Scrolling through Facebook on a rather slow work day I came across a post by Obstacle Racing Media (ORM) that Battlefrog US was cancelling all future races. I thought this could possibly be a knee-jerk reaction since they were initially only going off of the fact that their Twitter page was down as well as the inability to register for any future races. The more I read through, even before any official confirmation on Battlefrog US’s behalf, I started to believe what I was reading, that I would be unable to ever obtain a Battlefrog medal.
Most race series don’t mean as much to me as the Spartan races. The two “frog” series were the exception. Battlefrog and Bonefrog both have qualities that I believe even the mighty Spartan Race lacks… Battlefrog with their mandatory obstacle completion and Bonefrog with the ultra-intense obstacles and the sense of honor you get working alongside Navy SEALs. Having completed a Bonefrog earlier this summer, I had hoped to follow up with a Battlefrog considering the venue is so close to home. Due to extenuating circumstances that would not come to pass this year. Looking forward, the New Jersey race in October as well as the local race next year were both serious possibilities. With the revelation this week that Battlefrog would be cancelling all future races, that reality became a legend.
Let me reiterate that I have not attempted a BattleFrog race. What I know comes from the experiences of teammates and friends. But the excitement and passion they all shared for the events makes the loss of this series all the more disappointing. We can all speculate exactly why they decided to immediately cancel all future races, including those this weekend, but in reality it’s not important. What does matter is that those employees currently need to find another job while the racers already have plenty of options. One of those options being the world’s largest race series, Spartan Race. I personally started with this series and continue my goal of becoming an Obstacle Course Race World Championship qualifier through them but there are most definitely things I would modify or tweak.
I’m sure most of us have read the Elite racer Ryan Atkins’ thoughts on what he would change about the Spartan Races but for those who haven’t I will sum up.
- Having paid and trained referees at all races.
- Requiring independent drug testing for the Championship Series & World Championship.
- Institute qualifications for running in the Elite heat.
- Removal of the burpee penalty for mandatory obstacle completion.
- Abolishing the spear throw for balance/agility-based obstacles.
- More water stations at races.
Ryan Atkins is arguably the greatest Obstacle Course Racer in the world. He more often than not dominates every venue he appears at. His viewpoint and opinions should be looked at similar to anything LeBron James or J.J. Watt would say (I refuse to name Tom Brady or Sidney Crosby for personal reasons even if they may be better examples than Watt). That being said, some of his ideas are borderline Elitist and go against the Spartan way of not ending up like Battlefrog… to make money. Spartan will make money as long as they continue to evolve, especially with Battlefrog now relegated to television audiences. There is a demographic that is bursting at the seams for an even tougher series to come out and at the moment the one most likely to seize that crowd is Bonefrog Challenge. Another series called the Savage Race could also move up the pecking order to grab what Battlefrog lovingly referred to as Battlers. (I hope Bonefrog Challenge can come up with their own idea to name their racers…) But with Spartan Race founder and President Joe de Sena wanting to eventually work the sports way into the Olympics, now is his greatest chance to put his series firmly in the history books as the reason Obstacle Course Racing ended up in the Olympic games.
Here are my thoughts on what Ryan Atkins said and also my own ideas on how to let the Spartan Races evolve into the sports greatest series.
- Spartan should have paid and properly trained referees at Championship Series races at the least. With so much money on the line I seriously cannot believe that isn’t the case already. Since Spartan Race is definitely about turning a profit, and paying referees would definitely cost a pretty penny especially if they were required at all races, how about making Spartan SGX certification classes more accessible (discount)? Or instead, having SGX certified volunteers receive an extra bonus for volunteering during these Elite heats at the Championship Series.
- Drug testing for the Championship Series and World Championship is a no-brainer.
- This will probably never happen, but some sort of qualification for the Elite heat should be instituted. I think it could be something as simple as having a Trifecta in the book or even just one Open heat race and one Competitive heat race completed. I can understand his frustration of having massive groups of racers running Elite field. But being Ryan Atkins, his complaint of having to reach out the Spartan HQ is a non-point because they will always give him a spot no matter if the registration is full or not. His idea of only having people who finish in 15% of the leader’s time is absurd and impossible. What time would that be? The last race from an earlier weekend or the last calendar year’s race? Courses and venues can change. Not only that, but what about the Boise Sprint or Indiana Sprint Elite heats? Good luck getting any turn out with that being the case. Championship Series races can institute some sort of qualification or have two separate waves of Elite racers but Spartan Race will never in their right mind require qualifying for every single Elite heat.
- Elites shouldn’t have to do burpees. Period. Mandatory obstacle completion or DQ.
- How about not abolishing the spear throw while still incorporating more agility/balance obstacles? The spear throw takes skill, talent, and practice. If I hadn’t seen certain guys hit it at a near 100% success rate I wouldn’t believe that but if you practice it enough and work at it in ALL conditions it’s not a random chance at hitting.
- More water can NEVER be harmful except to Spartan’s bottom line. This is a hit or miss problem across venues. The New Jersey Beast was setup perfectly, Colorado was great as well, but PA definitely could have used more.
There can always be improvements made, and maybe Spartan’s biggest question mark revolves around how much, or little, they’ve evolved over the years. If Ryan Atkins goes on the free agent market, maybe he’ll be pursued by Spartan US and they’ll finally listen to some, but hopefully not all, of his ideas.