Yesterday I posted a photo to the pages Facebook wall. The photo is above. It came across my feed yesterday and I saw it and laughed a little. My gut reaction was; “busted”, “oops”, and “epic fail”. I thought bad luck for that guy deciding to dump his rocks right in front of a camera, probably not knowing the camera was there. He got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. I shared the photo thinking it would give a few people the same reaction not thinking much more about it. Then the reactions came in and they were not what I expected.
My intention never was to hurt anyone but instead for those of us who have done these events for years have seen much worse in person, just never really captured in a photo. Many race veterans sent me private messages saying that had before wished they could dump their bucket along the way as this is one of the more challenging obstacles using pure strength. I sincerely thought a few people would laugh and we would all move on. Well I was very very very wrong. The photo exploded and the world had very different reactions than mine had been.
Those reactions have spanned from joking epic fails, to questioning how dare I judge someone on their race, some name calling, and out and out mean comments. But the photo has people talking, people talking about the race and talking about what racing is to them. This has brought into question the idea of what a race means to each person. I have always advocated that people need to run their own race, which I still do. But I also say do the whole race and enjoy the feeling of earning that medal.
When I started racing OCR in 2010, I couldn’t do a bunch of the obstacles, they were hard and were extremely challenging. It took me 2 years to make a spear throw. I needed help over some walls and did a lot of push-ups (the first penalty) then modified burpees (the second penalty) then finally chest to ground burpees (the current penalty). In Texas 2011, we had three chances to make it across the tyrolean traverse (or DQ) and it was only by sure will that I made it across on the third attempt.
My point is, Spartan Race at least for me has been about overcoming and failing and failing some more until I could succeed. Whether I am in an elite heat, open heat, helping a first-timer, or on course with Chris Davis we didn’t skimp on an obstacle and did penalties. It may have taken up 10x’s as long as most but we made it through.
I know these sort of things happen all the time on course and this is not an isolated issue. I know the majority of people are there just to get through the course. I think it’s great people are out there doing it and making it through. That is awesome and everyone on a course is a better person for being out there.
The caveat to this is, we all sign up for a race whether we are elite or open racers when you start a Spartan Race you have a timing chip and are ranked and scored at the end. You signed up to complete a full race and obstacles. By not doing or skimping on an obstacle or not taking a full penalty you are hurting other people as some do care about their finish, and Spartan does now have age group awards in the open heats. Spartan now has another option for those that think they aren’t ready for all the obstacle yet, The Biggest Loser Heat run by former Biggest Loser participants.
If we are going to start to think about OCR as a sport and particularly Spartan Race than shouldn’t all participants be held to the same standard? There are tons and tons of mud runs out there where you can skip obstacles and timing is not an issue. But for Spartan Race many work hard to earn that finisher medal, spend the better part of a day working, helping and getting helped in order to finish. The questions is would a person go to a 5K and cut some of the course and still expect a medal and say they finished? Even as a casual participant people sign up for a challenge and are expected to do the work, their pace is insignificant but they completed the challenge.
Does it lessen the achievement for other people if those around them have the same t-shirt and medal at the end of the race not having done the same work?
Or should we all just mind our own business and leave racing for the elite and let open heats do whatever they want?
Those answers are highly personal and a single photo was not meant to cause these people shame but more was an epic fail on many many levels that happened to be captured in time at a race. Maybe Spartan should have just let his photo stay hidden and not even had it as an option to see. But it’s out in the world, we are all talking about it.
And I will end with an apology to those it affected, sorry to cause you personal harm, it was never intended to be mean spirited. Sometimes we all make misjudgments and it’s important to own up to them. This photo came across my stream from a friend after a particularly hard couple of days spent in a hospital with a friend who broke his leg while we were skiing and had to have surgery. As well as on the heals of news my grandmother way dying and yesterday morning she passed away. To add on top of it all her boyfriend having a stoke on the way to the hospital to see her. For me this photo was just a quick, “oops” and “wrong place, wrong time buddy” moment that I then shared. But I see now it offended many many people and apologize for those who were effected.