Spartan Race has been making a ton of changes over the past few years. They have shifted to a standardized format for course distance/obstacles, the burpee penalty is now a thing of the past, and this year they announced that they will be focusing on the 3K format for the Elite Series.
When I started following the competitive aspect of OCR back in 2017, things were a lot different. There was a solid number of male and female competitors who were full time Spartan/OCR athletes and it seemed like the professional aspect of the sport was only continuing to grow. But, over the past few years, Spartan has been shifting their focus from the Elite/Pros and pushing more towards the AG competitors. It seems that the Elite field has drastically died down and there are only a few athletes who compete "full time".
Why? Money. But not in a greedy way like everyone likes to say when the complain about Spartan's changes over Facebook. Obstacle Course Racing requires a high volume of participants in order to make money. If you want Spartan to continue/grow (especially after the pandemic brought it to it's knees) then they have to bring in more participants. Obviously the majority of participants are not elite competitors so they have to focus on more of your average folk. The Age Group series shines a spotlight on a much broader spectrum of athletes and encourages competition that draws attention to the sport in a way that is much more relatable to the average person. Spartan will also save money since they aren't paying out prize money to AG athletes.
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There is hope! Spartan's new 3K format could be the drastic change needed to bring back the elite level of competitive Obstacle Course Racing in a new and exciting way. The 3K format will bring new blood into the sport of OCR which is something that's needed. OCR needs new faces and fresh perspectives to help spur on growth. The new format will also be much more exciting and spectator friendly. Now, instead of getting spotty footage of an athlete 10 miles away in the woods, you'll be able to see higher quality filming and also have excellent in person spectating. The 3K is also much higher intensity and fast paced so there will be nail biter finishes rather than having someone 3 minutes ahead of everyone else and you know who the winner is 20 minutes before the race is even over.
Overall, I think Spartan is making the right decision by shifting their focus to the 3K format for elite competition. There is great potential for growth and bringing in new competitors to Spartan Racing/Obstacle Course Racing. I'm sure there will be issues at first since this is something brand new but hopefully they learn and make positive changes. There have already been a ton of complaints from athletes but at the end of the day, it's happening and you need to adapt or move on. For those who prefer the longer race formats, they are still available but won't be the focus of the Elite Series. Let us know your thoughts! Are you excited about the new 3K elite series format?