Thursday, October 9, 2014

Spartan Race - Method Behind the "Madness"?

Sometimes, things really aren't quite what they seem to be.  And the more you consider it, the more you come to realize, there may be real genius behind it!

A couple of weeks ago I read a post about the Spartan Race Vermont Beast (Relentless Forward Commotion) and it got me thinking.  (Well, a lot of things get me thinking...but I digress!)  Every obstacle race, Spartan race in particular because of the dreaded burpee penalty, is subject to racers cheating or, in their minds, simply skipping the brutal parts.  And no, I'm not talking about the elite racers here at all.  That's a whole different story...with no shortage of posts, FB rants and drama.  When you're racing for money the rules are the rules....period. The fact is though, that Spartan Race has been having to deal with two diametrically opposed markets for a few years now.  After all, in the end it's a business and you have to keep your customers happy....all your customers!
Vt Beast 2013 gps map courtesy of Paul Jones

In the first group, you have the serious non-elite racers looking for the next challenge.  They may be running a few races a year (and if they show up for the Vermont beast, multiple races is all but guaranteed!) and they're paying too much money to be running a course that "I've already done.......twice!".  Personally, I almost skipped the Spartan Sprint at Tuxedo this year for that very reason.  (Spartan Sprint at Tuxedo.....Round 4.....Expecting the Unexpected).  I mean, how many times can you get a thrill proving yourself on the same mountain?  If you don't change up the course and make it a bit more challenging for these racers they'll find something else to do.
On the other hand, the casual weekend fun-racers don't want or need to do 30 or 6o burpees for any reason.  They came out to have fun, do some serious physical activity and go home with the shirt, the medal and the experience of running a Spartan race.  So skipping burpees or obstacles that are too difficult lets that weekend racer enjoy the course without the pain and suffering that most old-school racers got into this for in the first place.
Of course, for the racing purists, cheating is cheating.  But then again who cares?  What's the difference, if there's no money on the line?  The only real impact I guess is on the rankings.  Someone who skips the tough stuff and wimps out on the burpees (ok, so I'm a bit old-school!) will almost certainly have a better time than those who did them.  And that does get reflected in those daily race rankings.  Well, good luck figuring that one out.  There's always a way to deal with any issue but the question becomes, is it worth it?  Fact is, the racers who skip the burpees are probably only running one race a year anyway, so their times won't do anything but mess up the finishing places for that day.

So in the end, what we may actually be left with is a brilliant move by Spartan Race (or possibly a "New Coke formula" stroke of luck...who knows?).  But by not enforcing the rules they are, in a way, meeting somewhere in the middle.  Serious racers can do all the obstacles, the penalties and know that they've truly completed a tough course.  At the same time, the casual racer can have some fun and feel a sense of accomplishment without having to endure the STFU punishment typically associated with a race.  Can't help feeling like this is a win-win...and the old-schoolers will have to get passed the fact that some people are just not that into "embracing the suck"!

For those interested, here are my thoughts on what Spartan Race was thinking by building such a brutal Vermont course in 2013 (Vermont Beast - 2013 - And Who Were They Building This Course For Anyway?!).  Now, I'm off to the Everglades for some relaxing photography work.

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