Spartan Race is a magical experience. You truly get to channel your inner-warrior and put your limits to the test. I love Spartan Race for this and have done nearly 40 events with them. But what if “putting your limits to the test” was also a test of your bladder strength? Is this acceptable?
Imagine this scenario: you are running your first Spartan Race. You are nervous. Maybe your intestines are, too. Coffee never helps. You're about to pass mile five, and you still have a good 3-4 to go. You spot a port-o-potty off in the distance. You are ecstatic and relieved. You run towards it, only to find out that these port-o-potties are zip tied shut. Okay, well this is strange. “Why put them on the course if no one can get inside?” You think in your head. You walk over to the volunteer station and explain that you are about to explode and need to get inside to take care of business. You are told to go sh*t in the woods.
As appalling as this may sound, this has been the norm for the past few years, as I found out via volunteer forum. On-course port-o-potties are secured for staff members and volunteers ONLY. I’m sorry but WHAT IN THE WORLD kind of backward logic is this?! Why are we being reduced to sub-human standards of living? This surely cannot be accurate. Well, unfortunately for many venues, it is.
I will start by saying that my hopes in writing this article it is not to attack Spartan. As barbaric as this is, there are always two sides to every dilemma, right? Spartan staffers have explained that if 5000+ people used these toilets, they would be full and destroyed by Saturday afternoon. The port-o-potties are rented out from Thursday to Monday for course set up, racing, and course breakdown. This means that there must be some limit to how many people can use them, according to Spartan Staff. While I can understand the concern, surely the best solution cannot be to deny all racers access to toilets? From a woman’s perspective, I am shocked. Spartan Race, have YOU ever had to change a tampon with dirty hands in the middle of a forest? Because I suspect you’d react differently as well.
Former volunteer and racer Erica P. explained to me how volunteers do not have a say in the matter. “It's the Spartan staff that tells the volunteers that racers cannot use them. I got reamed out when a staff member saw me let someone in. They make us zip tie them shut now and only ‘unlock’ them to use them ourselves. They say it's to keep them clean for staff and volunteers since they have to last through setup to breakdown.” While all that does make sense, Spartan Race is a multi-million dollar company.
Can they really not afford to just bring in more portable toilets?
And how long has this been going on for?
Why hasn’t anyone challenged the issue?
Over the last few days, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with dozens of men and woman regarding their concern. While some people are more adamant about change than others, I can safely say that we all are hoping for some sort of resolution. Long time Spartan Hurricane Heater, Avian L. Moores agreed to a formal interview, and she brings up several very important topics.
“My husband and I are original Spartan Race Hurricane Heaters from 2011. The first time I was told to ‘use the woods’ was by a volunteer at Mt. Killington Beast in 2013. At first I thought she was kidding, then she got really serious and I whispered to her that it was my monthly time, and she responded with ‘there are plenty of spots to sneak into in the woods, go pick one.’ Tahoe in 2015 I had the same issue. At mile 11, 6 hours into the race I had to pee so bad and change my tampon and I asked the volunteer if I could use the port-a-potty and he told me if I went in it that he would cut my band and disqualify me.” She went on later to discuss the different reasons people race, and why it can be safe to assume elite runners wouldn’t be affected by a lack of toilets, but that the average racer, the ones who are fiscally responsible for the majority of Spartan’s revenue, are being disrespected by this, as well as the venues.
“I’m not sure these venue hosts know that people are pooping, peeing and putting bloody tampons all over their property. This is disgusting, unsanitary and blood will attract numerous animals. There are thousands of people going to the bathroom on the courses and my dignity is important. We race for recreation and I feel like it’s unacceptable, demeaning and inconsiderate to tell female racers they have to squat in the woods.”
Another female racer, who preferred to remain anonymous, brought up another very valid topic while sharing her story.
“It was Monterey, I was on my cycle and needed to change my tampon. The volunteer told me to use a tree. Monterey is overgrown with poison oak so there was no tree that I was able to take care of that out of sight of runners. I had to continue the course until I found an area with a trail off course and away from poison oak, but we all know there is a risk of toxic shock syndrome if tampons are left in for too long.”
Toxic shock syndrome, by definition, is a sudden, potentially fatal condition. It's caused by the release of poisonous substances from an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, which is found in many women's bodies during menstruation. It is unfair to expect a woman who is having her period to be forced to wait to relieve herself. In regards to keeping this article as unbiased as possible, I conduct that men wouldn’t want to experience the same pain, even if it’s simply just pain from having to “hold it” for too long. It’s disrespectful to expect that from any human being. Yes, we are Spartans, but no we should not be forced to live like animals against our will.
