Goodbye Gladiators – A Lackluster Goodbye in Vegas
It’s hard to talk about the recent Reebok Spartan Race in Las Vegas without first talking about the gladiators. They have been a fixture at the race since it first began in 2010 in Vermont when I ran through the woods to find a muscular man in the clearing. This past weekend was the send off of them in well a rather underwhelming way. As I strolled up to the starting area, which now includes a wall to jump over before reaching the start line, there they were, two men standing, looking not very excited to be there. They were wielding the pugal sticks and tapping people as they went through. A sort of lackluster send off of such an iconic part of the race. So it was there in a less than glorious fashion we said goodbye to an era of Spartan Race and hello to the era of Reebok Spartan Race.
I have been asked my feeling about this particular development in the company. Spartan Race as quoted in a recent Mud Run Guide article, “We want to ensure that within a Spartan Race the obstacles are athletic in nature which also falls within the Federation and Olympic guidelines.” Quotes from others within the company can be found in that article. Yesterday, I wrote a bit for About.com with some details about the Vegas race as well.
Before getting to my full opinion on this new development first I need to take a look back from the beginning. In 2010, Spartan Race was new and no one knew what to expect when we got to the race. We pushed through pine trees to a clearing to find a large gladiator dressed up with a pugal stick. He was out of site from the meager crowd of people and was purely for the runners. Later they moved the gladiator to the finish line, it soon became a spectator draw. People loved to watch others get whacked by he stick. The gladiators wore full Spartan gear. Then more changes came the gladiators started to wear more street clothing, then changed into a special spartan shorts. More recently they use wore volunteer shirts and street clothing. The mystic of the gladiator had declined a bit, while at the same time some of the races saw extra aggressive tactics.
The aggressive tactics built throughout the 2012 season and in December 2012 most would agree they hit a head. Although every gladiator is told they must only hit participants in the stomach region most racers know that’s not always the case. In Malibu probably fueled by 60 Minutes video cameras the gladiators were super aggressive. Couple that with a muddy course it made for a great spectator sport but also a rough go for those running through.
The second issue that arose with the gladiators really only affected the elite racers as prior to part of the way through 2013 the finish line timing mat was after the gladiators. In 2012, I wrote an article about The Unwritten Rules of racing and talked about how a pass in the gladiators was really a cheap pass. I myself almost experienced a 4th place finish instead of 3rd after a hard fought race when I was pushed and held up against the hay. The ironic part of that is one of the most used photos of me came from that very experience! Most have seen this photo…
However this one was moments before and told a bit different story…
A couple months later we would see an outcome of a race determined by gladiators. Soon after the timing mat was moved to right before the gladiators. So it was this past week that it was announced that the next evolution of the gladiators would happen and we would say goodbye to them for good.
So what is my personal opinion of the matter? To me I am indifferent, I have done so many Spartan Races it really doesn’t matter. I personally didn’t feel a void at the finish line not having them. But I think for many it was a highlight and at first they will be greatly missed, as with anything we will all move on and in a year or so no one will be talking about it. I do wish they had a few gladiators around the festival area all dressed up for those who are new to get a few photos with and preserve some of the original feel we had at the races in the beginning. But as for the sendoff in Vegas, it was just lackluster and the gladiators really deserved more of a true sendoff for those who have been around since the beginning.