In May of 2015, Mud and Adventure posted its 50 Most Influential People in Obstacle Racing 2015. In the middle of the list were Kevin Jones and Paul Jones (unrelated). Kevin Jones is the founder of the Crazy Mudder Muckers, an Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) community originating in the Midwest region of the United States. Paul Jones is the head of the New England Spahtens (NES), an OCR community based out of New England.
I have known Paul since joining the Spahtens in 2013. I got to know Kevin as OCR Buddy was beginning back in early 2016. Each of them, in their own ways, has allowed OCR Buddy to grow within their groups. Getting to know both of them through discussions and conversations, I began quickly learning how alike they were when it came to the obstacle course racing community. I thought it would be interesting to pose the same questions to the two different Jones’ and test my thoughts. Although from different parts of the country and leading different groups, the thoughts and views are strikingly similar.
With that said and known, this is how we can Keep Up with the Jones(es).
OCR Buddy: How did each of you learn about obstacle course racing and what was your first event?
Paul – My first event was the Spartan Sprint at Amesbury Sports Park, Massachusetts in 2010. It was the second event Spartan Race had held, ever. I ran it with my gym buddies who figured it would be a step above the usual 5k road and trail races that we had just started doing together. They were right.
Kevin – Near the end of 2011, I realized I needed to do something about my health and fitness but needed motivation. I was seeing tons of advertisements for Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Warrior Dash and started to check them out. I didn’t think I could survive Tough Mudder or Spartan, so I registered for the Warrior Dash to be held in June of 2012. I started training in March with the hopes of surviving. I made it through with no problem, of course.
OCR Buddy: After that event, did you get hooked right away or did it take some time to fall in love with it?
Kevin – I immediately looked for the next challenge.
Paul – I have vivid memories of running through one of the final fields, thinking “this sucks, I hate this”. I immediately signed up for three more OCRs, which was pretty much everything the market had to offer at the time.
OCR Buddy: What have you personally learned about yourself from the world of OCR? How did it change your life?
Paul – I’ve learned a lot about my own motivations and drives. It’s tough to nail down, but the whirlwind that is the OCR life can suck you in, and spit you out. You need to understand yourself and what’s important to you to keep going. For me, it’s much less about the physicality and challenge and mud and much more about the people to my left and right. It’s made me a stronger person, physically and more, and understand my own limits and desires.
Kevin – Obstacle Course Racing, not the world of OCR, gave me more confidence under stress, showed me that I’m physically able to push through adversity and age is just a number. OCR provides me with the motivation to stay healthy and active and provides me with an outlet to help people.
OCR Buddy: How did you get involved with your community, how did it start? Then, as a follow up, how did you become the “leader”?
Kevin – At my first event, Warrior Dash Ohio 2012, I found a campground to stay the night before the event. I was by myself because the rest of my friends in their 40’s thought I was crazy. There were several people that I met at the campground that were there for the Warrior Dash. Sitting around the campfire that night, I said, “We all need a good way to coordinate so we can meet up at these events. How about a Facebook group? What should we call it?” Out of the night from across the campfire, a voice said “Crazy Mudder Muckers”. The following Monday I created the group and added about 10 people.
Paul – In 2012, many of us were in Spartan Race street team groups, seeing each other at Spartan events and we decided late 2012 that we’d be better off if we merged the two main groups, the Rhode Island and Massachusetts street teams. We started a brand new independent, New England group. I was an admin in the Massachusetts group at the time but once we merged, it quickly became clear that I had more free time in front of a computer than the others who all had “real lives”. Somehow, they let me run with my crazy ideas. In 2016, the New England Spahtens became a 501c7 organization and I was named the President on the paperwork, but lets be clear, this is not a solo effort. Without people like Sandy Rhee, Jessica Wohlen, my wife Beth Jones and Mike McKenzie and a few others along the way supporting my ideas, shooting down my ideas, floating their own ideas and having them supported or shot down, we wouldn’t be where we are. I do NOT think of myself as a “leader,” merely that I have a specific tool kit, think big, and spend copious amounts of time in front of a computer.
OCR Buddy: How would you describe your community? What do you like the most about it? What needs improvement and what is the future?
