In the past few years marathons have become too mainstream, triathlons have become too tame and the Iron Man just isn’t enough. So what does the modern day adrenaline junky want? The answer to this is simple. Mud. Sweat. Ice. Fire. Electricity. So why not throw all of these elements into one event and truly see how hard-core people are? Well, they did.
The first Spartan Race, aimed to see if people are as tough as the historical 300 that stood at Thermopylae, took place in 2010 inspired by the spirit of the Death Race. The race length varies, stretching from 1 to 26 miles, and offering a variety of difficulties: Sprint, Super and Beasts (which we here at Predator like the sound of). The course offers a variety of obstacles through the duration, testing not only the contestants’ endurance and strength, but also their camaraderie towards their fellow Spartans. Their signature obstacles include;
– The Object Carry: Spartans must carry a tyre, rock-filled bucket or sandbag weighing up to 70 pounds.
– The Tyrolean Traverse: Spartans must traverse a rope that is hung over a body of water. If competitors cannot climb the rope they have an icy swim ahead of them.
– The Gladiator Arena: Once the Spartans approach the finish line, they face one final trial of strength. The Spartans must pass through the onslaught of gladiators who aim to knock down the runners with their pugil sticks.
The Object Carry The Gladiator Arena
So what sets the Spartan Race apart from your average obstacle course? To put it simply, the Spartan Ethos. The Spartan Race offers coaching in which participants are pushed to become, in their own words, ‘better humans.’ The coaching aims to direct members to become more physically active and lead a healthier lifestyle. This incorporates pushing their bodies to the limit, mastering their emotions, knowing their strengths and weaknesses and living life to its fullest. After completion of the coaching, members should leave feeling both mentally and physically stronger and be able to live each day with a can-do attitude.
Not sparked your interest? Well never fear, if you feel you have already mastered those qualities then you’ll be pleased to hear of the purse up for grabs. In 2013 the Spartan Race launched a Spartan Race World Championships, where the toughest Spartans were invited to compete for a $250,000 cash prize… and obviously the chance to be known as The Toughest Spartan in the world.
So what separates the Tough Mudder from the Spartan Race? Honestly, very little. The Tough Mudder promotes the same qualities as that of the Spartan Race, to aid people into becoming physically and mentally stronger. It aims to push people to set goals in their life and overcome obstacles along the way through teamwork, determination and perseverance. Similarly they offer an elite competition, The Toughest Mudder, which invites the top-ranking men, women and team to compete for a cash prize of $15,000.
That being said there are certain qualities that set the Tough Mudder apart from The Spartan Race and other courses. It pushes certain values that have been shadowed in today’s society by the online environment, values such as real-life experiences with family, friends, co-workers and fellow participants. The Tough Mudder pushes you to step away from your computer, put down your phone and create memories with those close to you and meet people with similar interests. They push the idea that it is not a race in which people aim to set the best course time, but instead a challenge where teamwork and camaraderie is at the forefront.
The Mudder also characterises itself as a military assault course through its crafted design by the British Special Forces and aims to test participant’s strengths and fears such as fire, water and heights. Some of their signature obstacles are:
– The Boa Constrictor: Runners must work their way through narrow pipes and mud
– Arctic Enema: Participants must plunge into a dumpster filled with ice and water, submerge themselves and swim under a plank and pull themselves out on the other side.
– Electroshock Therapy: Runners must make their way through a field of mud whilst trying to avoid live wires hanging overhead.
Boa Constrictor Arctic Enigma
Both events support a selection of charities. The Spartan Race partnered itself with Home for Heroes in 2011, a national American organisation committed to helping those who have been wounded fighting for their country. The organisation aimed to build a ‘Spartan’ home for the soldiers who had been injured whilst at war, through donations from participants. The Tough Mudder supports charities depending on the location of the event held. These charities include; Wounded Warrior Project (United States), Wounded Warriors Canada, Help for Heroes (United Kingdom) and Legacy (Australia). Tough Mudder incentivises participants to raise money for the raise to be donated to the relevant charities. For example in the UK the Tough Mudder offers a £20 rebate to anyone who raises over £120 for Help for Heroes.
But why have these events become so popular? One can speculate over this question as there is no definitive answer. In my personal opinion it is a combination of the challenge itself and the social environment. Unlike a marathon, where runners envelop themselves in their own world and play music as a motivator over the 26 miles, these events promote team work, where participants are pushed to team up to overcome the most difficult of physical activities. The focus isn’t on time, the focus is on overcoming the physical and mental challenges the courses have to offer and helping others to overcome these challenges.
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