in: Fitness, Health & Fitness, Podcast

• Last updated: September 29, 2021

Podcast #237: Rise of the Sufferfests

For the past several years, you’d be hard-pressed to scroll through your Facebook feed, especially in the summertime, without seeing some of your friends posting pictures of themselves at the finish line of a mud run or obstacle race. Events like the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, and Tough Mudder have become well-known parts of the modern recreational scene. Many of you listening have probably done one yourself.

But why exactly have obstacle races, known as OCRs, exploded in popularity in recent times? 

Why do millions of affluent suburbanites pay as much as $200 to have their bodies bruised and banged and sometimes subjected to extreme cold, electrical shocks, and even tear gas?

My guest today has spent the past few years exploring that question and he’s made a documentary sharing the answers he’s found.

His name is Scott Keneally and his documentary is called Rise of the Sufferfests. In today’s show, Scott and I discuss how the little-known origins of obstacle racing can be traced to a farm in England, how enterprising businessmen turned that idea into a multi-billion dollar industry, and the cultural forces that have provided the soil for obstacle courses to grow so rapidly. We also discuss the criticism levied at obstacle racing and what Scott thinks the future holds for OCRs.

Show Highlights

  • How Scott got interested in obstacle course racing
  • The number of people taking part in OCRs today
  • The eccentric, handlebar-mustached Englishman named Mr. Mouse who kickstarted the OCR phenomenon in the 1980s
  • The intense legal dispute between Mr. Mouse and the founder of Tough Mudder
  • Why social media has played an important part in the rise of OCR
  • Why our modern feelings of anomie and restlessness propel many people towards OCRs
  • Do OCR’s scratch a primal itch within men to be manly?
  • The criticisms that have been levied at the the OCR industry
  • Are OCRs even that profitable?
  • The future of OCR (hint: it might be an Olympic sport someday)
  • And much more!

Resources/Studies/People Mentioned in Podcast

Rise of the sufferfests poster.

If you’re a OCR diehard or just curious as to why people will spend a $100 to get beat up, then check out Rise of the Sufferfests. It’s extremely well-done, fun to watch, and enlightening (and I’m included in the film to boot!). It’s available for download on iTunes. As well as Amazon and Google Play.

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Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. For the past several years, you’d be hard-pressed to scroll through your Facebook feed or Instagram feed, especially in the summertime, without seeing some of your friends posting pictures of themselves at the finish line of a mud run or obstacle-course race. Events like the Warrior Dash, Spartan Race, Tough Mudder have become well-known parts of the modern recreational scene, and many of you listening have probably done one yourself. But why exactly have obstacle-course races, also known as OCRs, exploded in popularity in recent times? Why do millions of affluent suburbanites pay as much as $200 to have their bodies bruised and banged and sometimes subjected to extreme cold, electrical shocks, and even tear gas?

Well, my guest today has spent the past few years exploring that question, and he’s made a documentary sharing the answers he’s uncovered. His name is Scott Keneally, and his documentary is called “Rise of the Sufferfests.” In today’s show, Scott and I discuss how the little-known origin of obstacle-course racing can be traced to a farm in England, how an enterprising businessman turned that idea into a multi-billion dollar industry, and the cultural forces that have provided the soil for obstacle-course races to grow so rapidly.

We also discuss the criticism levied at obstacle-course racing and what Scott thinks the future holds for OCRs. A really fascinating podcast if you’re a fan of obstacle-course races. After the show, be sure to check out the show notes at for a link to the documentary on iTunes, as well as other resources to delve deeper into this topic. All right, Scott Keneally, welcome to the show.

Scott Keneally: Thanks for having me on, man.

Brett McKay: You just came out with a new documentary about obstacle-course racing called “Rise of the Sufferfests.” This is an interesting topic for a documentary. What led you down the path of exploring things like Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, et cetera?

Scott Keneally: It was a bit of a wayward journey, to be honest. I’m a journalist, and I kind of approached it initially as I just thought I’d write a one-off comedic essay about doing a Tough Mudder from the perspective of a beta male, like a self-proclaimed wimp who trains up and tackles the horrors of a Tough Mudder and writes a funny essay about it. My background or my heart is in, I guess, confessional storytelling, but while I was doing a little bit of background research into [inaudible 00:02:58] for that essay, I stumbled upon a little-known scandal surrounding the origins of Tough Mudder. There’s a lawsuit between Tough Guy and Tough Mudder.

