Marathons are so 2009. Well, not really. According to Running USA’s Annual Marathon Report, the sport is continuing to grow. But so is obstacle racing, and possibly at a much quicker rate.
Running USA’s 2014 report of “non-traditional running events” estimates that participation in adventure-type races doubled from 2 million competitors in 2012 to 4 million in 2013. According to ObstacleRacers.com, statistics from the Outdoor Industry Association depict a significant surge in “extreme” event participation with an 85% increase in participation from 2006 to 2010.
Running USA says there are now more than 35 non-traditional race series across the U.S. One of the most popular among them is the Spartan Race. ObstacleRacers.com considers it among their “big three”—what they consider to be the top three races in the industry according to Google search trends.
Since its inception in 2006, more than 1 million people have participated in Spartan Races around the world. This year a Spartan Race will be held every other day and events will take place in 15 different countries across five continents.
Clearly the demand for this race in particular is growing, and Spartan Race founder and CEO Joe DeSena says it’s incomparable to any other adventure or obstacle race out there.
“There are no other popular races. Spartan is treating this like a sport. Others are like mud parties more akin to Woodstock. That’s not in our DNA and that’s not what we’re pushing,” he told me over the phone. “We’re pushing this healthy lifestyle. It’s a human sport; anyone can go out and do it. It’s very welcoming and accessible.”
Of course running across rugged trails, climbing over greased-up walls and conquering cargo nets requires physical fitness that takes quite a bit of training to achieve. Unless you already follow the Spartan lifestyle, you probably couldn’t just wake up and finish a Spartan Race one day.
But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort that it takes to accomplish such a worthy feat, well, according to DeSena himself, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish if you put your mind to it.
With the release of his new book, Spartan Up!, which provides a life strategy for accomplishing anything you set out to achieve by following a few simple Spartan guidelines, DeSena and his team also put together this kit of essential obstacle race gear to help you train for and complete your first (or second, or fifth) Spartan Race.