Filthy 150 Sells Out in Triumphant Return from Pandemic
Ireland’s top CrossFit competition has sold out even as pandemic restrictions continue to frustrate the organizers innovative plans.
The Filthy 150 is set to take place on October 21 and 22 at the DKIT Sports Arena. It is the first time since the pandemic the Irish CrossFit community has come together.
Remind me: The community has always been at the core of the Filthy 150. They have an enormous community competition, which has 1,200 athletes spread over four competition floors competing simultaneously.
The spectacle lives long in the memory for anyone who sees it and it even eclipses the elite competition, which has seen the likes of Sarah Sigmundsdottir and Justin Mederios.
- “It’s not so much about winning. It’s more about participation”, said Darnia Dunne, one half of the couple who organizes the event. “Obviously, we have very high calibre athletes win. We have Games athletes on the podium and we link in with competitions like WZA and Atlas. But it really is about participation and getting your community behind you.”
That kind of community centric rhetoric is easy to say. But when push comes to shove, organizers would be forgiven for prioritizing the big names and the interest they generate.
But push did come to shove for the Filthy 150 this year, and Dunne and her partner Jamie chose the community.
Diving into the backstory
The pair had an innovative new plan to host a unique elite CrossFit competition based on the F1 Drive to Survive Netflix documentary or The Ultimate Fighter series that saved the UFC.
But their normal venue is still being used by the government as a vaccine center. The DKIT Sports Arena is not big enough for both the community event and the new concept, so they were forced to choose.
- “So, we sat down as a team and asked what was more important to us. The reality is, we started the community event, it’s our genesis,” Dunne said.
The new concept was based around camps. A bit like F1, in which an individual driver can win the race and their team can also win points by the second driver ranking high.
The CrossFit teams would be made of four individuals, competing on their own and accumulating team points overall.
Crucially, the teams would live together for the week, returning each night to their camp. A series would follow the teams as they live and workout together.
- “You’re in a house, you’re young and good looking. This could turn into Love Island,” Dunne joked, comparing it to the hit TV show in which men and women couple up in a luxury villa.
- “I remember watching a documentary about the UFC, and they were 44 million in the hole. They were doing everything and it wasn’t working. They did the Ultimate Fighter and it took off.”
Dunne’s concept had traction. There was interest from elite teams, Reebok had agreed to sponsor the new concept. But last year, Covid-19 forced them to put the idea on ice and this year, with the lack of large venue due to the vaccine center, they cannot introduce it yet.
Filthy 150 inaugural event was in 2013, and the pair have always sought to innovate. They invited boxes to send five athletes.
- “They all send teams and then we allocate them a group of spectator tickets to make sure they come as a clan,” Dunne said.
The next year, they doubled the number of competitors to 300.
- “It was the same weekend Taylor Swift was playing and I was chuffed we sold out quicker than Taylor Swift.”
In 2019, the Filthy 150 became a sanctional. Dunne was surprised that a small event in Ireland would win a place among the sanctionals, especially as there was another sanctional over the water in the UK.
- “But talking to the team at CrossFit, the reason was because we had such a large community element,” she said, which is ensured by the ticket allocation.
They had 7,500 spectators and a million views on the live stream. The event started on Friday night to make sure it felt like a “party”, with beers flowing in the crowd. It was sponsored by Guinness, Paddy Power, Aer Lingus and Rebok.
Justin Medeiros announced himself with his first major win. He was “lovely”, said Dunne, and so was his family.
Despite the success, the Filthy 150 did not make any money. Dunne had known they probably would not profit but had signed on to be a sanctional for three years and planned to be making money by year three.
But then the CrossFit Games decided to change its format again, and do away with Sanctionals.
It was frustrating, but in the adversity, Dunne and Jamie saw another opportunity to innovate.
They teamed up with other sanctionals and pitched CrossFit.
They planned on an ongoing league. Of the 11 events, elite athletes agreed to compete at a minimum of five. Their results would put them on a leaderboard, with an overall winner at the end of the season.
- “So, there was a compelling story each week, they’d have the up and down drama, fans would get to see the top athletes, and it wasn’t all compacted into a short period. I thought it was a strong idea, CrossFit decided to go in a different direction. The reason I tell you that is to show, we like to innovate,” Dunne said.
The big picture: The couple are constantly dreaming up new ideas. They have considered levels and divisions, or scale events with handicaps.
- “What I’ve discussed here may not be what we do next year. We could be sitting post-event and thinking, well what were thinking,” Dunne said.
The perpetual innovation stands them in good stead to grow, and their commitment to their community grounds them in a fertile soil. Next year, the Covd-19 constraints will hopefully be a thing of the past and the Filthy 150’s imagination can run wild.
- “If I said I wanted to win an Oscar now, my husband would say OK lets make a plan, even though I can’t act,” Dunne added. “We wouldn’t say as a couple something is insurmountable. When CrossFit said there would be sanctionals, no one said a small event in Ireland would become a sanctional.”