I very quickly thought that was … There’s a very compelling story there about IP theft, and it had this kind of social-network vibe to it, so I kind of reinvented myself as an investigative journalist and spent … I pitched a story to Ed magazine, and after about a year of reporting and writing and rewriting, it landed on the cover of Outside. That led to an opportunity to work with 60 Minutes developing a segment about obstacle-course racing. At that point, I was so deep into this world and so fascinated by what I had seen that I thought maybe I should just stick with this. I always loved telling stories. I always loved film, so it was kind of a natural fit to try to tell this story about this community and this phenomenon with film.

Brett McKay: Let’s talk about the industry of obstacle-course racing because this is something that didn’t really exist 10 years ago. There was probably a few, but it’s just blown up in the past 10 years. Can you give us sort of a bird’s-eye view of what the industry looks like, I mean the size of it and how fast it’s grown in the past decade?

Scott Keneally: In 2009, I think there were maybe an estimated 50,000 people who were running one of these types of events. Maybe 7,000 people, 8,000 people over in England doing Tough Guy, but it wasn’t really until Tough Mudder came along and Warrior Dash and Spartan Race in 2009, 2010 that it really kind of exploded. It’s hard to get real actual numbers of the number of unique participants per year, but I would estimate that there’s upwards of 5 to 7,000,000 worldwide who will do one this year in 2016. So we’re seeing massive, explosive growth over a very, very short period of time.

Brett McKay: Man, that is nuts. There’s also not just the big races. There’s a lot of small, regional ones or local ones that have started, as well.

Scott Keneally: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there are thousands, literally thousands of different races across the world. We hear obviously about the biggest ones, but there are all sorts of local, really amazing, small community races that people just put on out of passion. Yeah, there’s a lot of opportunity to explore different types of experiences and brands.

Brett McKay: Right. Let’s talk about one of the smaller ones that most people don’t know about, but you make the argument that this was the race that started it all. The inspiration for this obstacle-course-racing explosion we’ve seen in the past 10 years, it’s called the Tough Guy. It’s in England, and it was started by this really eccentric guy with a handlebar mustache named Billy Wilson, also known as Mr. Mouse. Can you tell us a bit about Mr. Mouse and this Tough Guy race, how it started, and why it started, and when it started?

Scott Keneally: It started back in 1987 in January. It’s in the Midlands of England, and so it’s very, very cold that time of year. It started off very simple. It was a cross-country course with lots of water obstacles, which, of course, were miserable because it’s January in England, hay bales. Over the years, it really gradually grew organically, and he built bigger obstacles. It kind of evolved in that way. He’d just come up with these crazy ideas and execute them. In 1999, he added electricity to the course, which was pretty unheard of. What’s so interesting about this is we take it for granted that Tough Mudder has electricity on a running course, but 15 years ago, that is absolutely insane and was so far out there, and he got so much flak for it. People really thought he was nuts.

Why he did this? He has a military background, and he thought it was a fun way for people to get into shape. Also, he wants to teach people about war and remind people of the horrors that our ancestors have gone through. I think part of that is somewhere he believes that if we experience the horrors of war, we may be less inclined to go to war. As you know these days, there’s no expectation that any of us will ever have to fight in war, so he’s giving us kind of a taste of these horrors so we have maybe more empathy, more understanding for the struggle.

Brett McKay: Right. How did it inspire Tough Mudder, because you talked about it earlier, that there was this sort of IP battle between Tough Guy and Tough Mudder? Can you give us a little bit of the story there and the controversy?

Scott Keneally: Sure. Will Dean, the CEO of Tough Mudder, was a Harvard Business School graduate, and he studied … He reached out to Mr. Mouse and said that he wanted to do a … help Tough Guy essentially expand to the US and do a business-school study. He got some intellectual property, if you want to call it that, from Mr. Mouse, and he didn’t work with Tough Guy to bring it to the US. He instead started Tough Mudder in the USA.

Mr. Mouse felt like he had been ripped off and that Will had infiltrated his company and stolen trade secrets. Will obviously saw it differently. He was sued, and they settled after a pretty bitter legal battle. They settled for $725,000 that Will paid to Tough Guy. At the time, Tough Mudder was a pretty small brand, so that was a lot of money, but within a couple of years, Tough Mudder became a $70-million brand. Tough Guy, at this point, is still just kind of hanging on.

Brett McKay: Yeah, let’s talk about that. Why is that? Why is it that the race that started all the races, why has it not done so well, while others have done so well?

