In January of 2019 David Watson, VP of Product at Spartan talked with Matt B. Davis on the Obstacle Racing Media podcast about changes that were happening in the 2019 season. They talked about the US National Series and qualification guidelines for athletes. During that conversation, Watson also teased a change to the distance of Super events in that conversation.
Spartan then sent out surveys to participants in May of 2019, asking their opinion on the idea of changing Super distances from 8+ miles to a more standard 10K distance.
Standardization – Good or Bad?
We’ve heard the word “standardization” a lot this year – most notably around standardizing the obstacle set that would be at each race distance. Spartan has now gone live with their next iteration of standardization beginning in 2020 – Standardizing the distances of events.
So the 2020 Spartan events now look like this:
|Sprint / Stadion||5K|
|Super||10K (formerly 8+ mi.)|
|Beast||Half Marathon (21K)|
|Trail||10K / 21K|
The Spartan website has not yet been updated to reflect these changes. We have seen the 2019 Spartan medal preview however, which removes the word “Sprint” altogether, in favor of the new 5K distance.
Why the Change?
Spartan’s reasoning behind this change was two-fold; First, the distance is much more recognizable with other running events all over the world. Second, according to Spartan, surveyed participants wanted this change. They wanted “less running and more obstacle density.” It also will help first timers, and Sprint participants to step up easier to a Super as their next achievement.
Personally, I like the change if for no other reason than it makes sense in terms of effort vs reward. Supers are now twice as hard as a Sprint, and Beasts are now twice as hard as Supers. That makes sense. Also, any move to the metric system is a positive move.
Feedback from the Fans
The real question is – what do you think about the change? Social media exploded with both positive and negative comments in regards to the change. Looking at the Instagram post announcing these changes, we’ve got a few examples of how people feel about a 10K Super distance:
“I LOVE it! ?” says Spartan Pro Nicole Mericle
@isaac__88 disagrees by stating “Super should of stayed at 8 miles. People that want less should find other races or step their game up!!”
@aka_rhino seems concerned about his or her apparel consistency going forward, “Glad I got my 8+ mile super in so my hoodie is true to its word!”
At first it definitely seemed that the overwhelming opinion was against the change, but there has been a large amount of support for the change recently as well.
Let’s hear your thoughts – How do you feel about Super’s being moved to 10K distance?
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I don’t recall being asked a survey about this. That aside, I’m assuming that Spartan will adjust prices DOWN for all 3 core distances in 2020? Ha. Part of the attraction to Spartan is(was) its uniqueness! We’ve now been gifted less substance (distance and obstacles) with price increases. They’ve lost a loyal customer in many OG racers.
I’m a fan of standardization no matter the distances as it makes sense. Terrain and conditions still great variability. Road races of the same distance can be very different. A lot of what I hear has been this is easier, but that’s not true. At the highest level athletes don’t consider 800m inherently easier than 1500m, 5k or 10k because if you’re running at 100% effort relative to the distance is always challenging. Also more obstacle density is a huge plus at an Obstacle Course Race!
Not a fan of any of the changes to race length
Spartan was originally devised, implemented and stood for toughness, grit & resilency. These are but a few of the key elements that Joe DeSena, the mastermind of the Spartan obstacle course racing phenomenon, has stated you need in every day life. And after people started doing Spartan races, the phrase “SpartanUp” was coined and a movement was born.
Now don’t get me wrong, when you finish any type of race, there is a sense of accomplishment and jubilation. However anyone finishing a Spartan race “knows it when you cross the finish line.” Thats because every Spartan race is KNOWN to be unpredictable! Not just because of the weather or location & inherent terrain but the length of the race itself!
Spartan races ARE beautifully unique. Yes, the races are harder. Yes they might be categorized as an intermediate to moderately advanced form of obstacle course race. And yes it’s true they aren’t for everyone. But isn’t that just how it was originally built? To be different? To test oneself against any obstacle and via personal accountability and tenacity come out victorious on the other side of the finish line? Of course!!!
To me, those are some of the things that have made the Spartan behemoth juggernaut so huge throughout the world. People have bought into Joe DenSena’s way of thinking and FEEL the difference. Why be mainstream when you can be a Spartan?
In the end only the executives at Spartan headquarters know all the reasons for the proposed race length changes. Maybe it’s a way to make more money. Maybe it truly is to rip 5 million people off the couch. Maybe we won’t ever really know all the why[s]. But I do know this: for Spartan race lengths to become standardized just means that they are more of a follower, than a leader.
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