Over the weekend, myself like many in the obstacle racing world turned their computers on for the first Spartan U.S. Championship Race. For the week leading up to the event, Spartan Race promoted the live coverage of the event on YouTube, Facebook, and Spartan.com. Many wondered what the coverage would look like and how it would be received my the often fickle obstacle racing audience.
When I talk about ultrarunning or obstacle racing to the lay public, a frequent response that I get is a look of shock and awe, then the question: “Why?” Sometimes it comes with some clarification like, “why do you do that to yourself?” or “why do you pay for that?”
Since I’ve been on a roll talking about location in my last couple of Op-Eds, one about Do World Championships Need to Move and My Solution to World Championships overseas, I figured I would round it out with one more on location. This one is not about the World Championship but rather the Mecca of OCR.
The Tough Mudder Head Quarters (TMHQ) has been very busy the past week or so talking about their new event series and many other updates to their season. Between the World’s Toughest podcast, a Facebook live Q&A and a website update, there has been a lot of new content in a lot of different sources.
Last month I posted an article about, “Do Championships Need to Move?” Check it out if you haven’t read it yet. I assume at some point one or all three of the big championship events (OCR World Championships, World’s Toughest Mudder or Spartan Race World Championship) will move overseas.
If running were always as simple as "just run" then it would be simple enough for all of us to "just run", right? Instead, we add GPS, PR's, Pace, VO MAX, Negative Splits, Tempo Runs, Fartleks, Hill Repeats, and even #$^%* Wreck Bags to the mix in order to keep running interesting. To put it another way, running apparently isn't crazy enough for some of us by itself, somehow "runners" need to make it completely over-the-top insane to keep motivated. WTH?
I am not going to assume that everyone reading this knows what the sternum checker is, so here are some photos. You’ll notice immediately that there is a wide variety of things called “sternum checker,” but this isn’t an op-ed about standardization of obstacles. Not yet anyways.
January 2017 marked the end of an era as the Tough Guy Race in the UK put on its last event. In reading about it and watching videos I began thinking about the idea of “Toughness” and how this notion of being “tough” or at least trying to teach this attribute has actually spawned the entire industry of obstacle racing (OCR). In fact, this belief that an OCR is basically a sport of suffering is eloquently described in detail in Scott Keneally’s documentary Rise of the Sufferfests. Tough Mudder has doubled, actually quadrupled down on this idea with their creation of the Tougher Mudder, Toughest Mudder, and the World’s Toughest Mudder events. The question is what does it really mean to be “tough”?
2017’s OCR Championships line-up is scheduled to be the same. World’s Toughest Mudder will be in Las Vegas for its fourth year, Spartan Race in Tahoe for its third year and OCR World Championship in Blue Mountain Canada for its second year. While some were ecstatic at the news, others seemed disappointed hoping for a new venue. I even heard several “Well it has to move overseas otherwise it is not a real world championship” and "They need to change locations next year."
Spartan Race is a physical and mental challenge. It is also a test of one’s character. The rules of Spartan Race are tough, but clear. No outside assistance. No cutting distance. Attempt every obstacle. If you fail an obstacle, do 30 burpees. Fail the burpees? Resign from the race. These clearly stated rules make the completion of the race an intense challenge, and victory a true accomplishment. This is no “fun run,” this is a test of your overall fortitude, and you pay to endure it.