vercoming obstacles on a foot-race course as a metaphor for facing what life throws at a person is what Spartan Race events are all about. If people can climb over rope walls, crawl through barbed wire and make their way through fire or mud pits, to cross the finish line, surely everything else will just fall into place.
Spartan events focus on sport and athleticism, pushing the bodies and minds of competitors to the limit across miles of unforgiving terrain while they conquer signature obstacles. With more than one million annual participants and more than 200 events across more than 30 countries, Spartan is the world’s largest obstacle race.
People who constantly like to push themselves beyond what their bodies might be capable of, have found this a bold way to test the theories that positive changes brought on through these events can have positive effects in every facet of their lives. A solid support system of other runners only makes that victory of finishing even sweeter.
Approximately 10,000 competitors will find out what they’re made of by participating in the two-day, obstacle-filled Spartan Race coming to Laughlin Friday-Sunday, Nov. 16-18. Presented by the Laughlin Tourism Commission, races take place at the Laughlin Events Park (corner of Bruce Woodbury Drive and Thomas Edison Drive). A professional athlete combine takes place Friday, Nov. 16; Sprint races (3-5 miles, 20-23 obstacles) are on Saturday, Nov. 17; Super races (8-10 miles, 24-29 obstacles) take place on Sunday, Nov.18; and kids races take place both days. Racing begins at 7:30 a.m. PST Saturday and Sunday.
This first-time Spartan Kids World Championship will bring kids from more than a dozen countries all over the globe to Laughlin to compete. With prizes worth up to $10,000, ages 10-13 will put their physical and mental grit to the test.
The Laughlin race also debuts the Para Spartan heat for adaptive athletes. It is designed to minimize the impact of impairments on sport performance and to ensure the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus. The para athletes will compete individually in an open heat or with a team as an elite in hopes of winning cash prizes.
Combining speed and endurance along with a strong mind-body connection is at the very core of this particular sport of racing. Adding obstacles helps athletes to shift their frame of reference, making them more resilient, challenging themselves to be more capable than they thought.
The theory is when runners sign up for a race, it holds them accountable and keeps them motivated to train harder and eat healthier.
At least, that’s what tough competitor Alyssa Hawley discovered when she signed up for her first event four years ago.
“I was a college athlete, I played softball and after I was finished with college I looked forward to not having to work out any more, but then I started getting back into it,” she said. “It was just a healthy outlet for me at the time to start working out.
The idea to compete crossed her mind in an unusual way.
“I found it on a Groupon actually and it was for the Mets Stadium, in New York,” Hawley said. “So I completed the stadium race there. I was like, ‘this is awesome. This is so much fun.’ It was the kind of workout I was already doing, and it really pushed me. Then I realized I got first place in the open heat and that was cool.”
Hawley talked her dad into competing in the next event with her.
“I was like, ‘let’s go do that race together, you’d love it.’ He was kind of on the same fitness journey as I was,” she said. “I did that race — and talk about grueling. That was the hardest thing I’d ever done up to that point. For whatever reason, I just loved that. It was just something that pushed me physically and mentally and spiritually, like I had never been pushed before.”
Hawley didn’t stop there.
“I don’t know why I love it, it’s just so fascinating...because after you’re done, it’s such a great feeling but you’re kind of like it’s just one of those funny things that’s so hard and it pushes you so much, and yet you still want to do it again,” she said. “It’s addicting, like right away, you’re already thinking, ‘Okay, When can I do my next one?’
“That’s my story and it just kind of took off after that for me.”
Hawley’s lost track of how many races she’s finished, but she remembers the time and effort required.
“It’s a lot of training hours, a lot of travel, plus the time racing, I’m just so hooked on it,” she said. “I always just think that I can be getting better and I just want to see how far I can push myself. I just want to keep growing and I just want to help other people realize that as well.”
How does one tackle such a sport? Is it all cardio, should a participant approach it with a runner’s mindset?
“It’s such a new sport, so nobody knows quite exactly how to train for it yet,” Hawley said. “Because of all the different aspects, for me, it’s changed every year. I was never a runner, so that’s been my biggest thing that I need to be working on, so I do a lot of running now. I train about 5 days a week, and it will be intermixed with things like burpees — I’ll run a mile and then I’ll do 30 burpees, run another mile and do 30 burpees. Or I’ll run and mix it with heavy carry, or I’ll go on a trail and run, then I might grab a heavy sandbag and I’ll do hill intervals with it or bucket carries with it and just mix that with the running. I own a gym, so I do a lot of stuff in the gym too. I do a lot of cross training, and I’ll do some weight lifting stuff, just to stay strong.”
How would one even begin to understand what’s involved in a Spartan Race?
“I would say, just sign up for it,” Hawley said. “I feel like people say they can’t too often and if you sign up and you commit to that, everything else is just going to fall into place. I think that people are way more capable than they think they are. So if you sign up for a race and you have that date, it’s something to train for,” she said.
“I would say have the confidence in yourself to sign up for it and then just find a group of like minded people, because if you surround yourself with those kind of people they’ll be able to help you succeed. It makes it a lot easier.”
Expect a transformation, Hawley warns.
“There’s more to these races than just crossing the finish line — it will change your life for the better,” she said. “My big thing is I really want to empower women to go out and race, because I feel like there are so many stereotypes about what women can’t or shouldn’t be, or do. My big passion is finding women and helping them sign up for a race and crossing that finish line because it is so empowering and it’s so life changing. I want to see that.”
Hawley is particularly happy to see the Para Spartan division take form for the Laughlin race.
“It is so cool,” she said. “It is the most inspiring thing, to see those people racing. It’s insane. It shows you anybody can do it. There are all walks of life doing these races. I think it’s huge and I love the fact that we’ve moved in that direction. I think it’s super awesome.”
Race finishers will receive a Finishers Medal, Trifecta Medal Wedge Piece, free beer, finisher T-Shirt, free professional photos, free bananas at the finish line, CLIF Builder’s protein bar and bragging rights.
Ticket prices for participants vary by race type ($79+ for adults, $25 for kids); Spectator fee of $20 per day; parking fee $10 per car, $20 per van, $50 per bus or RV. Cash only, paid as you enter.
Before competition gets underway, everyone is invited to the Spartan Open House and Spartan Athlete Combine on Friday, Nov. 16 (2 p.m.-4:30 p.m.) at the Laughlin Events Park. The event is free to attend and is a chance for newbies and expert Spartans alike to hang out pre-race, practice on obstacles, join a guided obstacle tour with an SGX certified coach, who can answer all questions about what to expect on race day, as well as provide expert tips on how to crush Spartan obstacles like a pro; plus get early access to merchandise, meet new Spartans while soaking up the music and pre-race vibe in festival style, and more.
The Spartan Athlete Combine is an invitational event capped at 50 top athletes and is designed to put the athletes’ Spartan training to the ultimate test. The Combine will test each of the unique physical demands of Spartan Race across a series of unique, situational workouts. Spectators can expect to see a lot of novel twists on everyday Spartan Race terrain and obstacles and perhaps the most high intensity and highly competitive event in our history.
For more information or official registration, go to Spartan.com.