Spartan UltraBeast – Should Others Be Renamed

Ultrabeast medal

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” – William Shakespeare

Since it reared it’s long, grueling, ugly head in September of 2012, The Spartan Race Vermont UltraBeast, has been the toughest obstacle race on American soil. In it’s first 3 years of existence, it has had a ridiculously low completion rate, and has claimed more DNF’s (and orphan sandbags), than any other obstacle race by a long shot. It’s hardware – a glow in the dark medal in 2012 and 2013, and a giant buckle in 2014 – is to many, the most coveted bling in OCR.

The 2014 Sun Peaks Ultra Beast, in western Canada, was notably easier than it’s big brother in Vermont,  yet participants got the same giant belt buckle the Vermont Ultra Beasters got. Some questioned whether this was right? Should the most prized medal in obstacle racing be the same for 2 races that are very different.

This was seen on an ocr racer’s feed sometime this afternoon.

“Winning Times of the four Ultra Beast locations.

2013 Sydney UB: 4:50:07
2015 Hawaii UB: 6:35:50
2015 Ottawa UB: 7:04:16
2014 Vermont UB: 9:41:36

All UB medals/buckles are earned…but not all are created equal.”

This year, you can do an Ultra Beast in Ottawa (eastern Canada), Sun Peaks (western Canada), on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, at the new Spartan Race World Champion site in Tahoe, and of course back in Killington, Vermont.

Obstacle racer news feeds were filled this morning with UltraBeast finishers from the Hawaii location. Everyone proudly showing off their giant belt buckle for all to see. Most racers saying it was the farthest they have ever run. By mid afternoon, there was some pushback from the community. Did they really do THE ULTRABEAST or just an ultrabeast?

However, just as quickly as there were haters, there were those ready to come to the new UB finishers defense. In one Facebook group, Norm Koch, the man most responsible for the destruction that takes place every year at Killington, and who also designed this past weekend’s Hawaii course said

HEY all of you need to get off your high horse!!!! VT had more than 1000 show up, and 23% finished. Hands down VT may always be the hardest. But the people who came to Hawaii had to work for there medals. The temperature and Humidity was killer. The terrain insane. They did double sand bags, 3 miles in a rocky Creak, up and down the steepest muddy terrain. I put ropes in some places to keep anyone from sliding out of control. Bla bla bla. Yes like all races people cheated, we are currently DNF 40 for only doing one lap. I took many chips, didn’t think a picture depicting that was needed or appropriate. Many tears just like any other race. This race was no joke. Many showed up ready and have trained since there failure last season. And out of those that showed up the number was only 350 for the UB. So chill out. Worries about how your race is going to be. I’ll be at Killington starting Wednesday. Game on!

Should they get the same reward as those that left blood, sweat, and tears in Killington, Vermont? In that weatheron that mountain, with that elevation, in and out of water that cold, with those stakes?

With the Spartan World Championships being moved to Tahoe this year, Spartan Race has even gone as far as to call the Killington race, UltraBeast Weekend.

If they are doing that, is it appropriate those other locations get a different name or perhaps a different reward?

We’d love to know your thoughts, so comment below.

Matt B. Davis

is the host of the Obstacle Racing Media Podcast and the author of "Down and Dirty-The Essential Training Guide for Obstacle Races and Mud Runs". He is also the only (known) #wafflehouseelite obstacle racer.

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12 comments
  1. Those questioning this are either Easy Coast elitists that think they are cock of the rock and/or don’t know Norm very well. Norm would not create a course that doesn’t live up to the UltraBeast name. Sure Killington will always be a killer, but other that doesn’t mean that other can’t live up to the name. Don’t run your mouth until YOU actually do the race. Of your ego can’t handle people more people finishing an UB, keep your mouth shut. Don’t minimize the accomplishment of others solely because your ego can’t handle others’ success.

  2. 26+ miles with obstacles is no joke. Lots of Sprints, Supers and Beasts are different as well. Don’t see anyone saying those medals should be different.

    Takes a special type of person to tear others down. Props to Norm for speaking up.

    i wound up with a DNF at last year’s VT UB, but have nothing but respect for the people that completed the UB’s this week and last.

  3. With a DNF rate that high it is no wonder they use the same medal for each venue… lots of leftover hardware. It is easier and cheaper to cut the lanyard and make that unique to each venue and keep the meal the same. Still, kind of a cheap move for such a big even for most people.

  4. Alot of us arnt saying they didn’t earn that buckle they absolutely did!! And congrats to them and that awesome achievement…

    Ok let me put it this way take the hard 100 for example yes it’s a 100 miles race but so is the Leadville 100 both of which are 2 different levels of 100 mile races

    Say they took the hard Rock 100 and put it in the flats of Kansas and gave you the same medal and prestige of the hard Rock 100

    Or the Barkley only what 10 people on 30 years have finished? Say they put another Barkley in California and 50% of people finished it… does it still deserve to be called the berkley?

