The big announcement of the day and well really the world of obstacle racing as a whole happened this morning in New York City. It was announced that Spartan Race now Reebok Spartan Race signed a five-year title sponsorship with Reebok. Reactions over the internet today have been mixed, to say the least. However, with any change comes backlash.
A commentary on the new Reebok Spartan Race:
My first Spartan Race in 2010 was something new. It had never been done before and Spartan Race was more of an idea than a race. I showed up not knowing what it would be like and took on the challenge. It was the beginning of something new, something special, we all knew it.
I did another Spartan Race that year in Amesbury, Massachusetts. I remember standing in line for the bus back to the car and a woman complaining they had changed the race and there was less mud, and no swimming in Amesbury. She set her expectations from the first race, and who knows if she ever raced one again. In truth the second race was more organized and well a better event overall. The brand had matured a little from race one to race two.
In 2011, I spent the year trying all the different races, I tried not to stick to one particular race so I only actually did two Spartan Races that year, the Vermont Beast and the Texas Super (World Championships). The change in the company was dramatic that year. The events were huge compared to the year before and 2011 was the year Hobie Call and Spartan Race met. The obstacles became more uniform, and the original campy feel of the first race had evolved.
In 2012, more corporate sponsors came on board, cash prizes at some of the races, a international points system, Spartan Race was no longer a kid, it grew up some that year. Over the past year we have seen great changes in Spartan Race. We have watched it grow from a weekend activity to a burgeoning sport. Elite athletes have dubbed Spartan Race and Obstacle Racing their “sport” and train specifically and race all over the country chasing points. 2012, marked the first time true standards were put in place for the competitive racers. We saw individual athletes start to be sponsored, even a New Balance commercial shows basically an Obstacle Course Race in the ad. People welcome to the year that Obstacle Course Racing and Spartan Race went from an event to a sport.
Today marked the next evolution in the sport and specifically Spartan Race. Although it will take time for me to personally get use to the fact it’s officially Reebok Spartan Race as I am sure CrossFit athletes had to adjust when it became Reebok CrossFit at the end of the day it’s just a name change. Look at all that Reebok has done for CrossFit, before Reebok CrossFit first held their “Games” at a ranch, then it was a big deal for it to be in an arena, now because of the corporate backing and exposure of Reebok we can now watch it on ESPN.
In many ways, Spartan Race and CrossFit have followed very similar paths. People still in casual conversation say CrossFit not Reebok CrossFit just as we in the Obstacle Racing world will still say Spartan Race not Reebok Spartan Race. It’s a sponsor, all athletic organizations have sponsors whether they are in the name or not. Spartan Race didn’t change today, it just grew up, left the house and became an adult. Who knows now we might actually get the wish of seeing Obstacle Course Racing on national television.
Time will tell…