Dear Spartan Race,
How’s it going? You had a pretty great year, it would appear. More races, a killer location for your World Championships and NBC seemed to be really heavily promoting your races on tv. Heck, even in my neck of the woods, Northeast Pennsylvania, you added a Super and managed 3 days of races. I’m happy for you, really I am.
We’ve been companions for 4 years now. I’ve completed 6 races, 5 of which were at Palmerton, one of your (self-proclaimed) toughest courses. But I’ve not been exclusive, I’ve run other races. I’ve done Warrior Dashes and 5k’s. (side note:There’s even a 7k at a nudist resort near Palmerton that has me intrigued. It beats a naked Spartan Race…think of the superbug that would grow on the top of the walls. Yeah, exactly.) My greatest accomplishment, though, was the Scranton Half Marathon this spring. For someone who was never a runner, and picked it up just to start Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) that’s a huge milestone.
Spartan Race, they’re exploiting some of your blind spots and I hope you start paying attention.
They out-after party you. Bands, things for spectators to do, food, beverages…especially the grown up kind. They give people a reason to stick around, talk about the race and solidify their plans to do it again next year. Oh, and they tend to have seating/tables/picnic areas!!! You give a medal, a banana, maybe a protein drink and a free beer. Good luck finding a seat. I know, you’re not trying to be one of those party races. It’s not about that; it’s about my close friend and I getting together from opposite sides of the state and having time to BS about the race. It’s about my lovely wife and amazing daughters having something to do and somewhere to sit outside the blazing sun for the 3 hours I’m on the mountain. My loved ones stopped coming, and crossing the finish line hasn’t been the same since.
Your Obstacles need to respect the rest of us. The sport is evolving and you need to challenge your elites. I know, I’ve read the recaps of the 2015 season…the good and the bad. I’m telling you that your obstacles aren’t as fun as they once were. Say all you want about mental toughness and pushing people beyond their limits. A 1.5 mile hike up slippery, rocky terrain isn’t fun for the people who are your bread and butter: weekend warriors/desk jockeys. We can’t run it, can barely hike it, and turn our ankles so many times we just get frustrated. Add some modifications to obstacles that require more technique and skill as well. The Z-Wall is a great candidate: you need good technique and a lot of your Sprinters don’t have it. Instead of making it a burpee-fest for people who were couchpotatoes 8 weeks prior, make it a little easier for them. Their self-pride will translate into a registration for next year. Finally, some complain about putting a bunch of obstacles near spectators and having long stretches of nothing. If that nothing isn’t the aforementioned terrain of Mordor, I don’t mind. What I do mind putting high-failure obstacles at the end of a race. Look, I want to finish strong. I don’t want to fail the rig in front of my family…but I’m gonna, and It’s going to suck for me and I’m not going to finish with the high I would have had. Seriously, you’ve had your way with me for the past 4 miles…let this last hill be the cab fare and breakfast before I leave.
Finally, get off the mountains. The Citizens Bank Park race was more fun than a Warrior Dash. I loved every minute of that race…and you had me lugging a sandbag and running up hundreds of steps. I’d have done 10 miles of that! I think you need to get away from ski slopes because they make it too easy to give into the vocal idiots who tell you any given race was too easy because they didn’t soil themselves. I’m always up for a challenge, but even your WODs and suggested training don’t prepare me/you/us for the races I’ve experienced. Ditch the ‘the mountain is the obstacle’ idea, because it’s a crutch. I’ve seen 5 and 10ks done on trails, paintball sites, parks and lakes. You’ve done events in Times Square! Be the true innovators in the sport and find ways to bring it to cities and towns and public areas.
Also, it’s going to make it easier for spectators and camera crews to see more. I suspect you have a pretty good percentage of racers who started as spectators, right?
This post comes from a place of frustration. In 2014 I did the Palmerton Sprint and the CB Park Sprint. You know what I’m going to say….how am I supposed to view those medals? In your eyes, they’re equal…red piece of the Trifecta. In reality, they’re not even close. In 2012 your Palmerton announcer said “we have a mini-beast here” when discussing a Sprint…your ENTRY LEVEL race. I know each race is different and will have its own challenges, but I’m seeing a distance and suffer-creep that really bothers me. Don’t play to ones who feel the need to lug tires the whole way or whine that the sandbags weren’t heavy enough. Give them a tape measure to pass around so they can settle what they’re really concerned about proving to one another.
You’ve got me for at least 3 more races. I want that trifecta in 2016 and I want my wife and daughters to be there (maybe with medals of their own) to celebrate with me. I’m not asking for easy races…challenge me. I’m just asking that you think about what I have to say. I’m someone who wants you to succeed, not someone who wants to use you to prove how tough he is to his ‘brahs’.