Is "OCR" the catch-all category?
Yeah, pretty much. The big ones are Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, and Warrior Dash. Battlefrog is new, but has some serious investors, because they have a slick website and they sponsored the Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl this year, which is one of the big ones.
And now there are women-only ones, zombie ones, ninja ones, urban ones, etc.
I think both Nikolay and Hammer are right. OCR's have the image of being really hard-core, but are achievable by a lot of everyday people (just a lot slower). And then they sell this experience really well by adding a festival atmosphere with beer, music, and camaraderie. If you look at Millennial trends, you'll see that they value "experiences" significantly more than other generations, so if you can give them an achievable great experience, they'll gladly pay money for it and then tell all of their friends about it.
I also think that there's no coincidence that OCR's are booming when CrossFit is booming, since OCR's are great tests for CrossFit fitness. Even the shoe companies know this: Reebok went all-in on the CrossFit boom and that's their primary marketing focus of shoes and apparel. And because Reebok is the title sponsor of the Spartan Race, they make their own all-terrain shoes
that look eerily similar to the Inov-8 line.
And speaking of Inov-8, they too have realized both the OCR and CrossFit booms. Their F-Lite series of shoes gained some traction in the CrossFit communities, and they now call those shoes "performance training" shoes. In 2006, the F-Lite 250 was an "Elite lightweight racing shoe ideal for use on hard pack mountainous terrain."
Now, the F-Lite 250 is for "Functional fitness workouts, CrossFit, weightlifting, running." What a difference 10 years make.
Inov-8 also touts their "all terrain" and "extreme" shoes, and they have OCR athletes, stories, and blogs linked on their front page.
Despite being similar in regards to shoes on the ground, OCR and Orienteering are really opposites everywhere else, which can explain why one is really popular and one is not. OCR looks and sounds incredibly difficult; in reality, it's not *that* difficult, but the feeling of accomplishment (which comes with a medal, a beer, and a party) is worth sharing. Orienteering, on the other hand, doesn't sound as difficult physically; but in reality, it is *way* more difficult. How many of the 21-35 demographic at a Tough Mudder can finish a Blue/Red course at a National Meet? Not very many. Instead of the feeling of accomplishment, it's a failure (and no medal, no beer, and no party), which is not worth sharing.
Oh, what's that you say? Newbie orienteers should be starting on a Beginner Course, not something hard core? Ok, tell me how many 21-35 year-olds are interested in coming out for a 1.5 km course. It's not that much of an accomplishment if you get beat by a 10-year old; and again, no medal, no beer, and no party.
Are there people who like orienteering as-is? Obviously, yes. But the community is aging in most US markets.
Are there more people out there who would like orienteering as-is? Also, yes, but we're just not marketing well. We need to market to at least replacement levels, but I think there's a little more potential than that.
But anyone out there who thinks orienteering is on par with OCR is ignorant to what's happening out there with people's feet and wallets. Orienteering has stayed the same for several generations, and let's face it, is full of baby boomers who started orienteering 30-40 years ago. OCR is the new thing, and Millennials love it, and we're never going to touch that unless we change drastically.