Scott Keneally: A lot of it … It’s Mr. Mouse really. I think he’s the … First of all, he has no commercial awareness or marketing sense. It’s not really what he’s after. I don’t think his end goal is to make a lot of money off this. It’s not. I think he’d like to teach people through this experience, and so the branding is kind of all over the map. It’s not that scalable because it’s a permanent course on his farm, so it’s not like he is running these races all around the world.

Quite frankly, from a business standpoint, when you look at that farm, Mr. Mouse doesn’t use a computer. He doesn’t have very many MBAs in that office, to say the very least. He doesn’t have any. It’s a real mom-and-pop shop over there. It’s really the charm. It’s what I love about the event, is it feels very raw and old-school and not commercial. That’s what I really gravitated towards. It felt like a throwback to another era altogether. Yeah, he’s not marketing savvy, and he really never could have scaled this thing up.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I thought it was funny in the documentary. You talk about there is a Tough Guy newsletter, but it’s an actual physical newsletter. It’s sent in the mail, no email marketing, and he just writes about his donkeys and why donkeys are great.

Scott Keneally:  Yeah. It’s the Jenny Lane News. It is so bizarre. There are all these stories that kind of have nothing to do with them, whereas, I mean, you look at Tough Mudder. They have social-media campaigns. They have millions and millions of Facebook followers. Tough Guy, after 30 years almost, and obviously Facebook has only been around for 6 years, Tough Guy has like 35,000 followers. They don’t really have any understanding of how to use social media to leverage it for their own good. Yeah, the Jenny Lane News is this quarterly newsletter that he said that he spent $60,000 on postage one year recently to send it out to people. He gets in there like, “What the hell is this?” So it doesn’t really … but it’s again part of the charm. It’s very quirky. The man is wildly eccentric. He’s just stripped right out of a Daniel Day-Lewis movie.

Brett McKay: Right, yeah, he’s sticking to his principles. It’s the principle of the thing. Let’s talk about this, because this is the whole … This is what your documentary is about. You’re trying to figure out why obstacle courses are so popular. I’ve done it before. We’ve talked about this because you interviewed me for the documentary. I’ve done obstacle-course races. In fact, I just did one last weekend called “Conquer the Gauntlet” here in Tulsa.

Whenever I’m doing them, there’s always this weird existential moment when I’m in the middle of the race doing a really hard obstacle, climbing under barbed wire, and there’s smoke, and I’m thinking, “I paid 100 bucks to do this?” When you talk big picture, we’ll get into the details later on, but what are the big driving forces that have made obstacle-course racing so popular?

Scott Keneally: I think part of it is … It’s hard to … If there were no photos, if there was no Facebook and no ability for people to post photos, I think you would see much, much lower numbers. I think social media, by and large, is a big motivating factor, the ability to brag and show your friends that you’re this brand of tough. Granted, there’d still be people, as there were 20 years ago, doing Tough Guy. There’s still going to be that segment of population that wants to push themselves like this, but the ability to humble brag is, I think, a factor.

Then, I think, a lot of people are realizing they’re missing something in their life. We’ve created these digital worlds in which we spend so much time looking at screens, and we’re not really connected to earth. We’re not outside. We’re not working with our hands. We’re not overcoming challenges. I mean, it seems like the whole, by design, modern life is meant … is we’re working to remove every single obstacle, from like groceries delivered to your door. It seems like everything is pushing us towards not having any kind of challenge, and I think that ultimately people feel unfulfilled. When they do these things and they have this kind of sense of achievement just crossing the finish line, it’s kind of a revelatory experience for them. I know it was for me.

Brett McKay: Yeah, but why not marathons or weight training? What is it about the obstacle-course race that you feel that you get a sense of achievement that you can’t get with other activities?

Scott Keneally: Yeah. I mean, marathon running is, I think, boring. Sorry to all you runners out there. Let’s just say boring in comparison. It’s not boring compared to other things. I think people want to be in shape, but they want the experience of getting into shape to be fun. These things are like adult playgrounds. There are some obstacles like … Tough Guy has these massive A-frames that are … They look rickety. They feel old, and here you are climbing up over these 40-foot behemoth obstacles and walking on ropes across them and diving into mud pits. I mean, it just feels like we’re playing cowboys and Indians as kids.

Brett McKay: What’s the breakdown in gender in obstacle-course races? Is there more men than women who take part in these things?

Scott Keneally: Yeah, again, all the numbers are really kind of hard to get real stats, but I believe it’s around 35% female. I looked at this as a masculinity crisis. That’s one of the things that I explore in the film, and yeah, I think for a lot of men, this is a chance to do manly things that they don’t really ever get a chance to do, but it doesn’t really explain why there’s so many females doing this. There’s obviously … It’s not just a masculinity crisis. There are a lot of women in mud.

