- The gladiators were not removed from the races because of the elite athletes, or because of Spartans desire to adhere to Olympic standards. Nor does this have anything to do with Reebok. Reebok has in no way tried to influence these kinds of decisions.
- This, plain and simple has to do with insurance and potential lawsuits. A high percentage of injuries happen at the gladiator pit. Spartans insurance company has finally caught onto this and are either threatening to raise insurance rates, or refusing to insure them altogether. Also, it creates potential lawsuits because if you get injured by the gladiators, you could sue saying that it was Spartans fault. If you fall off of a wall and break an ankle, Spartan can prove that the wall was safe, and thus the injury your fault. If a gladiator knocks you down and you break an ankle, whose fault is it?? That is not something an insurance company wants to deal with.
- Now, fortunately for Spartan, it is true that we will not be seeing Gladiators at the finish line of an Olympic event, so their story sounds plausible. I would be tempted to sell you the same story if I were in their position. But, personally, I like to know the truth even if it is an inconvenient one.
- If this were about wanting to conform to Olympic standards, then you can also expect to see these changes at a Reebok Spartan Race near you very soon:
- SANDBAG CARRY: they all have to weigh the same. Maybe initially Spartans “pancakes” do, but it doesn’t take long before they spring leaks, or take on water, making the weights of many of them different. I can assure you, one person carrying a 35 lb. sandbag and another person having to carry a 40lb. sandbag is not something you will ever see in the Olympics. Spartan will either have to invest in new sandbags that won’t leak or take on water, or they will have to remove this obstacle altogether.
- BUCKET BRIGADE: same as Sandbag Carry. Even if you fill it up to the line, they won’t necessarily weigh the same. Expect to see pre-filled and weighed buckets, or expect that obstacle to disappear.
- LOG HOP: you can say goodbye to any variety. Every lane will have to be exactly the same. Each log will have to be the exact same diameter, exact same distance between logs, and exact same height differentials. We can’t have one person getting harder or easier lanes than someone else.
- TRAVERSE WALL: every block will have to be identically placed on each wall, instead of each wall being randomly different from the others.
- BARBED WIRE CRAWL: that’s right, expect your precious barbs to disappear.
We may all sign a death waiver saying that we are fine with going into a barbed wire crawl right behind someone with a blood-borne disease, but don’t expect to see that kind of attitude in the Olympics.
- TIRE FLIP: unless Spartan wants to invest in a couple dozen tires that are all shaped and weigh exactly the same, you can say goodbye to that obstacle. No more of this ridiculousness of one person having to flip a 300 lb. tire while the guy next to him has to flip a 350 lb. one. People make a big deal of a race that was won and lost by less than 1/10th of a second due to the gladiators, but how many races have been won and lost at unfair obstacles such as the tire flip.
- FIRE JUMP: there’s a slim chance that you might be able to keep this one, but I wouldn’t count on it. If the gladiators aren’t “athletic” in nature, then the fire jump certainly isn’t.
- TIRE DRAG: same as tire flip, except they will also have to grade the ground to make sure that all of the tires are dragging with the same resistance. Professional athletes and an Olympic committee aren’t going to put up with one athlete having to do more work than another on the same obstacle.
- TYROLEAN TRAVERSE: the tautness of every rope will have to be exactly the same. It might seem like a non-issue to you, but in the Olympics it will matter. Spartan will have to find a way to standardize this, or else you can expect to see it disappear.
- THE GAMBLE: in the Olympics, obstacles where you succeed or fail based on dumb luck will not be a part of the equation. That obstacle will have to go.
- And then of course there are things such as sabotaged obstacles. That’s right, Cody Moat, winner of the 2012 Spartan World Championships was most likely cheated out of thousands of dollars. In 2013′s race, he was in the lead at the Tarzan swing. The lane he chose, unbeknownst to him, had intentionally been sabotaged by Spartan. One of the ropes had been wrapped around the beam making it nearly impossible to reach. This caused Cody to fail that obstacle, and lose his lead. Burpees at that point in the race exasperated cramping, and he never recovered. Things such as this absolutely will not be tolerated in the Olympics.
-Truth be told, I would like to see a lot of these changes, and due to insurance reasons, you will inevitably see a few of them anyway, but it will definitely change the atmosphere of the events. There will be one great tragedy though. Much of what Spartan was truly founded on was that life is supposed to be difficult, things are not supposed to go your way, learn to “expect the unexpected”, LIFE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FAIR. And when you come to realize these great “inconvenient” truths, what kind of person are you going to prove to be? Are you going to cry and go home, or are you going to rise to the challenge and be your best regardless? In the Olympics fairness will be a priority, and some of these marvelous life lessons will be lost in the name of “professionalism”. Spartans races of course will continue to be difficult, but making all obstacles equal, will take away from the rawness, the primitive, the “real”ness of the events. It almost invokes the attitude of “everyone’s a winner”. It will be sad to see our untamed sport become tame.
…………OR……….. Maybe there is a way to make this a win win for everyone.
What if Spartan left all of their current events alone, allowing them to stay wild, primal, and free, and created an “Olympic Series” designed just for the Olympics. A true professional, standardized format. A television worthy format; after all, the Olympics are all about television. Then, professional athletes could take the “sport” seriously, Spartan could continue to push for the Olympics, while at the same time, staying true to so much of what makes them great.
- Of course, there is one stipulation for this to work. Spartan will have to become a team player. As much as they would like to see “Reebok Spartan Race” in the Olympics, that simply will never happen. It will have to be Obstacle Racing, and the different organizations are going to have to learn to get along. TEAMWORK. After all, teamwork is much of what makes these events so great for the participants. Even the organizations constantly praise it’s virtues with pre-race speeches encouraging people to “leave no man behind”…. The hypocrisy is so in your face, that it could drive a person crazy. Work together they say, help each other out they say, no man left behind they say, but at the end of the day, the large organizations refuse to even acknowledge each other’s existence, let alone show any willingness to work together for the betterment of the industry.
- Well, if this industry is going to thrive in the long run, things are going to have to change. Without a “professional sport” side to the industry, it is destined to only be a fad that will eventually fade in popularity. But for this sport to ever be considered professional, and for it to even have the potential to reach the Olympics some day, someone is going to have to create a format that is spectator friendly, and the event HAS TO BE UNBIASED in its coverage of all athletes, organizations, and sponsors.
Spartan could do this, but only if they are willing to change their attitude toward other organizations. If not, someone else will, and they will become the leaders in the sport. Time will tell……