Thursday, July 25, 2013

Spartan Races and Ultramarathons Are Dumb

Spartan races are the big thing in my neck of the woods right now. For those of you unfamiliar with a Spartan race, it is basically an obstacle course up to 12 miles long. Obstacles include difficult tasks like climbing a big wall, running through mud, and watching an entire episode of The Golden Girls.

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t understand the appeal of Spartan races. So you’re telling me you get to climb under barbed wire and throw spears for twelve miles? Um…..okay. Thanks, but no thanks. Add Spartan to the list of things I’ll never do (including a Ragnar relay, a Rock and Roll Marathon, and eating sushi).

Wait a second before you send your hate mail. I don’t mean to ruffle any Spartan feathers. After all, you guys are strong and could beat me up, give me a weggie, and steal my lunch money. What I’m getting at is that my sport is kind of pointless and dumb too.

I came to this realization at work a few days ago. One of my patients heard that I run 100 mile races. She is a sweet, older lady who reminds me of my grandma. She called me over with a look of concern that reminded me of how a parent would look if their child said they wanted to grow up to be a carnival worker. She wanted all the details. The conversation went like this:

Concerned Grandma: Someone said that you’ve run 100 miles. Is that true?

Me: Yes.

Concerned Grandma: And I heard you’ve done this a few times.

Me: I’ve finished four 100 milers and then started two more but I didn’t finish the whole race.

Concerned Grandma: How many days does it take you to run 100 miles?

Me: It’s not spread out over days. You start in the morning and keep running until you’re done the next day. Most of them have a limit of 30-35 hours.

Concerned Grandma: Does a car drive next to you to make sure you’re okay?

Me: No, the races are on remote trails out in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes you’re all alone in the wilderness for hours without seeing anyone else.

Then I stood there with my words hanging out in the air. Uh oh Cory. Do you realize how idiotic you just sounded? Wilderness? Alone? For HOURS?!?!? Hurry Cory. You’re losing her.

Concerned Grandma: Do you see wildlife? Bears?

Me: Yes, lots of wildlife, but no bears. I’ve only seen bear tracks. (Stupid Cory! Why did you have to say that last part?!?)

Concerned Grandma: Don’t your knees hurt?

Me: Yea, my knees feel really sore in the later parts of the race.

Concerned Grandma: And your feet?

Me: Well, those hurt pretty bad too.

Concerned Grandma: Do you sleep during the run?

Me: No. That’s one of the hardest things about a 100 miler for me. After only seeing by the light of your head lamp, your brain starts to go a little crazy by around 2:00am. I get really, really tired, but when I stumble I wake myself up from the sleep walking.

I finished that sentence and she just stared at me. It was at that moment when I realized my logical reasoning had jumped the track. The appearance of common sense was shattered beyond repair. I thought about trying to change the subject. “Hey, remember when Saturday Night Live was funny?” Instead I just smiled and said “I know, it sounds strange.” I told her to have a good day as I walked away feeling sheepish.

So to all you Spartan racers: your sport still sounds really dumb to me. It sounds lame to swing on ropes and dodge tasers. But I fully endorse you calling ultramarathons really dumb too.

Experiencing pain so intense that it has made a grown man (me) cry……alone in the dark in the middle of nowhere…….bear tracks…….it’s hard to explain but I really love this ultramarathon thing. I love it. I live for it. It is who I am. The finish line of my first 100 miler transformed me and I will never be the same.


  1. Nice post! I agree with you 100% on this one! The whole obstacle course thing is growing here in SA too. I will never do that! I live for the loneliness I experience out on the trails. And sushi...yuck...never!

  2. I am sitting at my work desk laughing out loud ! I am not a fan for Spartan Races or Ragnar , they sound so silly , to me . But , running 100 miles sounds pretty silly (and punishing) as well .
    You make me laugh far too much Cory ! Are you going to be in the Salt Lake Valley for Wasatch 100 in early September ? If so , I am looking for a pacer ...... Just throwing it out there . If it does sound tempting , let me know . Danny Widerburg
    I stalked you at Zion 100 the last 2 years .

  3. Haha. That's funny. To be honest, I don't get the spartan thing either OR the color runs... I just don't get it. But, I also don't have any desire to run an ultra either! Especially after hearing you describe it! :)

  4. The likelihood that I ever run a 100 miles, much less 26.2 miles probably isn't very high; however, I admire those of you who do it. Completing something like that has to be one of the most self-satisfying experiences ever and gives you the confidence to know that if you can conquer that, you can conquer anything!

  5. Haha. It always makes so much sense to me. And then I try to explain things to someone that asks (and is not a runner) and they just look at you with the deer in headlights expression. It obviously does not make sense to people when I say I'd rather run an ultra in the middle of nowhere than a 5k in the city and go home for breakfast :D

  6. We all look crazy to people on the outside. I'll stick with adventure races and the natural obstacles we come across...they're much less likely to be electrified.

  7. I totally agree! I will never do one of those tough mudder, type runs. However, I didn't think I would ever do Ragnar either and now after having the opportunity I am a changed lady. What an absolutely blast of a time out there with other sleep deprived crazy runners just having an awesome adventure together! You really should give it a try at least once in your life before you say never.

  8. I've never done an obstacle race, but I'm one of those people who would love to. I know most people look at me when I'm crazy when I tell them I run or do triathlon or whatever. I don't think it all seems out of the box to most everyone.

  9. I'm glad that U'm not the only one that has had that feeling of stupidity when trying to describe to someone running long distances. There is nothing quite like the blank stare on their face that says this guy is a moron. Funny post as always.


  10. I agree w/ you on all points except for sushi :) I cannot wait to run a 100 miler. I really hope it's in my near future!

  11. Your post made me laugh. I think you really need to give a Spartan Race a try though. They are a lot of fun. I'll be running my first 50k next Saturday and stumbled onto your site. Very inspiring and good info.

  12. ha! i've always hated the idea of spartan races. and undie dashes. and color runs. and disco dashes. can't forget the warrior dashes, hot chocolate races, jingle bell runs, or any other themed runs.

    but, not turkey trots. those are cool.

  13. Ultrarunning does *sound* awful. I can only imagine the look on her face. I get lots of people telling me I'm a nutter for running 50k's!

  14. Love it! I'm sure Grandma went home telling all how crazy you are and you are going to kill yourself running from bears! lol I will join you on never doing a sparten race..

  15. I'm with you on the spartan race thing. It's not my thing for sure.

    However, neither are ultra marathoners.

    I have more respect for finishers of one than the other. One actually takes a lot and is totally hardcore, the other is just over the top (and expensive) so you can tell people you're hardcore.

  16. You know how it man's trash is another man's treasure. Good blog and since you're into 100 milers, you'd probably fit in with the crazies that happen to do the Death Race. This may be up your alley, but after you read it, maybe not.

    I run all of the other runs and I do it simply to have a goal to train for. I can't stand road races, they bore me to tears and the idea of running another road race? Lame.

    I always have a lot of respect for your crazy ultra runners, but seriously, give a Spartan Beast a try. You'll be surprised by how much of it is really trail running and a smaller part is the obstacles (and burpees if you fail).

  17. I just barely read this post for the first time tonight. It is awesome! That poor little old grandma. She sure thinks you are an idiot :). I think you must be made of steel because there's nothing stronger than you.

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