Brett McKay: Yeah. What is driving the women, then, if it’s not just about men not feeling manly?

Scott Keneally: I think some of the other things would be just a loneliness and a disconnection that we feel in the digital age. We’re very, very connected, but we’re not really that connected. We don’t do things in groups. We don’t share communal experiences. We interact a lot through the internet, and I think when … There’s this maybe longing for social, real-time, human interaction. That kind of community and camaraderie is a big draw for a lot of people.

Brett McKay:Right. Going back to this whole masculine crisis you talked about, that was one of the threads throughout your documentary. You were talking about how, when you were about to have your son or you had your son, you wanted to make sure … You had this moment where you were like, “Am I manly? Am I going to be a good role model or father for my son?” As you did these races, did it help you capture that feeling? Did it help you become a better man?

Scott Keneally: Yeah. There’s a point in the film and in my life when a few things hit me at once. I had failed miserably on a crowd-funding campaign to raise money for this film. Then on that day that the campaign ended, sort of ended, I ended up quitting a Spartan Race, a 3-mile Spartan Race, totally my spirit broken. Burpees had kind of broken me, and I just didn’t feel like I could go on. I didn’t feel like I could finish a 3-mile race. I was 2 miles into it, and I was just gutted.

Right after that, I find out that I’m going to become a dad, and I was terrified. I couldn’t finish a race. I couldn’t make this dream of making this movie happen, and I felt like, “And now I’m going to become a dad.” That fear is what really kind of motivated me to want to at least steel up mentally and physically by training and going to CrossFit and taking my physical health more seriously and trying to instill some grit in myself and take on some of these races and conquer them, so I could feel more capable and competent as a man.

I would say these races, definitely for me, changed my life in a really great way. The thought that … As I quit that 3-mile Spartan Race, the thought that one day, in a year and a half, I would go out to the desert outside Las Vegas and in 20 [inaudible 00:19:03] 50 miles at a Tough Mudder was incomprehensible to me, to that man quitting that Spartan Race. I think it’s really only because of these kinds of events and my fear of fatherhood, all that kind of, I guess, transformed me.

Brett McKay: Are you still doing them today? Are you a regular Sufferfest attendee?

Scott Keneally: Yeah. That’s one of, for me, the beauties of these events is that they happen all year round. I probably do about one a month, and I like just having it on the calendar, that I can look forward to and train up for. Right now, I’m training for my second crack at the World’s Toughest Mudder, which is in November. I’m running and doing CrossFit specifically to be ready for that event. Yeah, I can’t foresee a time when I would quit these, and I look forward to doing them with my son someday.

Brett McKay: Right. Just so everyone knows, I do provide a bit of dissent in the documentary, but I do the obstacle-course races and I enjoy doing them. I’m just sometimes curious about why am I doing this? What’s the cultural thing that’s driving me to do this? I guess, I’m ambivalent about obstacle-course racing. I mean, I’m trying to be thoughtful about why I’m doing this whole thing.

For more criticism about obstacle-course races, I recommend you all check out an article that my wife’s uncle, who lives in Vermont, wrote for us a few years ago. He’s a sort of scraggly, Yankee Vermonter who did a Tough Mudder with some family, and he kind of gave his cranky Vermonter description of the experience. If you’re looking for that, you can check that out on the site. It was pretty funny.

One of the criticisms that he talks about, and I’ve seen levied at obstacle-course racing, is how hyper-commercialized it’s become. I went to the Spartan Race a few years ago, and I was just amazed about all these different things the Spartan Race has to offer now. It’s not just a race. You can go sign up with a Spartan Race trainer. You can go on Spartan Race cruises. There’s Spartan Race racing shoes. Was that another criticism you came across when you were doing the research for this documentary?

Scott Keneally: Well, I do appreciate your voice of dissent or a healthy measure of cynicism in the film. You’re not alone. Mark Morford is a culture critic for the SF Chronicle, and he found against it. He questions the motivations of people doing this. Also, he sees it as an extreme form of white privilege, that we go out there and we get tear gassed just a little bit, but in this safe, kind of controlled environment. That was a recurring criticism that I would hear, is we’re just playing army. You can walk off at any point and get a beer, but you feel like … You want to pretend that you’re playing army. Then obviously the narcissism of it all. It feeds into that whole “Me” generation. Here we are posting photos of ourselves. Some people take it really way too far, and they get very culty and, I guess, self-righteous. There are those elements in any community, really, where they just take things too seriously.

