“When something bad happens, you have three choices. You can let it define you, let it destroy you, or you can let it strengthen you.”
Something interesting is happening in the OCR world right now: BattleFrog (a reportedly fantastic obstacle race series born just a year ago) is now implementing MAJOR changes to the rest of their schedule for 2015 as well as to their format in general.
What will ultimately be the death or rebirth of BattleFrog as an OCR series is unfolding right now before our eyes. So what’s involved? What’s at stake? How will this affect BattleFrog, it’s participants & staff, and the OCR scene as a whole? And why are people so damn mad?
Now that the dust is beginning to settle…let’s take a look.
BattleFrog brought something refreshing to OCR.
They weren’t all about messing with your head, they weren’t trying to be the One True Obstacle Race, and they weren’t come-get-muddy-have-a-beer-and-wear-fuzzy-hats. BattleFrog was about one thing – being the best obstacle race they could be.
How did they go about that?
By trying to cover all the bases.
- They aimed to cater to everyone with different length/difficulty courses (including shorties for the kids!). They also offered both Saturday and Sunday races at all of their events. Even Spartan Race doesn’t always do that. (they did cut that partway through last year)
- They executed well – US Navy SEALS design their courses and they have staff that takes their jobs seriously.
According to all accounts thus far – they put on one hell of a race.
- There are live SEAL demonstrations on event day. Why? Because #America.
- They played well with others (something I wish Spartan would learn how to do) as part of the #OCRUnited movement.
- They even cross-promoted another Navy SEAL-designed event – The BoneFrog Challenge. Fun fact, they also made sure their event dates didn’t conflict with BoneFrog’s dates. Show me another OCR that cares enough to do that.
By all accounts…they were doing it right.
So what happened?
They made some major changes within the last few weeks.
For one, the Sunday races were dropped from the schedule. Across the board. After their Houston event (happening March 28th) this is official, meaning no BattleFrog events after March are happening on Sundays this year.
An equally major change…The race format was altered substantially. Originally, BattleFrog offered the title 15K “BattleFrog” course and the 5K “BullFrog” course for adults. There were also the 1 Mile “BullFrog” and 400m “Tadpole” races for kids. Yes, that means four separate courses per event location. There was also the “BattleFrog Extreme” for those looking for an ultra-marathon-like challenge – Do one lap of the 15K then as many laps of the 5K course as you could. Elites would participate in the 15K course as the earliest waves of the day (as is customary in any OCR).
Why the changes, anyway?
I think it’s easy enough to figure out, but some “inside rumblings” go a long way to confirm it – sustainability and cost.
Sunday races: As I gathered from posts on MudRunGuide.com and ObstacleRacingMedia…there weren’t enough registrants last year to warrant Sunday events, and there weren’t enough this year so far either. With too few registrants, it just wasn’t financially justifiable to have Sunday events. OK, easy enough.
The race format itself: A new 8K course will replace both the 15K and 5K…this one’s a mixed bag. Cost – Having two separate courses with their own separate obstacles is significantly more costly than having one course.
Sustainability/Location – It can be a bit challenging, as we in the Northeast have learned, to find a venue that can accommodate an Obstacle Course Race. It can be even more challenging to find a venue for a longer-format course (over 5 miles). With BattleFrog moving down to an 8K format it will be easier for them to find more venues much closer to major metropolitan races.
What does this mean for the future of BattleFrog? If all goes well…more (and better) locations at a lower cost? That’s easy…more BattleFrog.
But of course, people are pissed
There were a plethora of things people were angry about, mainly centering on how they’re mad what they had is now gone and they’re not inconvenienced. All the complaints are things that will either be what BattleFrog is remembered for (if they go down in flames) or or that people will totally forget and get over (if they have a successful year).
The Field Team was at least temporarily angry as well – many of them felt unfairly dropped into bad situations, having publicized races and convinced friends, neighbors, and co-workers to register for something that was now gone. That has, at this point, mostly been quelled.
How did BattleFrog handle these changes?
There was an AWFUL lot of frustration and questions… in the beginning anyway. As word of the Sunday eliminations…then 8K format change…slowly appeared online…BattleFrog’s Field Team (brand advocates who publicize the races) took to their private communication channels like hyenas attacking a carcass. I have to give MAJOR kudos to Travis Ketcham, the Field Team Director – on a regular basis he handles an incredible volume of questions and demands from the Field Team with impressive professionalism and care…this situation was 10x worse than normal.
Once official word from BattleFrog HQ was released, however, staff members took to social media to ensure they would follow through on promises made, including:
-Those who had registered for Sunday races were offered full refunds or transfers to Saturday events
-Participants who registered for the 15K course were offered a number of options, including refund options
-Season pass holders are being given a 50% refund
(BattleFrog has hinted that they may also take some case-by-case situations too)
So what now?
This could go one of two ways:
1.) this pisses off a lot of people, things don’t go as planned, HQ can’t handle it and they slowly go down the tubes and die.
2.) BattleFrog HQ handles this like a champ, they put on some excellent races, and people get over their pissed-off-ness.
Honestly…I think BattleFrog is going to be just fine. They have proven so far that they mean business and know how to put on an event. They handle themselves well and they know how to make people happy. They made sure to get their sh!t together before opening their mouths…even to their Field Team. They’re also exercising a level of honesty, character & accountability that we don’t often see in terms of accommodations for race cancellations/refunds. They want people to be happy and come back.
A Field Team member said it best – chalk this up to growing pains.
One thing, at this point, is clear: For BattleFrog…this is either the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. Time will tell.
If you are interested in participating in the new 8K format, I offer you my own modified flyer for the New England event – July 25th 2015. Be your own judge and see for yourself what BattleFrog has to offer.
What do YOU think of the changes made to BattleFrog’s 2015 schedule & format? Let’s hear it!