I wrote my first editorial opinion on this subject not even 2 months ago. Since then, much has happened on this roller coaster ride that continues to prove my opinion that the market is still trying to figure itself out. The laws of supply and demand have not yet settled into a smooth running market. Greedy wanna-be's continue to plague the market and stiff the consumer. In addition to the prerequisite reading of Part 1, I also suggest you read the following related articles from the great thinkers at Obstacle Racing Media: Superhero Scramble Unmasked, No Refund For You! and Great American Mud Run Cancels All Future Events.
Events and organizations like Hero Rush, Great American Mud Run and Superhero Scramble are destroying all of the good that this great industry has accomplished and making it increasingly more difficult for the remaining events, especially the great ones, to be successful. Whether these organizations are collapsing due to greed or because of mismanagement, the end effect is the same. Events in the midwest are being cancelled and people are being left without refunds and bad opinions of the OCR industry. I hate to say it but as much as I dislike the 'Groupon' approach, it seems to be the best recourse for these folks to be getting refunds. The result is leaving the greatest percentage of the population, which is the 80% of the people that go to these events, with such a distrust that they will never attempt to do one of these events again. If you are reading this, you are most likely one of the serious enthusiasts, like me, of the OCR world and either have a personal story of the positive impact this sport has had on your life and health or you know many people that have a great story to tell. There are many people in this country that truly need the inspiration of completing one of these events to turn their lives around and with these events folding, they will never get that chance. Following are 2 local media stories regarding the cancellation of the Great American Mud Run and the impact it had on 2 completely different women; Mud run canceled, local woman wants refund and Mud Run participants left with nowhere to run. This has been happening for some time now and not just in the Midwest; Mud run cancellation leaves many without promised refunds. As mentioned in all of these, regular people take these events on as part of their 'bucket list' and train for months. These are life impacting and life changing events in peoples lives and they are being taken advantage of by greedy people that have no idea what they are doing.
Case in point are the not-so-super 'actions' of Superhero Scramble. Superhero Scramble was to hold an event this past summer in Ohio and cancelled only a few weeks before the event. Their claim was that they had suffered great losses to equipment from storms at their Carolina event. Fortunately, this time they did offer refunds or you could transfer your registration to the 2014 Ohio event. Seeing the writing on the wall, I chose the refund. I'm going to go out on a limb and call 'bullshit' and believe that the cancellation was due to low registration. Superhero was to also have their first Super Villain event in July at the same location in Illinois as the Spartan Super. Many of you will remember this location as the start of the infamous Spartan Rash. Superhero postponed this event with the excuse that the health risks were too great and they wanted to ensure the area or possible infestation was cleaned up before they exposed anyone to it again. Once again, I call bullshit and believe this was just a convenient excuse to give them more time to increase registration numbers. Just this past weekend, while everyone was enjoying a good ass-whooping from a quality organization on Mt. Killington, Superhero announced the cancellation of the Illinois Super Villain and that they were not giving full refunds. This time they made 2 claims, that the local Board Of Health had not yet cleared the site and that their insurance company was not going to underwrite the event due to the potential health hazards of poison ivy. The announcement can be read here. Once again I call bullshit, as does the vast majority of the population, and firmly believe this is a result of low registrations. Quoted from the Lasalle County Public Health Dept. "Individuals from the state health department visited the site on two occasions to investigate possible causes of the rash. During the onsite visit, initial assessment did not reveal evidence of large numbers of chiggers or conditions that support the presence of Cercariae that causes “swimmer’s itch”." "On August 27, 2013 IDPH sent out two Environmental Health Specialists. They were focusing on the presence of chiggers. They did not find any chigger activity from their two testing sites." They went on to state that there were no further reports of new poison ivy outbreaks since the Spartan incident. The area is known to have large areas that are covered with poison ivy, but sprays such as that used by Dirt Runner control the weeds effectively. In addition, Dirt Runner has held several events since the Spartan Super without incident or report of any further outbreaks.
An executive of K2 Insurance, not the insurer of Superhero but an insurer of many other OCR's, stated the following "It would not be uncommon for an underwriter to deny coverage for an event knowing that there has been prior issues regarding the venue location.
It is possible the same company that writes Spartan, also writes Super Hero Scramble. Without the specific declination from the underwriter we can only speculate. The potential exposure to poison ivy would be an “expected hazard,” so it generally would not warrant a declination in and of itself. Knowing that the venue has produced a publicized “outbreak” is enough to make some underwriters uncomfortable enough to just issue a declination. Waivers offer a good deterrent; however, people will still have the right to sue for recovery.
I use several carriers for this type of event. If one says “no” we go to another however, the pricing increase may be significant. Mr. O’Conner may have combined this with other factors to determine it was not worth the potential exposure and harm to his brand.
So IF the insurance company that writes SHS did issue a declination, then SHS has a valid argument. However, it seems like there are plenty of other options that could have been available - e.g. using a different insurance carrier or finding a different venue. I discovered myself that the venue used by Tough Mudder (the hunt club in Seneca) is open for use on Oct 5th as no other events are being held there that day. That could have been a viable option. But regardless, this comes down to the cost/benefit of finding an insurance company that would sponsor this event on grounds that had a known outbreak of poison ivy, and whether the cost of the coverage was too exorbitant to make the race profitable (because we all know that the race needs to make money to continue to survive)."
Sean 'Ace' O'Connor (Founder & CEO of Superhero Scramble) claims "we immediately searched for an alternate venue, however we were not able to find anything suitable" yet many people have stated that the location of the Tough Mudder in Seneca is completely open and available. By the way, never trust anyone that refers to himself as 'Ace'. On the Chicago Spartans Facebook page, Mr. O'Connor recently posted this:
For those of you that are left out on October 5th, Dirt Runner, the location that was to be the Super Villain, will accommodate any and all individuals (for a nominal fee) that were left out by Superhero and have lots of great OCR adventures. Go here for details. I predict this will happen without incident or rash. I also predict Superhero Scramble to be the next failure in the industry. If they owe you money, do whatever it takes to get it while you can and be very cautious about registering for one of their events.