I think, for the general public, we can come across as … People outside this tribe might not understand why we do this. There’s this line that J.C. Herz, who you interviewed for your … I actually encountered her through your podcast. It didn’t make it into the film, but she’s talking about CrossFit, and it also applies to OCR. She said that CrossFit was the first thing that made her empathize with evangelical Christians, because when you feel like you have found it, of course, you want to tell everyone about it. I think a lot of people who find obstacle racing, it’s such an extreme thing and this little subculture, that they broadcast it maybe a little bit too much, and it can rub some people the wrong way.

Brett McKay: One of the other criticisms I’ve seen levied at obstacle-course racing is how hyper-commercialized it’s become. I went to a Spartan Race a few years ago, and I was amazed about all the different things Spartan Race has to offer now. It’s not just the race. You can sign up with a Spartan Race trainer. You can go on Spartan Race cruises. You can buy Spartan Race racing shoes. Was that another criticism you came across when you were doing the research for this documentary?

Scott Keneally: From you, absolutely. Sure, but the way I look at it is, yeah, they’re absolutely trying to build lifestyle brands and empires, but ultimately selling something that’s hard to sell, they’re selling pain, I think the ends in this case justify the means. These races are very, very expensive, to put on a travelling global event. Why shouldn’t they be able to market it and recoup costs and get sponsorships and …? To me, everything in our world is so sponsored and commercialized. You can’t drive down the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles without having ads in your face in every direction. To me, it doesn’t feel any more egregious than just life in Western civilization. You know?

Brett McKay: Right, right. There will be podcast ads in this podcast, just so you know, so there you go. You make an interesting point, because I think a lot of people don’t understand this. They see these companies. They’re making bookoodles of money. Tough Mudder is a $70-million-a-year company, but what I don’t think a lot of people realize is that they’re not making much profit. These things are really, really expensive to put on, not only building the course, but insuring it and all that stuff.

Scott Keneally: Right, of course. Then the money they … Back in the day in 2009 or ’10, Tough Mudder most definitely benefited from dirt-cheap Facebook ads. It was very easy back then to reach potential customers. Now, to run ad campaigns, it’s obviously very expensive to hit even a fraction of their 5-million Facebook fans apiece. There’s a lot of marketing costs. There’s a lot of insurance costs. There’s a lot of …

Then they’re building multiple properties. Spartan Race has a TV show on [inaudible 00:25:10], and they also have one on NBC Sports. Tough Mudder, they’ve just announced a TV show on CBS, The World’s Toughest Mudder, which will debut, I think, on Christmas Day and air throughout 2017 on CBS Sports Net. They’re becoming these multi-media businesses, and there’s a lot of costs to scaling these things up.

Brett McKay: Right. Speaking of that, the idea of the cost to scale these things, what’s the future of obstacle-course racing? Let’s talk about this first. Do you think it’s going to continue to grow, or is this some sort of cultural trend that will peter out? It’s not going to grow much more, but it’ll still be with us in the background, sort of like CrossFit?

Scott Keneally: It’s a good question. I feel like, well, globally, this is definitely growing and spreading and picking up rapidly in markets. In the US, I believe Tough Mudder is probably level at the moment, and I think Spartan Race might be growing incrementally, but those days of the explosive, massive growth, we’re not going to see that unless, let’s say, my documentary touches some nerve and a lot of people see it and feel inspired to do it, like, in the way that, let’s say, “Born to Run” had a … There was a massive spike in ultra running after that book came out.

Short of some kind of miracle like that, I don’t see … A lot of people have made up their mind that we’re crazy. Say, for every one person who does obstacle racing, we have 5 or 10 friends who think we’re crazy. Those 10 or 8 friends, whatever it is, have made up their mind they would never do it. I think this film might have the power to demystify mud and bring cynics into the space, thereby growing the sport, but short of that, I don’t think it will go away because I feel like it fills … It scratches an itch. Quite frankly, I feel like this is a symptom of a society that’s out of step. This wouldn’t exist 50 years ago. This doesn’t exist in parts of the world where there are daily challenges. It’s a symptom, but it’s also kind of an antidote. It does scratch the itch that people are missing.

Hanna Rosin, who’s in the film, she wrote “The End of Men.” I’m sure you’re familiar with her. She had this pretty interesting insight. She said she’s from Israel, and she didn’t think Tough Mudder would hold any appeal in Israel because military service is mandatory, and Tough Mudder is just kind of like the background of your life. When you’re in high school, you go on these adventure training sessions, and she just didn’t think that that would … that this … They wouldn’t need this outlet, but because of the way, at least, our life is structured now, we kind of need this outlet.

