This article is organised as follows:
- Part 01: Introduction to Obstacle Course Races (OCR).
- Part 02: OCR Industry.
- Part 03: Advantages & Disadvantages of OCR.
- Part 04: OCR Event Management.
- Part 05: Preparing for an OCR.
- Part 06: Governing Bodies, Associations & Championships.
- Part 07: Obstacle Courses in other Areas.
- Part 08: Useful Publications/Links and References.
PART FOUR: OCR EVENT MANAGEMENT
As part of the process for holding an OCR event, OCR providers will develop an event management plan – although the exact requirements vary between countries.
Depending on the location and local government requirements, an event management plan may contain:
- Outline of event including: event description; location; start and end times; event day operations; maximum number of participants; course information and plans; site signage; parking; emergency access; public health and first aid services; noise generation/management; lighting; security; water supply; sanitation; power; food stalls; alcohol; waste management; water, environmental and erosion impact; building works; insurance; risk management and assessments; advertising and notifications; and contact details.
- Bushfire management statement.
- Risk and emergency management plan.
- Statement of environmental effect.
You can read the event management plan for the Spartan Race Perth 2017 in the Useful Publications and Links section.
4.1 What Emergency and Medical Cover is Available?
All OCR providers have emergency medical service (EMS) cover at their events, usually consisting of qualified first aiders and lifeguards – although they may also have one or ambulances on standby (either through private or public providers).
The mix of personnel and numbers differs between the events depending on requirements, and accounting for any risk assessments as part of the risk management policy/strategy.
4.2 What Other Staff Are On-site?
The total number of, full-time and casual, staff during an OCR event will vary between events and companies, but may include (Griffin, 2015):
- Safety: People channelling crowds through obstacles without trampling one another, lifeguards, and divers overseeing obstacles involving water.
- Medical: Medics staff and possibly ambulance crews.
- Security: Security personnel and local police.
- Repair: A construction crew in case an obstacle requires repair.
- Parking: Directing traffic and parking.
4.3 What is a Liability Waiver?
A liability waiver is a legal document that a person who participates in an activity may sign to acknowledge the risks involved in their participation of that activity.
By doing so, the activity provider attempts to remove, or minimise, legal liability from the business or person responsible for the activity.
OCR providers usually require adult participants to read, comprehend, and sign a liability waiver with the express purpose of mitigating their liability from any event resulting in injury, accident, or death of any participant of any age. Child participants usually require parental consent and signature.
However, an activity provider still has a duty of care to participants, and must provide a safe environment and identify, and mitigate, any reasonably foreseeable risks that may impact participants. An example of this is providing lifeguards/water safety equipment at water crossings/features.
Some OCR providers require participants to sign a liability waiver on two separate occasions:
- Registration Process: Participants may be required to read a liability waiver as part of the (online) registration process, selecting a tick box before moving on with the registration process.
- Check-in Process: As well as collecting items such as a timing chip, wristband, and race information, a participant may also be required to read and sign a liability waiver.
“Many race directors and venue owners believe they are protected because their participants sign liability waivers (jokingly referred to as “death waivers” in the gallows-humor parlance of obstacle course racing). However, these waivers vary in effectiveness from [US] state to state, and they rarely absolve a race company of its own gross negligence. When a waiver isn’t enough, injured participants and race directors turn to insurance, unaware that most general liability insurance excludes such losses.” (SDV Law, 2017).
You can read SDV Law’s ‘Case Alert’ for further insight, which is a cautionary tale about reading the ‘small print’, in the Useful Publications and Links section.
You can read about the suggested legal issues and problems associated with OCR, by Keiper et al. (2014), in the Useful Publications and Links section.
4.4 OCR Insurance
“OCR events face many potential liabilities not found in traditional races, such as faulty obstacles, property damage, and other unforeseen accidents, and therefore, they need specialized insurance to protect the organizers of the races.” (Hildebrandt & Henk, 2017).
