is capable of, is to find the best “universal” athlete. How do you define that? Are you attempting to find the best all-around athlete, or the athlete with the most learned skills? You’ll be testing specific skills and sports, so to put it another way, in a baseball sense, would you be measuring a known performance constant like long-toss, or a skill that rewards hours of practice, like throwing from a mound for accuracy?
-not answered

7. Any specific tips or hints on what to work at/what to expect come race day?
Expect the unexpected. Be prepared to get out of your comfort zone and be prepared to do it in a hurry. This is not a circus and you will not be asked to do silly things like ride a unicycle while balancing an elephant on your nose, but we very well may ask you to ride a unicycle and possibly even an elephant!  (kidding of course!). These will be true tests of skill in each particular discipline and you will need to be familiar enough with them all to make it happen and make it happen under pressure.

With the amount of money on the line (and out of your pocket) it’s probably worth doing your homework and showing up at Shale Hill to experience the course before the event.
Says Rob, “Of course everyone will benefit from a trip to Shale Hill prior to the event. Our obstacle course alone is very taxing and it will all be included in the race.  I offer training in many sports and will be happy to answer any questions that are of a general nature.  I will not answer specific questions such as “how many free throws must we make during the challenge.” ‘

So there you have it folks. According to Rob, the event will happen. And if it doesn’t, entry fees will be returned.
Time to get working on those skills integral to being the best athlete in the world! You know, like uni-cycling while dribbling a basketball or milking a cow without hands. The former, I’m currently lacking on. But I’m certainly a pro at the latter!

Well? Something must be on your mind!

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