If you haven’t competed in an obstacle race yet, you’ve probably seen the ads on Facebook. Muscled men and women leap over burning logs and crawl under barbed wire.
Turns out those ads, and a lot of word of mouth, are pretty effective. More than 650,000 athletes participated in a Reebok Spartan Race in 2013.
And where the numbers flow, so does the money. More than $250,000 in cash and prizes are on the line at the Spartan Race World Championships, which will be aired in a first ever 90-minute television special on NBC Sports Network.
More than 10,000 athletes are expected in the central Vermont’s Killington Resort on Sept. 21 and 22 for the race.
We spoke with Joe De Sena, 44, one of the founders of Spartan Racing, to learn more about the sport. De Sena’s race resume is hardcore – over 50 ultra-events overall and 12 Ironman events in one year alone.
He did the Vermont 100, the Lake Placid Ironman and the Badwater Ultra – all in one week. Ouch.
Here’s what he has to say about obstacle racing, modern life and the human animal. —Sean McCoy
Gear Junkie: You have a trail and ultra running background. How would you compare Spartan Races with something like the Badwater, Western States or longer adventure races?
Joe De Sena: There are more upper body requirements. Ultra runners tend to be tight. In a marathon there are more sloppy bodies. Ultra runners tend to be more fit people because they are putting in more time, hours. I think it’s easier to make a jump as ultra runner to obstacle racing. You’re going to tax the upper body (in an obstacle race). From a suffering standpoint going to feel similar to an ultra. Obstacle races use a lot more small muscles. They give out faster than legs. Ultra runners have more experience in dealing with the mental aspect. We also have some long distance obstacle races. They’re ever bit as hard as a 50 mile run.