There has been much talk about upcoming changes to the sport of obstacle racing, particularly since Spartan made the decision to eliminate gladiators at the end of their races. This is listed as a change that needed to be made as the sport seeks “legitimacy.”
Hobie Call makes some great points about what may soon change, both to become more “mainstream” and avoid the mess that is the American court system (http://www.hobiecall.com/0414/spartan-gladiators/).
This has stirred up emotions for me, as I have seen sports degrade under ever more restrictive rules. Watching MMA hem itself into an ever smaller box over the last few years, I truly wonder why anyone can still watch it. The martial arts greats of 50 years ago would indeed be sad to see what has come to pass.
I have seen great things from obstacle racing, seeing ordinary people rise to seize their potential in ways that they never thought they could. Seeing total strangers instantly band together and work as a team. Seeing the lowliest, most worn out, injured athlete cross the finish line running on determination alone.
But, it would appear that none of that matters. Its all about TV coverage, prize money, forgetting the average Joe and pretending that the elite athletes are a completely different animal, with abilities that we mere mortals could never aspire to.
I love the true sport, the sport that pulls the ordinary person to find the extraordinary potential that they have hidden inside. That pushes each of us to be our best and let our inner light shine for all the world to see.
How to go about gaining this sport recognition while keeping the awesome experience for the other 80% of athletes who are not there to compete, but simply to finish?
I do love the idea of keeping current events and adding a new class of race to meet international standards (and the stadium sprints are a good start on this format) but I would also keep track of the participation numbers and see which format brings in more participants. Don’t underestimate the non-elites. There are a lot of us, and we are willing to put crazy amounts of money effort into testing ourselves. I have a feeling many of us will gravitate toward the Spartans that we have now, over the sanitized “official” version. Many of us look at the proposed, indoor, 2-mile courses with non-stop obstacles and think, “Okay, lots of stuff to play on, but no brutal terrain, no crazy distance, no soul-crushing, no test of will, so no point…”
Greatness is not this wonderful, esoteric, elusive, god-like feature that only the special among us will ever taste – you know it’s something that truly exists in all of us. It’s very simple, this is what I believe and I’m willing to die for it. Period.