I am Spartan!

Obstacle race rises in popularity by welcoming all


Photo By Cathy Smith via Flickr

Spartan Race participant hurdling over fire in Ohio, 2016.

Brianna Figueroa, Staff Writer

Imagine your adrenaline rushing as you and your competitors gathering at the starting line. As time counts down, the announcer shouts out, “Who am I?” The crowd of runners shouts back enforce and in unison, “I am Spartan!.” You see runners tremble with anticipation as the announcer shouts the question,  “Who am I?!”  Their answer rises in a swell all around you,  “I am Spartan! AROO! AROO! Let’s race!” Suddenly, the throng of athletes surges forward, heading into one of the most challenging races of a lifetime, a competition that will test most of it’s participant’s physical and mental capabilities beyond any course they’ve run before.

This is the starting scene for just about any Spartan race, an endurance challenge known as much for it’s welcoming approach to newbies as well as it’s grueling torture for fitness maniacs. It’s a race uniquely tailored  for the elite, the competitive, and the everyday person. There are a variety of Spartan Races consisting of three different lengths and sets of obstacles. Within each individual race competitive levels, there offer varying expectations and challenges.  The elite level of difficulty is meant for athletes who want to compete with the best of the best and competitors must meet those criteria to prevent disqualification. The competitive level serves as a middle point for the participants who aren’t in top form but still want a challenge. The open level is intended for just about anyone else who shows up. There is a separate Spartan Race for kids on its own individual course ages 4-14 which ranges from about half a mile to two miles with obstacles as well.

The obstacles range from hurdling over a fire, jumping eight-foot walls, and carrying sandbags up steep inclines. After recently becoming one of the most mass participated sports in the world, public interest has surged even more. The Spartan Race has a reputation for being fun, open to all while providing a grueling test of the agility, grip, endurance, and strength.

The shortest adult race is called a Sprint which consists of three or more miles with 20 plus obstacles. The Spartan Super is eight or more miles with about 24 obstacles. The Beast is 12 plus miles with 30 or more obstacles. The most challenging race is called the Ultra Beast and is 26 miles with an unfixed number of obstacles. Rules are simple for the Competitive and Elite levels; any failed obstacle will result in a 30 burpee penalty.

Obstacle course racing can trace back as far as the 18th Olympiad in 708 B.C., this created the modern day pentathlon. A pentathlon is an event comprising five different events for each competitor, involving fencing, shooting, swimming, riding, and cross-country running. Spartan Races began in Vermont of the year 2010. The concept originated with Joe De Sena a former athlete, who hosted his own races called The Death Race which primarily consisted of extreme military style survival courses. He used his own rules, but tried to never lose touch with the original ancient Spartan traditions. As result of high popularity it has begun to spread all around the world into countries such as Canada, Spain, and France.

Wondering if you have what it takes to enter your first Spartan Race. Yes? Let’s take a look at the typical steps participants take to prepare. Often people begin training at least months in advance. Training comes in many styles varying on each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Many competitors begin the process by running to improve your stamina and thought this allows them to withstand the distance of the race, they cannot train on flat terrain. Decreasing time while running at various elevations prepares them for courses in the mountains where Spartan Races are most often held. For all races, increasing grip and upper body strength is crucial considering most obstacles will put this to a lengthy full body test. Interval training is employed to introduce fatigue while improving mental toughness. Even attire is carefully considered. Avoiding cotton is the best to keep your skin from getting irritated and avoid weight after going through water. Versatile, durable shoes are important as well. The better the tread the easier it is to run up hills and scale obstacles like walls.

These races all culminate at the annual Spartan World Championships where the top athletes compete to fight to be the Spartan World Champion. Anyone can go participate in the World Championships with the exception of the Elite division of the competition. The only way to qualify for the Elite division is by earning a Spartan Coin which is given to top five competitors in each event, with the addition of the top 50 athletes around the world based on rankings.

Olympic dreams have also arisen from the rising popularity of the Spartan Races. There is a push for some version of the obstacle course to become an Olympic Sport in the Summer Games of 2022. A live television broadcast of Spartan Race and Tough Mudder has added to the momentum. Viewers have now sparked a high interest in the sport itself and wanting to see more of these types of races.

Spartan Racing has been very beneficial for anyone wanting to compete and test themselves from the lowest to the highest level of athleticism. If you think you’re up for the challenge, signing up is very easy you go to Spartan.com and pick your location and sign up for what race and division you want to compete in. The races are found all over the country so joining a race will be easy, the entry fee starting at $94.