Kevin – Crazy Mudder Muckers is a very diverse group of people that are brought together by a common thread, we all love obstacle course events. What I enjoy most about the group is the camaraderie and support everyone gives and gets from each other. Everyone, I don’t care who you are, could always improve on being better humans. The biggest issue with any sort of group like this is the personalities when you get a whole bunch of ‘alpha’ types together. It gets very interesting at times. Our goal for the future will always be to live up to our creed; One Team, Many Goals.
Paul – The New England Spahtens are the family, the social club, the friends you never knew you didn’t have. We have SO MANY stories of people who hopped in the group because they saw us at an event, or they wanted a discount code, or they received a push at a race and then found themselves sucked into a world of humor, fun, support, enthusiasm and love for each other that they didn’t know existed. That social aspect is THE reason I do what I do. Improvements in the future? I want to see more people take more active rolls in making NES tick, and grow and develop. As we open up board positions and as people come to us with new ideas or offers of help, I would love to see people step up and lead and grow and develop the community in ways I, and the current board simply don’t have the skill set to do.
OCR Buddy: Both of you were on the Top 50 Most Influential People in OCR in 2015. Do you consider yourself a leader in the OCR Community?
Kevin – I consider myself to have been very fortunate with my involvement within the OCR community. My goal always has been and always will be about the masses of people and never about individuals. I firmly believe Obstacle Course Racing could save humanity and I will always do everything I can do help expand the industry to the reset of the population. If that makes me a leader, so be it, but I’m not interested in titles or recognition.
Paul – No, I don’t consider myself a leader. However, I do hope to lead people into forming their own opinions, seeing past the smoke and mirrors marketing, being passionate enough to float, share and stand by their own opinions and ideas and growing this world of OCR in new directions. I’ve made my own opinions clear in the past, had some shot down, and defended some, and changed some. I wish more people would do that.
OCR Buddy: How do you see the overall OCR Community in 2017…where is it, where is it going and do you like the direction it is heading?
Kevin – This may upset some people but I see the industry at a pivotal crossroads. I believe the industry is on the verge of being destroyed, at least all that is good about it, as a result of corporate greed and elitism. There is currently way too much focus on 1% of the participants while the remaining 99% pay for it. When the 99% has had enough, they will go away and so will the industry.
Paul – OCR is constantly growing. We had a few years of BOOM, and now we’re in a place where that has stabilized – and now, we’re trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up. I like some of the directions we’re heading in, and think others are going in the wrong direction entirely.
OCR Buddy: If OCR did not succeed, what would be the reason why?
Paul – OCRs downfall will be lack of progress. Stagnation. Events that operate in a region annually need to put their best foot forward each year and have new challenges, fresh coats of paint, no room for screw-ups.
Kevin – The downfall of OCR will come from two angles; 1) Corporate greed – Most of the over 300 OCR companies in the United States, especially the big ones, only care about themselves and their P&L (profit and loss). With their greed to control the universe, or OCR in the United States, they are ultimately shooting themselves in the foot and destroying the potential long-term success of the industry for the short term profits. 2) The ‘Community(ies)’, the 1%, the fanatics and the lunatic fringe will help destroy the industry by only supporting one big company and not realizing there are many other events, especially local events, and by making demands on the event organizers for things like discounts and such.
OCR Buddy: If you had full autonomy and made the decisions, what would be your mandates for the OCR World?
Paul – 1. No date double booking within regions. It’s disrespectful to the enthusiasts who want to support you and the other guys, and hurts the wider OCR audience creating conflict.
- Mandatory completion for all elite level competition. Burpees, penalty loops or other physical penalties are just fine for open waves.
That’s it. OCR is young, and needs to grow organically. Let business succeed or fail on its own merits.
Kevin – My mandates would be simple. 1. Understand that you are the extreme minority and quit acting like you are the center of the universe. 2. Be a good role model
OCR Buddy: I know both of you believe very strongly in supporting your local races as well as the larger ones. Paul, I know you work with the #racelocal event series in the northeast and Kevin, you work with the Ohio Grand Slam Event Series…how did you start that and when did you know how important they were to the OCR Community?
