Run the Jailbreak is an off-the-grid adventure run covering 3.1 miles and 16-20 muddy, wet, fun-filled obstacles. The Jailbreak Series is becoming a Texas institution, with events in Dallas/Fort Worth, South Padre Island, Houston, and Austin. Plus, the series will soon be expanding to cities beyond Texas.
Q&A with Tim Scrivner, Co-Founder of Run the Jailbreak
Why did you decide to create a Mob event?
A buddy of mine convinced me to sign up five months in advance for the inaugural Warrior Dash in Texas. I couldn’t believe we had to register so early for a 5K, but some waves were already sold out. I had put on local 5Ks in my community and when I saw the promo video for Warrior Dash, I knew this was something I wanted to do. I studied that video and soon after put together a course for Jailbreak. We began marketing in May 2010 and had our first event that September at DFW Adventure Park in Roanoke, Texas. We were the first large mud run to follow the inaugural Texas Warrior Dash and we received a huge turnout for a first-year event.
“ACTIVE is the benchmark—the 800 pound gorilla with registration technology.”
How quickly did you expand?
In 2011 we moved into the Austin area because we already had business connections there. Since the other co-founder, Craig Laughlin, and I both own other businesses, we were determined to not put our personal money into the events and decided to allow each event to fund itself and see where it might lead us. It was important for us to be smart about where we expanded and not jump blindly into a new market.
Bringing on Jeep, Anheuser-Busch and the National Guard as series sponsors for 2012 allowed us to take Jailbreak into new markets. We soon expanded to South Padre Island and Houston and we’re looking at more cities in the coming year. We will keep most of the locations in Texas and immediate surrounding states because those are the areas we know best.
How big is the staff that helps you manage all of the Jailbreak events?
We have a year-round staff of about 4-5 people and a group of 20+ core volunteers that work directly with the 100+ volunteer organizations that help make each event happen.
I want to stress while we’ve come out of nowhere in three years, we are not your average Joes. We have paramedics, firefighters, and SWAT team members on our staff and we’ve organized endurance events before. We are experienced, safety conscious, and focused on making sure the participants have a great time.
You mentioned safety. Just how important is it in Mob events like Jailbreak?
Safety is our #1 priority—we are hyper vigilant about it. We put in the time and the research on the back end to make sure we are fully able to offer assistance when needed. Thousands of people run these events. Throw in mud and obstacles, and it’s more important than ever to take care of them. The margin for error in these types of events is very slim.
Have you seen an increase in registration numbers?
Our numbers have remained steady over the past three years. We average about 5400 runners per event, which are one day only. Our first year we did a two-day event for 10,000 participants (about 5,000 each day, on par with our average) and we swore never to do two days again!
We want to grow but our priority as we got started was to be consistent. Until this year we’ve never done mainstream marketing. It’s been grassroots…lots of social media. We engage people online with conversations and giveaways (for example, the best caption on a picture wins a free entry). We’ve been able to grow our following organically and now about 23,000 people “Like” us on Facebook. That may not seem like a lot, but our fan base has grown primarily through organic sharing and word of mouth, as opposed to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook ads.
What do you think are the differences between your Mob participants and traditional 5Kers?
The biggest difference is that 90% of our Mob participants are non-competitive. They are there to have a good time. In fact, about 15-20% are folks doing their first 5K ever.
Our event gives people a reason to get healthy. People are more likely to train to do a unique event than they are to do it for pure fitness reasons. We aren’t an intense Mob race where participants have to sign death waivers and expect to get completely beaten up. We are more about fun and inspiration. We have one guy who volunteered the first year of DFW and weighed over 500 pounds. Jailbreak gave him something to aim for and in 2011 he actually ran our DFW event at 360 pounds. He’s still at it—he’ll be running this September at around 240 pounds.
How do you differentiate Jailbreak from the other Mob events that are springing up?
Our theme is unique. It’s all based around the idea of breaking free and we really promote that. Breaking free from the monotony of day-to-day-life, from a regular 5K, or from anything that’s holding you back. Our tagline is “Get dirty, have fun, do good.” We partner with local charities for every event because we want to have a significant impact on communities that host us. We’ve raised money for everything from sea turtles in Padre to fresh drinking water in India. This is a big deal for us and our participants appreciate that we put our charities at the forefront of our messaging.
Quality is the other major differentiator for us. We put on a well-organized event and we make sure our participants are safe. Plus, we are always adding something new and fun – like a 180-foot water slide. It’s just plain fun and it’s a great experience.
Do you see a lot of socializing around Jailbreak events?
Jailbreak isn’t officially a team event, but people form their own teams anyway. We usually see 8-10 person teams and it’s obvious that this is a fun social activity that is best enjoyed with friends.
There are a lot of conversations on Facebook before and after the event. And we try to make everyone a celebrity with cool photo opps at the finish line (for example, you can take a picture behind a cage with a sign that says “I broke free”). We get the sponsors involved and really encourage people to share photos and experiences.
How long have you been using ACTIVE’s race management software?
Since we began in 2010. We tried out another registration company for our Padre event but immediately returned to Active. We were expecting 1500 people in Padre and it blew up on us. We registered 2500 participants and had to start turning people away. It took a ton of man hours on our end to fix things within the registration system and handle the participant communications. Active takes care of registration problems instead of leaving us to deal with it, which is a huge plus for us.
Why did you choose ACTIVE?
ACTIVE is the benchmark—the 800 pound gorilla with registration technology. The company has the most proven commodity and the biggest consumer database.
Has an event listing on ACTIVE.com helped you?
Yes.ACTIVE.com is where everyone goes to find an event they want to do. Our listing there puts us in front of participants.
Do you use the reporting features?
We use reporting features ALL THE TIME. The other company we tried did not have the back-end tracking that ACTIVE offers which was a problem. We need those reports.
What advice would you give to other Mob event directors?
The biggest thing to understand is that it’s not as simple as throwing up a website and people will flock to your event. You have to put in the work and prepare to support thousands of people. When we put on our first Jailbreak event, we had years of experience organizing traditional endurance events. For us, it was just using our experience and contacts to transition to a different style and larger crowd. New event directors need to be prepared for this type of participant and make their event safe for them.
"We are experienced, safety conscious, and focused on making sure the participants have a great time."
Co-Founder, Run the Jailbreak