Consequently, a number of insurance companies now offer specific OCR insurance for both participants and OCR providers. Due to a lack of historical data, OCR providers may pay a premium that is estimated at 5 to 10 times higher than a traditional road race (Hildebrandt & Henk, 2017).
Although coverage varies between insurers and countries, the following is an example of insurance tools available (SRG Sport & Events, 2018):
- Policy schedules and policy wordings;
- Risk management plan template;
- Incident report form;
- Revenue share opportunities;
- Participant Personal Accident Insurance;
- Event Registration (Refund) Insurance; and
- Cancellation & Abandonment Insurance.
You can read about some of the potential obstacles for insurers in the Useful Publications and Links section.
4.5 What is the Cost of Hosting an OCR?
The exact costs borne vary between the OCR providers and the venues they utilise, but the following will provide some insight, but first we must look at the potential business models:
- Landowner teams up with an existing OCR provider; or
- Landowner sets up an OCR themselves.
Fees to landowners are generally the biggest expenditure for an OCR provider, ranging from £1.50 to £7.00 per runner, although some charge a fixed fee per race, with car parking generally being extra (Open Air Business, 2017). Due to the initial cost of setting up an OCR, two-year contracts are common – construction and the preparation of the first OCR at a new venue can range from £80,000 to £100,000, and then £20,000 to £30,000 to run every subsequent OCR (Open Air Business, 2017).
New OCR events may be able to charge £35 to £50 per ticket while established OCR’s can achieve £60 to £80 per ticket (Open Air Business, 2017). It is suggested that a venue hold two to four events per year to maximise on investment.
Another potential revenue stream for OCR providers, and landowners, is OCR training provided outside of the race days.
Open Air Business (2017) estimated that the average 10 km race, in the UK, would require 300 acres, along with the associated car park and race village.
It was estimated in the US in 2015 that Tough Mudder spends approximately $300,000 to $400,000 per event, whilst Spartan Race spent approximately $100,000 more per event (Griffin, 2015).
4.6 What are the Factors to consider when Building your own OCR?
Although there are a variety of factors to consider when creating/developing a brand new OCR event/series, the following may be the most important:
- Venue: OCR providers need to ensure the potential venue is feasible: e.g. sufficient capacity for crowds (participants and spectators); parking; registration; finishing area; and so on.
- Safety: OCR providers have a responsibility for the safety of volunteers, spectators, and employees, as well as participants. Although one cannot plan for every accident eventuality, OCR providers must establish safety standards and have a plan for dealing with minor injuries and emergencies. An on-site medical area and staff is a must.
- Originality: With the plethora of OCR providers it can be difficult to differentiate from competitors, but innovation is important in this every evolving industry.
- Insurance: OCR providers must carry insurance, and often the cost of this will be passed onto participants, increasing the price of their registration fee to sign up for the race. As a minimum, OCR providers will be required to hold adequate public liability insurance.
- Organisation: This involves three distinct but interlinked processes:
- Organisation of People: As well as company management and employees, there will also be a ‘small army’ of volunteers to recruit, train, and put to work on the day(s), as well as medical staff, security, parking, catering, etc. Who will manage entrants and spectators?
- Organisation of Obstacles: The obstacles are the reason participants are attending, so they have to be well-built and secure. OCR providers may have an in-house team of construction workers or an outsourced team.
- Organisation of Venue: Notwithstanding the planning phase of an OCR, there are three distinct phases to consider on the day:
- Pre-Race: Is the area big enough for the anticipated total number of people? Is the layout of the venue appropriate (think unintended bottlenecks etc.)? Who is going to source the prizes?
- Race: Where will spectators be situated? Can they see the action? Where will medical staff be sited? And so on.
- Post-Race: Is there an unobstructed path from the finish line to the medical area? Is it signposted? What post-OCR events are there? E.g. post-race party, music, food and drinks, marketing of other races, merchandise etc. When is the prize ceremony?
- Not an exhaustive list but a starting point.
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