Race Attire – De Sena, The Panda, Bowtie, and The Painted Warrior Reactions

Joe D and The Painted Warrior

Yesterday, an email was sent to all participants signed up for the Elite Wave at the Spartan Race to take place in Tuxedo, NY this weekend. It was signed by Spartan Race Athletic Director Robert Coble. Here is how it reads:

“As you may know NBC will be filming the Elite wave in Tuxedo Spartan Race for broadcast. They will cover 6 races this year and this is the first in the series.They want , and we will require that those entering the start corral for the professional elite wave wear sensible athletic wear designed for running or trails. You are representing the future of the sport, and it is being covered as a professional sport.So costumes will not be allowed in the elite wave.I do understand costumes have been a part of this sports birth and good nature, but, aiming for Olympic inclusion, we need to have a more professional presentation.Most all sports have a dress code for press reasons”

Many athletes expressed their concerns one way or another on social media yesterday.

ORM wanted to speak directly with athletes this change would affect and also to Spartan founder Joe De Sena.

We first asked Stephen Sinek, aka The Painted Warrior. Stephen has gained a positive following among the community for the amazing body paint transformation he and his wife create for race day. Spartan has even featured Stephen in blogs and various social media posts. Stephen told us:

“It really begs the question of “What is considered a costume?” A Wonder-Woman outfit? A tutu? A speedo paired with a panda hat or bow-tie? Face paint? Body paint? I don’t believe that Spartan Race is directing this at The Painted Warrior specifically since I know they have been supportive of the bodypaint in the past. I don’t see banana suits running rampant in the elite heats either, so I’m not exactly sure what prompted this statement. I will say this, however: If this is going to air on national television, who will resonate with Cookie-Cutter Racer #38? Characters are what people find interesting; people who are free to be themselves, (not to imply that a “character”must be costumed or outwardly expressive). Having said that, I don’t believe Spartan Race’s (or Reebok’s) intention is to stifle individuality. I believe it was just intended as a reminder to put our best face forward for the cameras, but without a clear definition of what constitutes a costume, I feel they’ve intentionally been vague about it so that they may use discretion on the issue, and I’m not sure that’s exactly fair to racers”.

We then reached out to Stephen “BowTied” Spartan. Stephen often races in an outfit consisting of a speedo, a bow-tie, and face paint.


“I find the entire no “costume” rule for elites to ridiculous. Of all the elite runners who run any OCR no one has any “outfit” that causes danger or distraction from themselves or any other runner. OCR is a sport so we all try to have a gimmick to make us known. We are all your average joes with the exception of a handful. OCR is a sport of the people. A sport to give the masses a second chance at being an athlete and to get off the couch. I chose the speedo because it actually improves my OCR performance. The bow tie for me is a good luck charm and a symbol for me to remember to give it my all but still have fun. Nothing I wear I consider a costume or insensible”.

We also spoke with Michael Deater aka “The Panda”.  Michael races in nothing more than a panda hat and a speedo.  The email did not seem to bother him as much, he told us:

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to request trail running attire when they are shooting for TV. If they ask me not to show up in my panda hat, I won’t show up in it. I don’t have an issue with that.  In regards to the speedo, I think they really mean for people not to show up in full body costumes, like dressing up in a Spiderman costume, and I can understand that”.

ORM spoke to Joe De Sena by phone this morning. He is currently in the U.K. promoting his book and we were able to catch him between interviews for just a couple of minutes.

Quoting Wayne Gretzky he started with  “I am trying to focus on where the puck is going, not where it is right now, especially with TV”.

Here is how the rest of the conversation went down:

ORM “What counts as a costume, what about body painting?”

De Sena “Not really into it for the elites, people who do that will have to do something else if they wants to race in the first heat”

ORM “What about just marking up your face”

De Sena “As long as it looks professional. Certainly NFL players put stuff on their face, but we don’t want them looking like Mickey Mouse”

ORM What about people running in Speedos?

“Not into it, there are beaches all over the world they can go to”

What do you think? Do you care one way or another? Does this affect you? Do you think TV viewers would be turned off by this non traditional attire? 



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.

Latest posts by Matt B. Davis (see all)

  1. It’s his company and he can do what he wants with it. But remember who helped make the company, the racers. Those in costume and out of costume.

  2. Honestly, I think for a sport to be taken more seriously than, say, WWE, that there needs to be some semblance of professionalism on the starting line – so I think this is a smart move. There’s a reason guys like Michael Jordan and Deion Sanders look like a million bucks at press conferences and have everything dialed in on their game day uniforms…

    …as Deion said…”If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.”

    1. So now the big question is what constitutes “costume” If Mike Tyson wants to Run a with the Elites is his Face tattoo acceptable? How bout Ella’s hair cut? Can I run with a Mohawk?

  3. To be honest I see it as leaving behind the little people who made the sport what it is in order to get into the Olympics.

  4. If the top racers showed up in strange outfits on Saturday it may increase,not decrease interest. I respect the need for professionalism,but in the elite heats this is not a team sport,and therefore should not be compared to the NFL. Even the most conservative of sports(tennis,golf) have expanded in their creative looks for years. Toe the line and kick some ass is what this race is about. Not being told a dress code is not.

