Spartan Races - Are they Alienating some Runners

We think humans are resistant to change.

We are not,

We are just resistant to change that doesn’t benefit us. So that’s where my opinion comes from, the Spartan changes announced for 2024 don’t benefit me, so I don’t like them. However, I’m not entirely sure they actually benefit anyone.


Spartan have announced that all Elite and Age Group racers will be racing together in one Competitive category, with podium awards given to the top 3 overall finishers & the top 3 racers in each age bracket. 

Whilst this may look like there is still a separate age group category, it’s quite clear that the elite standard racers in each age bracket will frequently take the podium spots. 

I think the idea behind the change is to make the races more competitive, and I understand that, however, it now feels like there is a massive gap between someone wanting to move from open racing to competitive racing, as they are essentially entering an elite category. The step just feels too large. Whilst I agree that we are out there to compete and you should have to work hard and work your way to the top, I feel this will cause a lot of age group and open racers to feel deflated and less motivated as the top is now less achievable than it would have been with the elite racers in their own separate heat.


These changes are described as bringing Spartan in line with other sports but I’m not sure which sports, other than maybe Hyrox, where there are only Pro and Open waves. In so many other sports there are intermediate level competitions, body building, boxing, martial arts, etc, you don’t fight pros as a rookie. Football is a great example, the presumed goal for each team being to get to the Premier League, but Division 2 teams don’t compete against Premier League teams to get there. They compete in their Division, against teams of their standard and work their way up through the ranks, getting trophies for winning along the way and getting better at their sport. Which is how I feel they should keep Spartan races, to allow those of us with less experience and less time in the sport a chance to excel against people of similar ability whilst improving our skills.

Going to a race knowing you have minimal chance of winning or getting near the top is not motivating for me, it makes me want to pack it in to be honest, what’s the point? Maybe this isn’t true for all people, as we all have our own reasons for racing. Some people are not motivated by winning or medals but some of us are. I want to be the best I can be and I know that doesn’t mean I have to compete or win but that’s the way this works, it’s competitive and they have rewards for winners! We rank people by where they place, we measure their performance against others. If the top spots are always going to be taken by the same people, does that make it fun? Not for me, I know that may motivate some people to work harder but knowing the goal is not achievable doesn’t motivate me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sure I could even reach a podium with the rules as they are in 2023, but there was a shot, it felt like maybe I could, and I could work my way up from mid-pack. Now, I have to beat the best in my age group, AND the elites in my age group.

I agree, there needs to be a mechanism in place so that people who have reached elite level racing can no longer compete in the age group races. I believe there used to be something similar to a ‘pro card’, whereby if you podium in AG for a certain distance X number of times, you have to compete as an elite. Can we not bring that back? I know the field is small and the aim is to grow the sport but perhaps that needs to be looked at from a marketing and advertising perspective first?

I also wonder how this benefits age group athletes who were going to move to Elite in 2024? They will largely just be winning the same podiums again, as pitting them all against each other will have clear winners that you could probably predict already. I know they are introducing prize money and maybe want this to be a more professional sport but that again, is a separate category than those of us who can’t do this ‘professionally’. The point in Spartan was to reward those people who drag themselves

About the author:

I'm Nikki, a Spartan and DEKA athlete, going into my second competitive season in 2024. 

I've always done something fitness related, including martial arts,  body building & dance and am loving the challenge of OCR and hybrid racing. 


Instagram - @nikki_firefly

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