More than Mud - Scott Keneally

More than Mud is an article and interview series dedicated to documenting the incredible characters and stories that we come across in the world of OCR and outdoor adventure and endurance racing events. They range from everyday heroes to extreme athletes but all have unique and engaging stories to tell. 

About Scott:
As both a journalist and participant, I’m entrenched in the muddy, masochistic world of obstacle racing. I’ve been reporting on the industry since the summer of 2011, when a Tough Mudder promo video scared me senseless. My adventures have taken me halfway across the world, and been featured in my local alt-weekly, national magazines and on Showtime. My investigative feature about the scandalous origins of Tough Mudder made the cover of Outside, and led to an assignment with 60 Minutes Sports. I’m currently working a feature documentary about the ’Rise of the Sufferfests.’

As a filmmaker and journalist, what do you find most captivating about obstacle racing? 
There’s always been a certain subset of the population that’s drawn to the kinds of physical or psychological extremes you encounter on an obstacle course.  But what I find interesting about this phenomenon is, the masses are paying for pain. Everyday people who never would have imagined themselves doing anything like this — let alone loving it — are.

As a participant, what draws you to OCR?
Initially, it was for the story. I love writing essays about awkward or uncomfortable experiences, and the story about a self-proclaimed Beta-male tackling a Tough Mudder seemed like a funny topic. But it didn’t take me long to realize that the event was tapping into something much deeper. From the atmosphere at the start line, to the feeling at the finish line — and everything in between and beyond — I felt hyper connected. To the strangers around me. To my six-year-old self. To “the moment.” And I've experienced this kind of connection at all kinds of different OCR events. Which brings me to another thing I love about the industry: variety. Though there’s obvious similarities with any OCR brand, each series strikes a different chord: fun, fitness, fear and such.

When did you decide to make the documentary, Rise of the Sufferfests, and why? 
I started working on the film in the spring of 2013. At the time, I’d been interviewing Mr. Mouse for 18 months, and found his life story so fascinating, I thought I might like to write his biography. But he’s the kind of character who is so unique and eccentric you have to see it to believe it. And since way more people watch movies than read, I figured the best way to champion his legacy was to make a film. The film is much bigger than Mr. Mouse at this point, but he’s the moral center. 

Why do you think we have seen the rise of the sufferfests?  Do you think they came around at the right time fill some sort of need of society?
Those answers —and more! — coming this fall. 

OCR has so many crazy and interesting characters.  If you could sit any 3 of them down together and roll cameras for an hour who would you pick?
I love the rivalry between certain athletes, like The Sheriff and The Bear. But for obvious reasons, I’m going to have to go with Will Dean, Mr. Mouse and Joe Desena. That would be something.

Who is the most incredible athlete you've been around?
Amelia Boone. I’m endlessly amazed by her ability to dominate this sport while working 60+ hours per week as a lawyer. It’s incredible

Has anyone blown your mind recently? 
Jonathan Albon from the UK. I’ve been hearing about him for a while from my friend James Appleton, a 3x Tough Guy champ. But I was pretty surprised when Albon came over and won both the Spartan and OCR World Championships. I was not, however, surprised to see Albon win Tough Guy this year. The kid is on a tear. 

What advice do you give aspiring writers and filmmakers?
Get ready to suffer. Making a creative living is not for the faint of heart. 

How did you develop a "marketable perspective" on the world? 
Let’s wait and see how the documentary does before I discuss my “marketable perspective.” :)

Tell us about your new commitment to STFU.  What are you doing differently? 
CrossFit! I took it up a couple months ago and much to my surprise, I’m punch drunk on the Kool-Aid. As you may have read, I’m not the kind of guy who easily embraces high-intensity interval training. So I’m psyched that I found something that motivates me day in and day out.

What are the biggest changes you've experienced since having your first kid?
I don’t spend nearly as much time dicking around on Facebook. I’m a hell of a lot more focused when I’m at the computer. Also, I know I want to be a highly active and engaged father, strengthening my commitment to STFU. 

Where do you see the sport of OCR in 5 years?
I expect it will continue to grow and evolve. I don’t see this phenomenon fading anytime soon. 

Where can people learn more about your projects and support your work?  
For now, they can follow the film on FB and Twitter, and sign up for our mailing list. But next month, when we release our first official trailer and launch a microsite, there will be more info on how to get involved. Also, I have a personal website which I irregularly update. :) 

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