Kevin – I have always looked for ways to help the local ‘mom-and-pop’ events with increasing their participation levels. I have examined things like the New England #racelocal and OCR United. I have always thought that the biggest push the local industry could get is by collaboration and working together. That is where I came up with the idea for the Ohio OCR Grand Slam. First, I helped facilitate getting all of the Ohio based events together and talking. We have been able to coordinate with each other on dates so that none conflict with another. We have been able to get each event organizer to share ideas on marketing and promotion as well has helping to promote the other events. The Grand Slam is simply a marketing push for all the events at once from a neutral party. This enables each individual event to promote the Grand Slam and effectively promote the other events. The greatest part of this is the fact that it’s not limited to just the existing communities and it has no cost to the participant like #racelocal.
Paul – #racelocal started when a community member emailed me with a link to her local running clubs points series and said something like “wouldn’t it be cool if,” and off we went. 4 years later, #racelocal has grown and developed into the leading local OCR support series out there. Yes, I saw it coming. For many years, I’ve been of the opinion that local OCR is the future. There will always be a few big, national or international events, but if you haven’t got a vibrant, varied and active local scene, you will have nothing to fill in the gaps between the “big boys” visiting. Support your local OCR scene, or lose it all together.
OCR Buddy: What are your favorite events to participate in, what is your favorite personal moment in OCR and what do you see in your OCR future?
Kevin – Tough question. My favorite events are the ones that provide the full experience with an incredible location that includes great views, landscape and nature with a great festival area. Tough, but safe and achievable obstacles, with a nice blend of obstacles that may require help and assistance. A great staff of enthusiastic volunteers and photographers also help make a great event. Mud, Guts & Glory was this to me. Unfortunately, it no longer exists.
I have many favorite moments but the most favorite are the events I have done with my sons. Spending such high quality time through difficult situations with them makes all the suffering worth it. I love seeing them achieve and prove things to themselves. I hope that my personal future in OCR continues to take me in a path that I can help the industry grow while helping more and more people achieve their own personal goals through participating in OCR.
Paul – The kind of events I enjoy have changed through the years. Highlights, vary from the first OCRWC, to Polar Bear Challenge at Shale Hill, to Civilian Military Combine next to the Intrepid in NYC, to Born Survivor in the Lake District in the UK with my Dad, and so on. These days, I’ve focused less on my fitness and don’t enjoy the physicality of OCR as much as I used to, but I still show up to support the community, hang out with friends, take photos, fly a drone and be a cheerleader. Time will tell what the future holds!
OCR Buddy: What is the funniest thing you have even seen on a course and what is your favorite obstacle?
Paul – A recent Spartan Race that had big round hay bales to vault as their first obstacle. We’re trotting up to them in a group, and someone who shall be nameless (Steve Russell) broke from the pack, sprinted at the solid wall of hay in front of him. At the last minute, he tripped and took a nose-dive right into it. Fortunately he was totally okay, as I was laughing so hard I couldn’t have helped him if I needed to. His next drill shirt had “Hay Bales” on the back.
I like herc hoists, but most recently, Shale Hill introduced a wheelbarrow with heavy weight plates that I found myself breezing through, while those around me struggled. I like that.
Kevin – Funniest thing I ever saw on a course was at last years OCRWC during the team event on Sunday. It was raining and the course was so muddy and slippery that people were sliding down the mountain on their butts and bellies. There was a person that rode a Wreck Bag fully down the side of the mountain.
My favorite obstacle is the Tyrolean (rope) Traverse. I’m not sure why but I’m good at it and it can be challenging if it’s long.
These two Jones’ are both leaders in the OCR Community. They come from different areas and have different backgrounds. However, they have similar views of themselves in the OCR Community and Obstacle Course Racing as a whole. I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about these Jones’ and as you read it, I also hope you realize that anyone can be a leader in the OCR Community. Be a good person. Be helpful to others around you and more importantly, have fun while you are involved. That is part of what I have learned from these two men and I hope those messages carried through as you were “Keepin Up with the Jones(es).
Keeping Up with the Jones is the first of what I hope will be many “in their own words” columns on OCR Buddy. I have started to reach out to leaders in the community, elite racers and other known personalities to help us all learn about who they are, what makes them tick and get an idea of who they really are. If you, or someone you know, would like to write a piece for “in their own words”, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing your suggestions and thoughts.
OCR Buddy is the first-ever mobile phone calendar and database application for obstacle course racers. It is available for download at the App Store or Google Play and you can visit OCR Buddy on the internet at www.ocrbuddy.com.
Be epic and as always, keep playing in the mud!