Adventure Race Hub’s 2nd interview is with race director Toby Evans, the man behind the recently launched Happy Mutant race series. Toby is a long-time adventure racer, having first cut his teeth at Eco-Challenge New Zealand, then continuing on through the various races in the heyday of the sport, including Eco Challenge, Primal Quest, Balance Bar, amongst others. He’s seen the sport at its peak, and then witnessed as millions of dollars left the sport following the infamous. Toby is a man driven to help the sport reclaim its glory and the Happy Mutant series represents years worth of diligent work to make that happen.
ARHub: Hi Toby, thank you for joining me this evening.
Toby: No problem, always happy to talk adventure racing
ARHub: So let’s talk Happy Mutant. You’re launching a nation-wide race series in a few months. That’s nuts. Nobody does that. Even the strongest run race series like REV3 or AXS keep their races to well-established locations in order to maintain a high degree of quality. What on earth is driving you to undertake such an enormous task?
Toby: Well, I’ve seen great adventure races. My very first adventure race was Eco Challenge New Zealand, and from then on I participated in lots of great races. Those races made a powerful impression on me – I’m intimately familiar with what a great race looks like. The loss of those races and the effect it had on the AR community made me want to try and bring it back. My efforts in hosting races here in Iowa, as well as running a gear store, were all cornerstones in building up the skills, relationships, and systems necessary to create and run a national series. 2016 has always been my target year.
ARHub: Okay, so how on earth are you planning on pulling this off? Do you have a network of support staff behind you?
Toby: Ha, um, definitely not. I’ve got a few key supporters providing critical help on the ground at the race locations (shout out to Emma Gossett, Rob Remmers, Mike Campbell, and Jon VonDis!) But the rest is on me. I’ve been canvasing the nation over many years, building relationships with local endurance communities and government agencies. There’s been a lot of driving involved…
ARHub: Holy cow, that’s a serious undertaking. Alright, so give me the quick pitch – Why should serious racers add one of your races to their already packed schedules?
Toby: Well, first off, my races are regional qualifiers for the USARA championship, so that’s always an attractive feature as race teams start filling out their calendars. Besides that, my races adhere to the “3 As”: Affordable, Accessible, and Adventurous. If you look at the typical entrance fee to an Ironman triathlon, it’s about $380. Our races cost $400, so pretty much on par with one the most common endurance “bucket list” items most people have. It’s 1/6th the cost of the big time expedition races like Primal Quest or Expedition Alaska. I’ve scheduled my races to fall on holiday weekends to make it a bit easier for people to fit in the travel time and vacation necessary, minimizing the cost both in terms of money and time.
ARHub: Alright, sounds like some convincing reasons. Why did you pick the areas you did? Why not just expand from Iowa to a regional series, and THEN go national?
Toby: Well, to your first question, I choose the sites because 1) they are tied to historic trails (Utah: the Old Spanish Trail, Arkansas: civil war trails, mail routes, Iowa: the Mormon Trail, Virginia: the Jefferson Memorial Trail, Nevada: Old Spanish Trail, Missouri: TBA) that are just kick ass locations. I cannot wait to hear from racers after they’ve gone through my races, I’m positive they are going to have a blast and 2) because the sport is resurging. I’m confident that now is the right time to provide this type of series to help the sport grow even more.
ARHub: Switching gears a bit. You’re outreach campaigning is impressive. Compared to all the other race series out there, you’re pushing out content across social media constantly. What’s your strategy there?
Toby: So in line with my thinking that now is the right time for the resurgence of the sport, I’ve really doubled down on securing sponsorship in order to fund the race series, provide the kind of coverage expected of a race nowadays, and give my racers some top-notch swag. I’m launching a broad-band network to provide the kind of real-time coverage filmed in Virtual Reality and 360 degrees. As for the social media outreach, well, frankly, the sport has just changed. Magazines don’t have the same reach as they once had. We have to shift our efforts. Most people don’t know me or my efforts as a racer. We’ve got to demonstrate a return on investment to our sponsors, and effective social media contact with racers is one way.
ARHub: What about overreach? How does Happy Mutant prevent itself from becoming like Checkpoint Zero?
Toby: Good question. For starters, we’re in concert with USARA. So we’re tied in with the rest of the community. Second, I’ve got very little overhead. Low startup costs. Strong investments from sponsors. I can easily adjust both forward and backwards, depending on how the first year goes. I’ve made my races all within a decent driving distance of major airports. The gear lists aren’t huge. There’s serious prize money. I’ve got a lot great reasons behind why the races will be a success. I want racers to finish a race and be pissed off that they didn’t sign up in time for the next race in the series.
ARHub: Final question. If you had to identify one specific skill that you could offer up to the rest of the AR community, what would that be? Toby Evans should be known as Mr. X?
Toby: I guess I would call myself Mr. Logistics. Between all my liaising with agencies, local communities, and national brands, I’ve learned the hard way how to get a race up and going. I’m good at thinking outside the box, something adventure racers are naturally inclined towards anyway.
ARHub: Well Toby, you’ve got me convinced. I’ll see if I can put together a team and get down to your Las Vegas race. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me and best of luck!