Spartan Race returned to Tuxedo, NY this past weekend. This Sprint is one of Spartan Race’s most popular race venues, reflected by the fact that they offer 4 race days, over two weekends, as opposed to the usual 1-2 day event. Spartan pulls from the densely populated New York City commuter region to attract new racers, and keep once-annual and addict racers coming back year-after-year (or day-after-day). It is probably a safe assumption that Spartan Race makes a large profit, based on a single build and teardown for two weekend’s worth of revenue. High volume of participants is the name of the game for Spartan, and this location is a prime example. However, Spartan needs to up their game in a big way, to keep up with the throughput that a high attendance race produces.
Spartan Race responded towide-spread complains about obstacle and water backups after last year’s Vermont Beast with new wristbands with start times printed on them to reduce racers jumping waves, and a competitive heat to give people an opportunity to run the course without as much backup while avoiding clogging the elite heats. It is clear after Tuxedo, that these measures were not enough and/or appropriate.
First, let’s talk about the barbed wire crawl. Tuxedo’s trademark has become the uphill, rocky, insanely long barbed wire crawl from hell. It is difficult. It hurts. It makes people bleed, as proof from the bloody rocks. It is going to slow people down. And when the path is only wide enough for 6-8 people (crawling, not rolling) is a giant bottleneck. If the obstacle was simply made at least twice as wide, there would be no issue. The course designers ensured the crawl was miserable, and succeeded. However, having to lay or kneel on large sharp gravel (because you are waiting on the person in front of you, who is waiting on the person in front of them, and so on…) gets to be uncomfortable and certainly decreases the fun factor significantly. My estimate is that it took me 10 minutes to creep/pause/repeat along the rocky 50ish-yard length of the barbed wire crawl, and the overwhelming crowd consensus deemed that an unacceptable pace.
At another point in the course, Staff and Volunteers were holding up anyone passing on the course. Runners were instructed that they had to wait to continue on because there was a bottleneck leading up to the vertical cargo, less than 100 feet ahead. So a mass of 75+ spartans waited to pass 10-20 at a time, to then wait again at the obstacle, only steps beyond. This is another case where an obstacle that could accommodate more racers at once (twice as wide) would solve the problem. And two separate, yet shorter, waits for the same obstacle does not make it any less annoying.
Along with the obstacle backups, there was also a significant, and typical, amount of slowing due to technical single-track trails, that Spartan loves to mix in whenever they can. And if all this didn’t convince you that Spartan was unprepared or the volume of attendees: just look in the porta-potties, let’s just say I’m glad I was there for day 1 of 4. I do have to give them credit, as the logistics for parking, registration, water stations, medals, finisher swag, and pictures all ran efficiently and seemed to be properly staffed.
In the end, the Tuxedo Sprint was another event where Spartan needs to spend the fraction of time and money to make some of the more cumbersome obstacles appropriate for the masses in order to keep those customers coming back for more.
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