A New Structure For Obstacle Racing


After the last few days and The Photo that Rocked the Sport I have read hundreds of comments, probably almost a thousand at this point about the topic. It has the community talking that is for sure! But the photo aside it brings up the idea what are we doing with OCR. In the article the Sport of OCR I detailed the different types of events that make up our great and diverse sport. If you think mud runs and obstacle races are the same thing I encourage you to read it.


But onto Reebok Spartan Race and the race where this photo was taken. Reebok Spartan Race has from the beginning been a race, a true race. It has always had penalties for missed or failed obstacles, and the founders have always prided themselves on being a race that timed and ranks people. In more than one YouTube video Joe Desena says as much. The race is designed to push your limits and push you further than you have gone before.


Many of the sentiments I read in the many many many posts were, “run your own race” or “it’s not changing your race”. I understand these are not changing my race and I run my own race, always have. But if this is an athletic competition like many want it to be including Spartan Race itself we should all be held to the same standards. In the past I have written about in groups and discussions a new format for Spartan (I have no say this is purely my opinions) breaking the race day into three groups (4 with the Biggest Loser Heat) Below would be my scenario:



Prize money heat

All obstacle completed by the individual with no help

Strict Burpees Enforced

Elite Points Awarded


Competitive Heats

Age Group Awards

All Obstacles must be completed but participants can have help from others

Strict Burpees Enforced

Open (I would change to competitive) Points Awarded

This heat is for the athlete who wants to race, wants to compete, but does not want to race at the elite level. This is for the competitive age groupers and those who hold themselves to all the rules and like being ranked and care about results


Open Heats

No Awards Given Out

Obstacles are completed to the best of the ability of the participant

Burpees are watched and modifications are acceptable

No points and no ranking

This heat would be for the ones looking to “just finish” or “get an experience”. It is awesome for everyone to be out there and give OCR a try. Spartan is a great event and everyone should be able to try it. This heat allows those to give it a go and try this whole thing out.


In my world each heat would have a different colored headband with their number on it. The colors don’t matter to me give elites pink it’s no biggie. But the course officials would easily be able to tell who is who and ensure everyone gets the experience they want at the end of the day. I know this is not a perfect solution but maybe it’s a step in the right direction to give everyone what they are looking for.


Now as to who gets what medal and such I leave that one for debate. Personally, if there were a cheaper option with no medal or t-shirt at this point that would probably be my gig. I know my boyfriend would like less t-shirts and medals in the house!


What are your thoughts?

Do you think this would work?

Does this matter to you?

UPDATE: January 14, 2016

Spartan Race just announced this morning an additional category would be added to races starting in March 2016. Spartan Race will now offer Elite, Competitive, and Open heats. Here is their announcement:


Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 9.02.35 AM

Details from the Spartan Website:

Our newest option, the Competitive category, is designed to address the gap between our Open class racers and our Elites. Competitive Racers will be expected to follow the same rules and standards as the Elite racers. These racers compete for glory and bragging rights, not money.

As a major component of the rapid evolution of obstacle racing as a sport, Competitive racers will start immediately following the elite waves, taking advantage of a wide open course while competing for points in our new Regional Point Series. Competitive racers commit to sportsmanship, honoring rules and guidelines, and performing at their best.

In addition, racers in the Competitive category will be able to track their results throughout the race season to see how they stack up against their peers. At the end of the year, age group points winners will be crowned in each of the following regions: North, South, Central, and West.

For more details on the new category check out their website: Spartan Race Website.

Margaret Schlachter

About Margaret Schlachter

Margaret Schlachter is Founder of She has been part of the OCR Community since 2010. When not working on the next article she can be found running from race-to-race. She is Editor-in-Chief of She authored the book Obstacle Race Training.
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One Response to A New Structure For Obstacle Racing

  1. mtthorpe says:

    Genius. Though I had wondered why whoever took the picture, didn’t stop and ask what was going on, rather than just posting a snippet of second in time. I’d for sure would have stopped and had dialogue. I’d have wanted to hear their stories. It may have changed the perception the cult followers had, if it had some text attached to the picture. The venom of which the young followers, attacked this old man, was shocking to me. Can we say Branch Davidians?

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