Later this week I’ll be counting down 2016’s highest-earning Obstacle Course Racers. While I wait for final numbers to be confirmed I’ll post my initial 6 takeaways.
1. Lindsay Webster had a fantastic year. She won $5,000 or more in 5 different races, making her the most diversified athlete on our list in terms of winnings.
2. TV is where the big money is. Despite a small sample size, OCR athletes have had incredible success in their respective shows over the past two or three years. And this winter and spring we’ll be seeing much more of it.*
Their running background suits them in endurance related challenges, while their strength ensures they’ll handle the physical challenges quite well. If I were a top athlete I’d be applying for every single show that came my way. And not just for the big payday. The ensuing publicity can do wonders for social media, which can do wonders for sponsors.
*I’ll be covering this more next week
3. The industry’s talent has grown quicker than its payouts. Some of the top racers in the world a year or two ago struggle to take top-5 to 10 in today’s NBC Races. And even a top 5 finish does not guarantee prize money these days.
This is a fantastic sign as to the amount of growth at the top of the sport, but also shows how difficult it is for racers to compete at a high level without proper sponsors. At what point is the effort and travel worth it? A $500 Spartan Race payout may just barely cover race expenses. So at this point, other than for a select few, the sport is still very much a hobby.
4. The big payouts that do exist are quite top heavy, and are cherry-picked.
The top payouts: World’s Toughest Mudder, Spartan’s NBC series, OCRW short and long course, and the Spartan World Championship, are all won by the same couple racers. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it does lead into my next thought.
5. Current races, both short and long, favor the same type of athlete.
Subsequently, race distance does not vary as much as people believe. In OCR we call a 18-25 minute course a “Short Course” and refer to the skill needed to be successful at said event “speed.” This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Track and Field Distances by longest length:
- 5k run- 2nd longest event-averages around 13ish minutes for elite winner.
- 10k run- Longest event- averages around 27ish minutes for elite winner.
And the longest Olympic running race:
- Marathon: 26.2 miles, 2:15ish average for elite winner.
Any guess who the best marathoners are? On average, they’re the best 5 and 10k runners. This is no coincidence. The 5k is purely an aerobic event. Same goes for everything above it.
So why are our “short courses” often as long as the longest track race?
And why do they include long hills, something that favors purely endurance athletes?
It may come down to race profits. Participants seem to be more willing to show up for a race in which their bang-for-the-buck is higher.
Unfortunately, this means the increased diversification of the type of athlete excelling in these events will for now remain stagnate.
6. No more Atlas, Warrior Dash and Battlefrog
Warrior Dash’s $100,000 championship prizes will be sorely missed.
Atlas Race and Battlefrog did wonders for the economy of sport. They employed members of the OCR community in social media, race management, ambassador roles, and even had their own pro teams. Participants traveled race to race, enjoying the unique style of race, camaraderie, and fantastic prizes. They’ve disappeared, and with them we’ve lost a diverse part of the community.
Savage Race, on the other hand, has quietly built up a quality race series with good prize money.
Who will be the next race to step up and try to build a name for themselves in the industry? Or does the rise of fitness-oriented TV programming focusing on special interest stories ensure that companies go the Battlefrog route in the future, ie leave the races and the people behind for network money?
Other notable individual performances left off the original list:
Stefanie Bishop, Trevor Cichosz-
- 1st- World’s Toughest Mudder Individual- $10,000
- 1st-Spartan World Championships- $15,000
- 1st-European Championships- $3,000
Robert B. Killian- (also won 2016 Best Ranger Competition)
- 2nd- Spartan Race Series- $9,200
- 3rd- Spartan World Championship- $5,000
- 2nd World’s Toughest Mudder Team- $4,000
- 3rd- Spartan World Championships- $5,000
- 2nd- Spartan Race Series- $10,000
Austin Azar– On top of his Spartan and BattleFrog race winnings, had two very nice payouts:
- 1st-BattleFrog Points Champion- $7,000
- 2nd-World’s Toughest Mudder- $4,000
- 1st-Stadium Series- $4,000