Storm - please reconsider hosting ESAR and Storm the Escarpment next year. The Ontario AR scene needs you!
Even Mrs. Storm shares the sadness of the Ontario AR community! :(
Along the same lines, Bob has announced that Logs Rocks and Steel will not return in 2016 due to other work commitments.
Anyone interested in becoming an RD? The ARO schedule is looking thin. :(
Later this evening DontGetLost Adventure Running will be reviewing our race hosting schedule for 2016 as well so that ARO schedule could get thinner (three of our races are part of the ARO series). Two things working in our favour though is that we are a not for profit and we have a very strong adventure running kids program that allows us to take moderate financial losses from our race hosting. However, the cost of map production and the ever challenging time and frustration of getting permits to host races is making it harder to justify. Knowing how hard this process is and knowing the decline in participation taking place - Storm's postponing two races for a year makes total sense.
For us it is especially frustrating when expensive maps are made and then access is taken away only a year to a few years later.
There needs to be a meeting of the navigation endurance community in southern Ontario to figure out a strong way forward. We already share resources (maps, equipment) and co-promote and market together. What else can be done? Collectively how can we develop an attractive series of races?
The current ARO race directors of southern Ontario races rose to the challenge when RTN and ARC racing declined. I'm hopeful this is just a short term blip but the participation numbers are worrying and the competition for the adventure athlete is fierce.
Good news for the ARO series! DGL is keeping our three ARO events running in 2016. While participants are increasingly preferring our Choose Your Adventure Run format with our popular CP difficulty rating we will keep the point-to-point tradition of the Raid the Hammer. The CP difficulty and points rating will be added to the Snowshoe Raid and registration is now open and entries are coming in quickly.
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of navigation endurance sports in southern Ontario and we plan to celebrate that with an extra special Raid the Hammer! But we will need the AR and O communities help in spreading the word about our sport. The new ARO promo video we helped finance is a step in the right direction so let people know about it so that Storm racing, DGL, Wilderness Traverse races can stay viable and let's get new race directors on board for the future!
I thought WT hit capacity?
I would be happy to promote the Ontario events in MI. Sometimes I need reminders if it's not an event I'm going to (I should go, but school year + kid's sport schedule etc etc.) - do not hesitate to send them.
Thanks, Mr. W! And yes, WT's attendance in 2015 returned to its 2011 level, maybe because of the date change. We had a dip in 2012-2014 though - almost 20% fewer racers.
The only thing I've been able to make out is that there's a cycle to this. A big chunk of the core community is 'all in' for a few years, they start to have kids and do less, and then many exit for a few years. The numbers of more mass oriented 'experience collectors' ebb and flow based on what's new / exciting to try (eg. think triathlons, mud races, colour runs, ARs, trail runs, etc.). These folks are in big numbers so the swings are big, too.
I also think that Canada might even have some geographic forces working against these types of events as most are destination-oriented. For example, natural settings and major urban environments are quite one in the same in many parts of Europe and so accessibility is a different animal. Many events (and more importantly, the recreation areas for biking, hiking, paddling) in Canada require a decent drive to get to.
Another force that quite different in Europe is the cost - in short, races are VERY inexpensive to register for; even ones of the most professional execution. Many are organized by clubs only hoping to break even, heavily supported by a local community/government, and race fees are (in my opinion) extremely low for what you get. Again, it's another accessibility topic working against North American events for a host of reasons.
If there's one thing I've learned in the past few years that I would like to have a mulligan on if I were to rewind the clock to the Salomon Adventure Challenge / Raid the North days of the early 2000's, is to learn as much as I could about the motivations and desires of what COULD be the new blood into the core community of the sport. The reason why has more to do with how to continue to evolve the event offer, recruitment strategy, and communication language than anything else. Keeping constant new blood in the sport's core seems to be a critical part of maintaining a strong following rather than focussing too much on chasing mass - eg. think trail running and road biking in Europe. Also, new blood in the core motivates the older members of the core group, pushes the sport forward in a meaningful way, and WILL attract the mass audience. While this mass are large in number, they're fickle and trying to constantly chase them requires money and time, lots of effort, and may compromise the heart of a given event in order to stay relevant with them year after year.
So, to go back to my mulligan, I would have spent more time studying where the core of the sport's new blood were likely to come from (eg. university XC ski teams, trail runners, dissatisfied young triathletes, adventurous-minded paddlers, etc.), organize focus groups to learn about their motivations and what type of communication gets through to them, and find out how to evolve with this new info in mind.
If AR Ontario were to produce shirts with that beautiful logo, I would definitely buy one. It's not much, but shirts would be a little bit of marketing...
I agree with that mulligan, Phatty. These days, we get to play with that a bit through Facebook advertising. We've tried targeting different demographics to see where the message seems to resonate best. But as you say, more could be done outside of social media.
In our marketplace, I don't think the event entry fee is a big issue. When we are able to attract people from other sports to AR or O events, they frequently comment that the price is very reasonable compared to other events they do. I just checked two nearby 5K and 10K runs happening in December - $55 and $50 respectively, and that's not the late fee yet. Compare that with $125 + boat rental for the Regular (after Jan. 1) fee for the 6-9 hour Trek Elite course at Storm the Trent.
But you're right that the costs of travel add up when you head to suitable adventure destinations in Canada. You can do a mud run without booking a hotel. Maybe we need more "gateway drug" adventure events closer to population areas. Or maybe we can just do more to use existing events like Raid The Hammer and the Orienteering Ontario O Cup Series to promote AR.
P.S. Yes, I'd buy that shirt too!
We were going to expand our University based events to a broader public audience... Plan was in 14 to have a race near London but landowner/property issues got in the way. Same thing for 15, the process hasn't been pretty and I can sum it up as a a unique situation (host venue family death)... holding our breath for 16, but I may do something different and go North for 17.
The uni events operate on a $20 membership for a year of racing. Low cost attracts potential student racers who have since raced at STORM events, expanding the community in an under targeted demographic. Turns out, basically every member hasn't heard of AR or O before....
Hammer brought up the point of map production, often overlooked... Our club is run as not-for-profit and as the primary cartographer I can safely state we've only broken even on software cost. I couldn't imagine the cost associated with paying a cartographer for detailed course maps.... Detailed maps present an obvious cost-barrier to would be Adventure Running or Orienteering RD's. GIS knowledge goes a long way.... Being shut out of courses after mapping due to landowner/permissions is defiantly not cost effective. As a Trent example, we're losing AR/O land to development. If mapping was paid, we'd essentially be losing any monetary benefits with each development... now imagine if that was a segment/entire course....
Another note to the discussion of 2016 ARO races. The race I would petition that should be added to the schedule is Race the C.A.T.
in Kingston, 4 hr sprint race. It fills a void in Eastern Ontario between Peterborough and Ottawa. Michelle and Tammie did a great job running it for the first time RD's this past August. And we had a great time racing!