Much has also been said about what needs to happen to get to that next plateau. Right now the races are primarily made up of casual participants who do one or two races a year and don't really know much about the sport outside their own experience. I think most observers accept that to move to the next level, it's going to take fans. Somebody has to want to watch this stuff! People are going to have to develop a serious interest in the elite/professional racers. They're also going to need a way to see the races in real time. Believe me, seeing a Facebook post that says they started, then another that tells you they finished...and who won...is not particularly exciting.
It also seems to make sense that the current racers and their friends/families are the most likely place to start recruiting fans. So what you need to do is to get people excited about racing, outside of their own race. Excited about the courses and about the sport of OCR in general. But what happens if you turn off these racers? What happens if their own experience is not up to expectations? It seems that the last thing you need is to send a once enthusiastic racer home with a negative experience. There is nothing like a satisfied racer to spread the word to family, friends and colleagues.
So what does this have to do with the VT Spartan Beast? Having the dubious distinction of being on that course longer than almost anyone else, I heard a lot of conversations and comments from racers. The name of the sport is Obstacle Course Racing...with the emphasis on Obstacle. Introducing long climbs into most of the races became the norm for Spartan Race. But only lately had the climbs begun to overshadow the obstacles. I heard these comments about the Super Spartan in NJ and the Sprint in PA. I know that what attracted me to the sport in the first place was the fact that it was all about obstacles...not running. But this race didn't have the feel of an obstacle course race...the climbs were overly long and detracted from the "enjoyment" of the competition. Many racers said they would never run a Beast again. Well, I can understand that sentiment...from several different perspectives, but I've never heard people saying that before, on any Spartan course.
Then the question that comes to mind for me is "if the casual racer is not thrilled, who exactly were they building that course for?" Obviously Spartan Race always tries to outdo themselves to build the toughest, most challenging course anyone has run. No doubt many of the elite racers, who are in unbelievable condition, found the course tough as well. Tough to them though means slower, not impossible. But if your goal is to provide a positive racing experience for as many people as possible, then this is not doing it. And losing potential supporters/fans is certainly not going to bring you closer to the goals of expanding the sport...let alone becoming an Olympic sport. You have to keep focused on, and understand, why people race and compete and what they are looking for. Because if the racers aren't satisfied and they aren't coming back, you'll never build a substantial fan base.
The fact is, what typical racers are looking for is different from what the hard core Spartan racer and Spartan Race itself seems to want from a race course? What the typical racers want are obstacles...not tortuous climbing. That's what they were sold in the early races and why many have continued to race. A difficult course is great...as long as the obstacles were the main focus of the course. If people want to do endless running they would do marathons or cross country. Of course maybe that's just me. Time will tell though I suppose.