Another woman went on to suggest this:
“Racers also need to remember that it's not all adults running Spartan. My teenage daughter runs too. I don't feel comfortable with her having to squat behind a tree or deal with her monthly hygiene needs in bushes.”
Would you want your teenaged daughter feeling vulnerable and exposed in a race full predominantly of men?
A concerned runner, Tiana Snow from San Diego county concluded this:
“I'm also wondering about environmental impact. As a backpacker and a mother of an Eagle Scout, I know there are rules about how to properly dispose of human waste even in wilderness areas. It has to be a certain distance away from water sources (streams, lakes, etc) And a certain depth in the ground. With no porta potties, you have the potential of several hundred to a few thousand runners having to relieve themselves all within the same area.”
Are you grossed out yet? Are you also trying to think back to the last time you accidentally opened your eyes under the dunk wall? Well, I sure am.
I will conclude this article by reminding readers that I genuinely enjoy participating in Spartan Race, and don’t see this changing anytime soon. I love OCR as a whole and thoroughly enjoy the competitive aspect Spartan fills us with. It is a great company and it has accomplished a lot in the few years it’s been in business. I suspect we can come together to find a solution, as Spartan is still a fairly new company and seeking growth. The 2018 season is about to start, and I’ve been hearing from more and more people that they no longer plan to race with Spartan due to the increase in costs and decrease in performance. Spartan Race HQ, if you are reading this, I am coming to you for help. Help us help you.
You are losing so many dedicated racers to competing brands, such as Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Conquer the Gauntlet, etc. Is it too much to ask for some privacy when doing our business? While we might aspire to be treated as true beasts and gym rats, we are not animals. It should be our decision if we want to relieve ourselves out on the course or in the privacy of a portable toilet.
Please treat us as humans. Please help us prevent infections. Please help us treat our environment with care. Please leave us with hope for the future of this company. Please make us feel proud to call ourselves Spartans.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of Mud Run Guide LLC, or their staff. The comments posted on this Website are solely the opinions of the posters.
You do know that Spartan isn’t the only brand that doesn’t have toilets on the course, right? I’m totally away of how this article originated. I read all the comments on FB including the ones asking for people to interview. I get it. I’ve been the volunteer at the toilet. I’ve been a racer that sure wished I had one. I cut the zip tie off of one because my daughter needed to use one. BUT … this article is totally directed at Spartan and trying to pretend it’s not doesn’t fly. I have done many other races that did not have toilets anywhere except in Festival. Spartan is not unique in that.
Can you tell me which companies you are referring to? And if these companies are of greater or equal distances? Thank you! 🙂
Honestly it is so much bigger than even this. Elite racers get stomach aches sometimes too. And at Ultra Beasts not having a place to pee even at transition puts women at a disadvantage. This is a huge Spartan issue and one I can get behind. Thanks for making this way more public- it needs to be heard.
26 or 27 races later, I am done with SR. I will always be a Spartan and grateful for what it has done for me, but the costs are getting ridiculous and this porta potty issue is an issue. oh well………
I had to deal with doing 2 beasts on my period and it pissed me off that they just can’t designate one potty for female races. So they want me to change In the woods I did and I left all that crap out there, last time I had to use the woods I got poison ivy thanks Spartan I’m pretty much over your races. You don’t take care of the people that are paying good money.
I appreciate this articaI appreciate this article and am glad this is being brought up. I love spartan race but I do think this is an issue. When you are running 15-20 spartan races a year, you can not just schedule your race calendar around your cycle so you bound to have the two overlap. Hopefully spartan can read this concern and many others and adjust accordingly
Come on seriously? Think about all the portos you see in festival. How long are those lines? Now take.. say half of those and put that amount on course. You know most of these courses aren’t in the easiest places to get to? How do you think you can get 45 portos to the top of a ski mountian (because let’s face it, if it’s 1 mile in it’s not helping anyone. ). Also .. cheap portos are 80 bucks .. spartan can. Afford them for sure but it just impacts an already increasing price. Look I hate these guys just as much as the next person but come on go after something legit like unoriginal obstacles, or back ups on course or lame venues … Not the fact that you can’t change a tampon on course.
I would like to add that the ‘phenomena’ of portos on the course is very recent. Volunteers had to wait to be driven to relieve themselves. This is great for volunteers and Spartan. I really don’t see the ‘inconvenience’ in taking it to the woods. I carried a glove and bag for my monthly disposal and carried it to the nearest trash can.