Spartan Race Brings Series Obstacle Course Competition to Chicago Area

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As obstacle racing has grown from a quirky alternative to a traditional road race into its own endurance sports category, different events have stepped into fill a variety of competitive needs. For those who take athleticism and competition seriously, the Spartan Race in particular seeks to challenge and change participants.

“After 20 years of racing all over the world, I thought maybe there was an opportunity to create an event that would in less of a party way, more of an athletic way, get people off the couch, competing on a military-inspired obstacle course, and see if it would transform their lives,” Joe De Sena, founder of the Spartan Race, says. “We put on the first event and some people showed up. The second and third events were losers from an economic standpoint, but at every finish line I saw transformations.”

The Spartan Race seeks to separate itself from other obstacle course races that put the focus on fun rather than athleticism, featuring a variety of race distances including the three-mile Sprint, eight-mile Super and 13-mile Beast, which, if completed in a calendar year, together make up the Spartan Trifecta to even greater challenges including the 26-mile Ultra Beast and team-based Hurricane Heats and Hurricane Heats 12 Hour, both of which take place on and off Spartan courses with challenging objectives to conquer along the way. While anyone can compete in a Spartan Race, the event also offers elite heats that allow racers to rack up points to qualify for prizes.

“Ninety-five percent [of Spartan Race participants] are couch potatoes who used to be an athlete or just dreamed of it. Five percent are elite athletes,” De Sena says. “[For the 95 percent], this is the impetus to clean themselves up. Who wouldn’t want to be a Spartan?”

For those who need a little extra push to register, the Spartan Race this year launched its #WhyIRace campaign, which encourages current participants to share their stories and drive for competing.

“We’ve been getting these stories for five years,” De Sena says. “We want to share them with the world to help motivate others.

Locally, the Chicago Super Weekend, featuring a Super race, Sprint race and Hurricane Heat, will take place Aug. 15-16 at The Cliff’s Off-Road Park in Marseilles. De Sena says participants can expect pain, but shouldn’t let that deter them from registering.

“Everyone wants to be more happy,” De Sena says. “The number one way to be happier is to put yourself through something difficult. Set goals really high, somewhat unachievable goals, and when you achieve them you will have lasting happiness.”

To learn more about the Spartan Race and to register, visit