If the zombie apocalypse comes, no one’s going to be paying do a Tough Mudder. If things happen in the world around us and we have life changes because of global warming or whatever, this will go away, but other than that, I kind of feel like it’s here to stay. I also think Spartan Race could build this into an Olympic sport. I would not be surprised to see obstacle racing in the Olympics in 10, 20 years.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I know that’s one of Joe De Sena’s goals. Do you think he’s actually going to make that happen? Do you think people will actually want to say like, “I want to go to a Spartan Race and watch”, or is it one of those events in the Olympics where people aren’t really watching, but it’s going on and it’s got some legs?

Scott Keneally: Well, it’d have to change completely for it to be an Olympic sport. You’d have to get rid of a lot of the things that make Spartan what it is, but I could absolutely see this. Spartan Race has some of the very best athletes in the world competing at the levels for money, and it’s exciting to watch. I’d be surprised … I’d be more surprised not to see this in the Olympics in some form than to see it because you’re testing your entire body in these fast-paced race formats. It’s kind of the modern decathlon, in some ways.

Brett McKay: Right. Talking about the financial viability of obstacle-course races, is it getting more expensive to put these on? Is there this expectation that they have to be even bigger each time, and because of that, it’s squeezing out the local and regional races?

Scott Keneally: I think, in general, yeah, a lot of those … There was a time where people saw the success of Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, and everyone was putting on their own obstacle race. A lot of those have kind of shaken out. Even some big brands that came in with a ton of money, like BattleFrog … They came in with … They have a show on ESPN now. They came in with millions and millions of dollars, but they came in late, and they had trouble branding. I’m guessing they must have lost $5 million, at least, over the past couple of years.

They had $1 million in prize money last year for the elites. They sponsored the Fiesta Bowl. They’re the title sponsor for the Fiesta Bowl. They just threw hand-over-fist money at this, and they couldn’t ever get any traction. They had under 1,000 people at these races. It’s very hard for … The little local races will continue. I’m sure they have their local followings, but it’s hard for brands, at this point, to really … There’s not much room in the industry. People know what they like, and they do those events. Like Savage Race, Tough Mudder, Spartan, Rugged Maniac, Warrior Dash, they seem sustainable to me.

Brett McKay: I feel like the few times I’ve been to Warrior Dash, it hasn’t done as well the past few years.

Scott Keneally: I went to the Warrior Dash World Championship to see the athletes, but I have not done a Warrior Dash. Yeah, that’s a brand that I don’t think is … They’re scaling down, as opposed to up.

Brett McKay: They have, yeah. It’s not hard. It’s like that fun … like the beer thing. You go and you dress up. You have a beer. I guess people want more. They want something more like an actual challenge.

Scott Keneally: Yeah. It’s a good gateway, and it has been for a lot of people. A lot of people would do a Warrior Dash first because it seems less intimidating, but as people realize that Tough Mudder and Spartan Race aren’t that impossible to do, they’d probably want the social currency that comes with those brands, as opposed to maybe a Warrior Dash.

Brett McKay: Right. Scott, let’s say there’s a guy listening to this, and he’s saying to himself, “I want to try an obstacle-course race.” What’s the best way to train for one? This is coming from a guy, let’s remember, that does one a month. What’s the best way to train for these things?

Scott Keneally: I’ve become a fan of CrossFit, and I love trail running. I mean, I’d run, and I’d do CrossFit and the different grip-strength things that come with that, like pull-ups. But at the very basics, I’d be doing burpees and running. That will get you to the finish line.

Brett McKay: All right, that will get you there. Burpees and running. Okay, that’s all you need. Well, Scott, where can people watch the film?

Scott Keneally: On iTunes. You can download it on iTunes. It’s available now.

Brett McKay: Well, it’s a great film. I got to watch it. I also make an appearance, so if you want to check myself making a fool, go check it out. Hey, Scott, thank you so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Scott Keneally: Thanks, Brett.

Brett McKay: My guest today is Scott Keneally. He produced, directed “The Rise of the Sufferfests,” a documentary about obstacle-course races. It’s available on iTunes. You can find more information at Also be sure to check out the show notes at Well, that wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at If you enjoy the show, I’d appreciate it if you give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, whatever you use to listen to podcasts. It helps us out a lot. As always, thank you for your continued support, and until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.

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