In 2018, I was absolutely thrilled to see Spartan introduce the competitive age group category as a way to address the gap between the open heat and elite racers. This year, Spartan took it one step further and split the age groups into 4-year increments. The group in which racers will compete is based on the age they will be at the end of 2019. I think this is a great opportunity for competitive racers to test their skills against other athletes and have a better chance at claiming that spot on the podium. Also new this year is the fact that competitive and elite athletes wear a red headband to differentiate themselves out on the course. This makes it much easier for course referees to ensure that all obstacles are completed to the Spartan standard.
I had the opportunity to race at the Spartan Sprint in Fort McDowell, Arizona on February 9th. This was my third year in a row racing this course: competing in the open division in 2017, racing age group (30-39) in 2018, and competing in the 35-39-year-old age group division this year. This heat is packed full of insanely strong, quick and talented women. Standing in the corral before the start of the race is quite intimidating, I could imagine many of these ladies competing in the elite division and doing very well. Our heat took off at 8 am, 15 minutes after the elite women hit the course. Our heat was made up of all men and women racing in both the 30-34 age division as well as the 35-39 division. We had a total of 196 athletes in our heat and since the only racers ahead of us were the elites, we did not see too much congestion out on the course. I did, however, speak to competitors who raced in the 8:30 am and 8:45 am heats and they noted that there were many racers who entered the age group division simply to have an earlier start time and not to be “competitive.” This ended up causing some backups at certain obstacles and along the single track trails, particularly during the bucket brigade. This is an issue across all obstacle course races, and unless a race series develops a qualifying event to become a competitive racer, it will continue being problematic. I believe that there should be a form of qualification to be an elite racer, but the competitive heats should remain open to give everyone a chance to test themselves in a competitive circuit.
Overall, I am very pleased with the changes that Spartan has made to the age group category. I ended up placing 4th in my division and will continue training to make that podium at some point this season! If you are on the fence about making the jump into the competitive category, I urge you to give it a try. You will be surrounded by dedicated weekend warriors that will cheer you on and help you to step up your competitive game. I hope to see you out there on the course…..AROO!!
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