Are Spartan Races Really That Scary?

Are Spartan Races Really That Scary?

By: SGX Coach Steve Manns

I’ve been involved with Spartan Race since 2012. Like most, I started off as a general participant, someone seeking a different kind of athletic event. My first race consisted of me getting my ass handed to me in the form of 120+ burpees. I was exhausted, but I was hooked.

Within that first season, I decided to embrace the change I saw happening within myself; I started racing elite, and I volunteered to give back. As soon as a coaching program became available, I made a move to entwine myself with the race and its principles even further. I have pounded these courses with the front of the pack, I have swept the last racer home countless times, I have walked and run these things in solitude and in troops, in the scorching heat and in the rain, at night, and with every prototype and every stage of every metamorphosis of every obstacle that was ever created (or so I imagine). It’s probably a good thing that I got involved with this event in its infancy, long before anyone knew what to expect.
Because I never knew what to expect, I was never afraid.

Nearly five years later, I’m just starting to figure out why so many people are afraid of Spartan Races.

I have heard a multitude of excuses and explanations from clients, friends and family members. Over time, I’ve realized that all of these stem from expectations and assumptions of what a Spartan Race is or what it is not.

Many times, their perception of a Spartan Race comes second-hand from other sources, not necessarily from what they themselves have observed.
What they are being shown causes anxiety and fear—so much so that they are too intimidated to sign up for a race.

Even though they say they want to.

These fears fall into three categories.

Category 1: The Fear of Being Compared to Others.


While Spartan tries very hard to get the message out that there IS no cookie-cutter “Spartan athlete,” many folks will say that they are afraid to do a Spartan Race because they aren’t like the “other Spartans.”

These would-be Spartans don’t look like the elite athletes they see on TV. Maybe they are too tall, too short, not ripped enough, not young enough. Maybe they haven’t reached their “goal weight” yet.

In my view, this is not a good reason to stay away from Spartan Races.

From my experience as a coach course sweep, whose job it is to encourage the very last of the racers to finish, I can tell you that there are a lot of people out there that don’t look like TV stars. I can also tell you that they’re doing this race for a million different reasons that make sense only to them.

Related: #WhyIRace: Leticia Becera

They have put fear out the back door and onto the street and are saying, “I am doing this for ME.”

“I am doing this for my father who passed away because of complications from diabetes.”

“I am doing this for my disabled child, to be an inspiration.”

“I am doing this because everyone else said I couldn’t.”

Related: #WhyIRace: To Rebuild Myself

They don’t worry about how they look compared to anyone else. They have just found the strength and courage within themselves to STFU (Spartan the F— Up). And here’s the secret:

Once you do that, you are as Spartan as anyone, and we recognize you as one of our own.

Category 2: The Fear of Being Physically Unprepared


This is somewhat understandable. However, it’s far worse to be mentally unprepared. If you’re thinking things like:

“I don’t want to spend my whole race doing burpees.”

“I can’t climb a rope.”

“How could someone like me get over that wall?”

These thoughts need to be reframed.

My advice would be to consider a Spartan Race a learning experience instead of a culmination of effort or an end product. The truth is that no one starts out being able to do everything. Spartan Race is an exercise in self-improvement, and the perfect way to confront this type of fear head-on is to sign up for a race. Then, you can take the steps needed to address this problem in a rational manner.

Spartan provides training and nutrition plans for free, and for those who need the extra support and camaraderie of a group, Spartan even has a vast network of coaching professionals. Spartan SGX coaches are Spartan Race battle-tested to train not only the physical side of athletes, but the mental as well.

Category 3: The Fear of Being Excluded From the “Group.”

pic1 (1)

The fear of not being able to “fit in” with an existing or perceived “Spartan culture” is a very real, adult fear.

Doing something of this magnitude requires you to really “put yourself out there” and display a certain vulnerability. Of course, you will want to be surrounded by people who are supportive and have your best interest at heart.

There are some crazies out there. I have to admit, if Spartan Race were a rock band, I have a group of friends who would be riding the groupie buses. They act, sound and dress the part. But, on the whole, the people who do Spartan Races are really just like you. In fact, if you ask around enough in your circle of acquaintances, I bet you will find someone who has done an OCR race or knows someone who has. If you can’t find someone in your immediate group, just look at Facebook. Corn Fed Spartans, Steel City Spartans, and Southern Spartans are all groups in local areas that promote healthy lifestyles and, more importantly, friendship and support.

If you think age is a factor in this game, think again. Age is just pent up motivation. A master’s division and several online groups (Spartan 4-0, for example) provides this type of support for the more seasoned set.

Related: Silver Spartans: Training, Racing, Etc. After 50

It’s pretty standard for everyone to be facing some type of fear in a Spartan Race. After all, fear is inherent to the theme of overcoming obstacles and inhibitions in life.

However, it is possible to overcome these fears through rational thinking and problem-solving.

In other words, don’t let yourself be your biggest obstacle.

With preparation and support from others, you too can earn your battle-tested medal.

So what are you afraid of? I’m telling you: don’t be. Make the commitment to find a group in your area, to find the local Spartan SGX coach, to sign up for your first (or your 150th) Spartan Race, and get out there and be a part of a community dedicated to ripping 75 million people off the couch and leading them to a more active and healthy lifestyle.

Three hundred new friends will be starting with you.

Steve Manns is an Spartan SGX coach from Murrysville, PA. He is currently working on another NASM certification as well as pursuing a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotions. (Find out more at Learn more about his home gym, Steel City Parkour, or find an SGX Coach near you.