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?