  5. It’s only the Elite Heat. The top athletes are, literally, racing for money (not much, but there is a monetary reward), which makes them “professionals”. This has no impact on the Open Heats. At Citi Field, 220 people ran in the 7am Elite Heat compared to the 6,924, who ran in Open Heats. Elites accounted for only 3% of Runners. All Spartan Rules are strictly enforced during the Elite Heats, already, this doesn’t change anything. And I’ve never seen a costume on the Podium at a Spartan Race.

  6. I am dissallussioned and disappointed by Desena’s comments. I thought the spirit of this sport and it’s promoters were different (and more interesting) than that.

  7. Here it is ““Not into it, there are beaches all over the world they can go to”. Joe wants to make this specifically the elite heat look professional and act professional so wear some compression shorts, leggings or running shorts. Speedo’s improve performance??? Give me a break, they improve your performance in a swim, they don’t do ANYTHING in OCR, “Bowtie” is right about it being a gimmick. Deater is the only one being mature about the whole thing. If you want to run around in a Speedo, a costume or other fun loving things that what the open heat is for. As for Stephen his body paint takes HOURS it is a work of art done by a professional for promotional and artistic purposes. All the rest grow up and let those who are actually there to compete and help this sport grow do their jobs.

  8. I don’t like the fact that he said about Speedos”Not into it. there’s beaches all over the world They can go to” People don’t train,prepare and Pay to go to the beach Mr. little man syndrome Desena. You sir might be a badass physically but your attitude towards your most eye-catching racers who are the main reason anyone even knows about these races is just sad. They pay extra for it and should be able run however they want.Spartan was my favorite but i will not back a company that tells its customers that they can basically piss off.

  9. This sport is being defined as we speak so who is to say what defines the dress attire other than the very people who have been participating and making ocr popular. I understand some of the costumes I have seen in races are a bit much for tv but body paint and professional speedos should fall within the approved attire.

  10. It won’t be long before they make everyone wear official Reebok attire. The focus has clearly been taken off of Mr. Desena’s original mission to get everyone off the couch to how much money can be made and sellout to the highest bidder by only paying attention to the elite crowd.

    1. That’s because the “original mission” was always bullsh*t. It had nothing to do with “getting people off the couch,” and everything to do with “getting money out of people’s wallets.” That’s fine, it’s a business, that’s what businesses do. But the aim was always what it is right now – make money.

  11. With the intensity and popularity that this sport has grown within the last couple of years, anyone and everyone that chooses to run this as an elite and compete at a top level, should respect it enough that if the CEO says no more and to look more professional, then do it. If it in turns pushes people away from participating, the question should be “Where does your heart really lie?” The sport has become as big as the NFL, MLB, and NBA if you were to compare. You don’t see a lot of the professional athletes dressing that way with the exception of Dennis Rodman. Respect the choices of the CEO and the company that has been built!

    1. NO. He isn’t paying them to run his races, they are paying him. Stop defending a corporate decision. If the customers are angry or feel they are being denied services, they have every right to protest. the customer does now *owe* the CEO a damn thing, ever.

  12. One thing to remember is that almost every professional sport, from baseball to tennis to track & field have very specific and restrictive rules on everything from attire to color to logos. I’m not saying its good or bad, but this is nothing new, and if OCR becomes a professional sport, this should be expected.

    The good thing is, Joe is showing, more and more clearly, where he wants HIS brand to go: clean cut, buttonned up, standardized and professional. If you don’t like it, there are many other brands out there, from warrior dash, tough mudder, superhero scramble, and smaller races like CMC and Bonefrog, who cater to all across the spectrum. There’s something for everyone.

    If you want to run sub-5 min miles uphill and win fifty grand, lose the panda hat. If you want to dress like a hot dog, do a Dash. Joe won’t be offended, trust me.

  13. I’m getting disillusioned by Joe DeSena and his constant harping at us to buy his book and his apparent obsession with the Olympics. You get rid of the gladiators because of the Olympics? Now you need a dress code? Sorry I’m going to the smaller local races and support them. And quit badgering me on twitter and everywhere else to buy the book!!!

  14. Why all the talk about outfits??? Racers should be able to race as they want. I don’t care if they choose to run naked! Why should anyone have a say to a person who pays over $100 and trains for an event without getting paid back for it? It’s so sad that we cater to grown babies. Plus, the point is only about the pro event aka the Elite Spartan Race. So run out there butt naked, speedos, or shorts and t-shirt and just have fun! People just need to shut up and stop telling people on how to spend their hard earn money. This event is to have fun and test your will power. All the days in the gym is put to the test and leave it as is. So, when there is money involved as pro event then we can talk about the ideal dress codes.

  15. First off, a Spartan Race will NEVER, EVER, EVER, NEVER EVER be an Olympic sport. American Ninja Warrior has a better chance at that, and that will never happen either. Desena is deluded if he thinks a US fitness fad can become an international sport.
    Second, who funds these events, making them possible? It certainly isn’t those 200 in the elite wave. It’s the 3,000 people that go after. Spartan has been catering more and more to the first 200 at the expense of the 3,000, and this is one more step in that direction. Drive away all the ordinary people, and where will those $50,000 purses come from?
    Third, costumes are part of the reason people do these things. If you want to be all serious-faced while running through mud and swinging on ropes, join the Marines. Obstacle races are supposed to be fun.

Comments are closed.

Previous Article

Transrockies Run 2014 - Part One

Next Article

Episode 88 - Jeff Suffolk from Human Movement

Related Posts
Read More

Clash Of The Titans?

We received this photo from someone in the last hour from an anonymous gmail account. It’s a little fuzzy…