    It has nothing to do with the racer but more or less the race and prestige of its self.. it set a standard and it seems they have a hard time keeping it

  5. I’m not an UltraBeaster but if I ever do finish an UltraBeast I think that bad ass belt buckle would be awesome regardless of where the venue was. With that said I also think it would be bad ass to have it say Killington or Hawaii etc on the buckle. Not to say “i did the harder course ” or ” you didn’t do as Duffy a race as me ” but just cuz.

  6. We’re pretty sure Killington is the hardest UB. We’re damn sure that any Ultrabeast despite the location is difficult no matter what. This isn’t wrong to say. What’s wrong to say is to degrade the accomplishments of the runners who finished. We know it took a lot of effort. Here is the pill that’s hard to swallow – it takes much more effort to earn that exact same buckle from VT than it does from Hawaii. Those who went to VT to earn that buckle feel like they got cheated out, but it’s not against you.

    Having the venue listed on the medal ribbon would be the least that can be done to help differentiate the experience that each runner had. Let’s face it – you’re probably going to see that in Vermont, so this issue won’t be a problem five weeks from now. If you create a brand of race that’s synonymous with insane DNF rates and treacherous terrain, then expect some blowback when a race by the same exact name is conducted with lesser difficulty with the same reward. It’s not unfair to say one race is harder than another despite having the same title (VT UB ’13 < VT UB '14). If somebody merely mentioning the difficulty delta between one race or another is an emotional trigger for some, there isn't much we can do.

    You don't have to prove anything to the haters. You've got a medal that shows that you went through some serious shit. It's just that those who went through much more for that same medal feel cheated. It's not about you.

  7. I agree the medals should be differentiated by venue. I know for a fact that I would never be able to finish an ultra beast in Vermont but I also know that I could in Hawaii. I ran in the Hawaii trifecta weekend last year and although there is a small percentage of tough terrain, overall I wouldn’t say it’s insane at all. I, as a racer with extreme pride in following the rules, wouldn’t feel right accepting an ultra beast medal used first in Vermont for any other ultra beast. That’s just me.

  8. My buckle from the 2014 VT UB is in a box on a shelf in my closet. Too many people only sign up for an event for the flashy “reward” they get rather than the event itself.

  9. I think the whole thing is kind of ridiculous. There is a complete loss of perspective here. Why is it so important that someone else knows what you did or didn’t accomplish? You know it yourself, that is what is important. I’m running the Wintergreen Super Saturday which was harder to me last year than the Beasts I’ve done. But that doesn’t mean I should get some special medal or whatever. I know what I’ve done; that’s enough for me.

  10. Would like to hear the perspective of someone that actually ran in both events. If such a person exists.

  11. Just my $.02 as a lowly grinder…

    At the Mexico Death Race, after the first task of retrieving our bibs, Johnny and the crew lined us up and proceeded to give us all our skulls. He and Joe had been discussing how much people will go through to get that prize. So instead, they just gave them to us right then and offered to take anyone who wanted to go back to the city. We could be done. We had our prize and could go home…

    Or, we look beyond the prize and understand that these races are not a competition to inflate our own egos. We could throw our packs on, get our asses moving and attempt something incredible.

    Not one person walked away.

    I’m extremely proud of the skull I brought back with me, but not as a trophy. It is a reminder of the amazing, tough, dedicated, family that found out there on the volcano. A reminder that if I want it enough, I can accomplish anything. In 20 years I’ll still remember hauling those damn logs through the creek and more. I don’t do these races for anyone other than myself. Yes, a medal is nice, but everyone who’s had to dig deep within themselves and grind through these types of races understands that what truly matters is the gift you give yourself by crossing the finish line.

    Every person is different. Every race is different. Anyone who faces their life’s greatest challenges gets my utmost respect and admiration.

  12. An Ultra Beast is an Ultra Beast, no matter where you finish it. To say that one should get a different UB medal because they finished it at one place and not another makes no sense. Sure, Vermont maybe tougher, but that does not diminish the results of people who finish a UB elsewhere. If it really makes that much of a difference, than give those who finish the VT UB an additional coin or something, but do not differentiate the medals when both are 26 plus miles through mountains and obstacles. After all, not every VT UB is the same every year. Even the VT UB course changes every year, so maybe you should get a reward based off of what year you finished it. (Do you see where I am going with this?) I myself just finished the New Jersey Ultra Beast 2017, and plan on doing VT next year.

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