Spartan’s “Season of Change”

Sometime every winter; Spartan Race has finished up their annual season, the race calendar gets a little quieter, and things get a little less frantic. They take the opportunity during this quiet period to look at their processes and make some decisions about what worked last year, and what didn’t.

Then they change them.

If you recall, in 2014 we were outraged at the idea that the first few waves in the morning were now an additional charge and we couldn’t pick our own time. In 2013 we were upset that Elites now had the entire first wave of the day to themselves. This is my fifth year of Spartan Races, and I’m sure if I go back far enough, I can find something we were upset and outraged over for each and every season. Like when spectator charges were introduced. That was a doozy.

Mostly, these changes blend in, and become part of the landscape. People forget their outrage and get on with the fun job of running races.

These changes don’t always work out, of course. I still miss the days of being able to register for a specific wave without paying extra. They certainly aren’t always popular, initially.

We’re in the middle of this “silly season” for the 2015 Spartan Race calendar, and here we go again. Let’s talk about two big changes – Pricing and Waves, and Season Passes.

Pricing and Wave times.

With 2015, Spartan have left Active behind and are implementing Chronotrack. This is a massive change, and immediately caused confusion – as they develop the year, much of that confusion is going away, and it’s turning out to be relatively simple.

Here’s how it will work for 2015:

Every race has three wave options. Elite, AM and PM.

When you check out, you pick a block of time within your AM or PM window – AM running from the end of the elite wave, until about 11am and PM running from then to the end of day – each block is about an hour in time. You will get a wave time within that block.

Note to teams: AM will get it’s own team time based on majority rule. PM will get a SECOND team wave, based on majority rule.

Pricing *starts at*:

Sprint – $100 for Elites, $75 for AM slots, $60 for PM slots
Super – $125 for Elites, $110 for AM, $95 for PM
Beast – $140 for Elites, $125 for AM, $110 for PM

Spartan 2015 Pricing

** All prices will also see a transaction fee that ranges in the $5 to $15 range, depending on your ticket price, and a $14 insurance charge.

** As tickets sell, the Elite / AM / PM slot will go up in price based on volume. What does this mean? The first – say, 1,000 Sprint AM tickets that sell will be $75. They then go up. The next few hundred people get the next price, then it goes up. It is NO LONGER a scheduled, date based price increase … the more tickets they sell the more expensive things get. It pays to be early.

** This is correct at time of writing, doesn’t take into account Stadiums, Hurricane Heats, Spectators, volunteering, parking passes, your travel costs or replacement Reebok’s – or any other possible variance you can come up with 🙂

Why do this?

It’s possible to sell the less popular, less populated afternoon waves for cheaper. $60 for a PM wave at a Sprint is pretty cheap money. For a while, we’ve complained of the rising costs of Spartans, and now we’ve got an option to run for less.

Of course, if you are of a mind to run in the morning, perhaps you like doing multiple laps, perhaps you need to be home quickly – then the AM is there, and the AM is going to be more expensive. Over to you 🙂

Teams? This is annoying.

In the past, teams would ALL be moved to one wave, sometimes even a dedicated team wave. It didn’t matter if you registered for the morning Open wave or the afternoon Open wave. Now, we get split into two team waves – one in the AM, and one in the PM.

Logistically, this makes sense for HQ. They have fewer people to put through the course, find time slots for – for teams and communities though, I feel like this is a step backwards for Spartan Race. There is little enough nod towards communities, with much talk of that improving. This isn’t an improvement.

So to recap – cheaper PM pricing, sliding scale of price increases based on number of ticket sales instead of date – but less flexibility about picking your own specific wave time, and teams being split in two.

Season Passes

Last year, I picked up a season pass for $400. That let me register for eight events in the region for only $14 each. No frills, no fuss. You paid $600 if you wanted to run in the Elite wave – but overall, it was a very simple transaction.

Not so much in 2015. Pricing was just released at $549, and justified with a smorgasbord of additional *stuff* you may, or may not actually find value in.

One of the justifications for the extra pricing is the idea that there are more races on the calendar in 2015 – which I think is a bit silly. I’d wager the majority of season pass owners travel, sure, but not to EVERY race. Most people buy the SP so they can run multiple laps of the same courses, not travel to more and more venues. It sounds like some regions will find more local events, and more Sunday options – and the calendar should be final pretty soon, so this will become more apparent.

Included in the price is free bag check, which could be valuable to you, sure.

Also included are benefits for hotels and car rentals – and a Global Rescue program (medical advice, travel assistance lines). If you work for Corporate America, you may have something like this from your HR department already – but many folks won’t have this.

The big one though – the pass is now valid for any wave and heat – elites actually get to save money for once – and, if you have an existing pass, you can pick up the new one at a $100 discount (so, just a $49 price increase)

Season Pass 2015

Why the changes?

I have no illusions that Spartan lose money on $400 season passes. I know I got my money’s worth, and I barely travelled. I can only imagine the complexity of having to handle Elite and Open passes on the back end too – I just wish the “improvements” were more substantial – as someone who never uses bag check, doesn’t need flight, restaurant or car rental discounts and has a medical / emergency help line with my day job – all I see is a price increase of $49 for me, and $149 for anyone who doesn’t already have one.

This doesn’t make the 2015 Season Pass a bad deal! It just means the market for the 2015 season pass, and the market for the 2014 season pass are different, and I’m not interested in the new version – you may not be either.

Every winter, Spartan Race has a level of reinvention. It’s clear as the years progress that they are streamlining things, trying to turn a bigger profit (and thats not a bad thing), and trying to cut out some of the problems they’ve inherited from previous seasons and previous directions.

We’ll get used to this solution too, even if we don’t like it right now. Change is hard.

*Photos By: Spartan Race 

Paul Jones

Paul Jones is the Idea Wrangler over at the New England Spahtens and has been a contributor for ORM since it's inception. The NE Spahtens are one of the most active, and successful obstacle racing communities in the world.

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  1. Paul,
    Great article. Very insightful, and helps me a lot. I typically run my personal OCR season from March-October, so my planning for races truly kicks into high gear in the month of December. I have to travel to pretty much all of my SRs, for there is only one race here in VA, Wintergreen (SR was supposed to bring one to the capital city, but currently its just hanging on their website – so I doubt it will happen). The price increases and AM/PM changes do effect me, but we’ll see how it all shakes out in the end I guess.

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