It's been a rather drama filled last few weeks in the obstacle course racing world. Long story short, there were rumors that Spartan was going to acquire Tough Mudder. A rather bizarre podcast with the Tough Mudder founders seemed to contradict this and things have been muddied ever since. Today, Tough Mudder's CEO Kyle McLaughlin announced he had stepped down. But in his message, he claims that all might not be lost.
A lot of this stems from an ongoing lawsuit between Tough Mudder and Active Networks. The discussions don't seem to be going well because Tough Mudder race sales have been offline since December 23.
What does this mean for racers?
It remains to be seen what will happen with Tough Mudder. Here are some potential scenarios. To be clear, this is pure conjecture on my part:
Tough Mudder folds and Spartan doesn't acquire them: This is probably the worst outcome for several reasons. One, it essentially gives Spartan a monopoly on the OCR industry. Yes, there are local players, but Tough Mudder and Spartan are pretty much the top two. Competition is healthy. It pushes companies to keep innovating and it provides choice. Also, it would be the second OCR company to fold within the past year, with the shuttering of the Warrior Dash less than six months ago.
Spartan acquires Tough Mudder: The concern around this is what would happen to the Tough Mudder brand and race under Spartan. While there's certainly overlap between the two, Tough Mudders have always been more team-based and if you don't want to do an obstacle, you won't be penalized for it. As a coach, I love the community aspect of Tough Mudder.
Tough Mudder works out their lawsuit with Active and lives to see another day: The challenge with this is more around if and how Tough Mudder can recover from the damage these events have had on their reputation and brand. The podcast I referred to earlier was so weird and didn't fill me with confidence in the remaining leadership. I've never been impressed with lying executives. If they weren't lying then they're seriously out of touch. Either way, it's not a good look.
Stay tuned on this topic. Tough Mudder isn't my favorite race series, but it has an important place in this industry, so I'm hoping for the third proposed outcome. I don't think that participants will care that much about the empty words of executives--they're more concerned about the race experience. As long as that stays positive, they will hopefully recover. If Spartan acquires them, it remains to be seen if they'll stay true to their word and not change Tough Mudder.
Either way, I'm really excited to make this blog more active in 2020. There are so many timely topics and stories to share, I can't wait!
Next week: Is Spartan diluting it's brand?