BY AMIE HENDERSON
GERARD BUTLER SAID IT BEST, THOUGH WE’RE BETTING ANY ONE OF THE 8000 PLUS CHALLENGERS TAKING PART IN THIS YEAR’S SPARTAN RACE COULD GIVE HIM A RUN FOR HIS MONEY.
Morzine first welcomed the Spartan to its peaks and valleys in 2016, when 4500 participants signed up without really knowing much about what they were letting themselves in for. In 2017, numbers swelled to 8000 and this summer we’ll welcome the Spartan European Championships to the resort on 7th and 8th July, guaranteeing the very best athletes will be in attendance.
Whilst the original Spartan story dates back to ancient Greece circa 650 BC, the second coming is all thanks to Joe de Sena, a world-class adventure racer from Vermont who imagined a timed obstacle race of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty in challenging locations around the world.
Spartan in its new inception is much more than a race. Spartan is a community. Spartan is a philosophy. Spartan is a training and nutrition program. There’s podcasts, books, e-books, workout gear, a media channel and a magazine. The Spartans of ancient Greece were a society configured to maximise military proficiency at all costs. Rigorous training made them the best in battle and the modern day Spartan is no different.
“Spartan Race is here to find the warrior in you; running, crawling, jumping, carrying, throwing… you need to be a complete athlete to perform and reach your own objectives” explains Olivier Castelli, Director of Operations and Development when he meets Source. “We never leave a Spartan behind. Alone you go faster; together you go further. That’s the Spartan ethos.”
Now, those of you drawing comparisons with Tough Mudder or Rough Runner, hold your horses. With Spartan you can ease your way into proceedings with the Sprint distance; set over three+ miles and including between 20 and 23 obstacles, Sprint is a great Spartan entry point. Taking things up a notch is the Super; eight+ miles and between 24 and 29 obstacles set over rugged mountain terrain. And then we have the Beast; twelve+ miles, between 30 and 35 obstacles and a minimum three hours on the move. True Spartans complete all three races in just one weekend. Yes, really.
Over 100,000 challengers will take part in 20+ races across Europe in 2018 (including in Greece!), and more events are planned across the continent. But why Morzine? “We were looking for a mountain destination to enable some positive altitude running and to make the course much harder, just like we have in the US in Vermont” Olivier told Source. “Morzine is a very beautiful destination where the local community enjoy their sports and they welcome us very warmly. Morzine has all the ingredients to become one of the top three Spartan destinations in Europe.”
The introduction of the Spartan European Championship marks a new stage in Olivier’s plan to recognise Spartan Racing as a sport in its own right. “The field of athletes will be of such a high level in Morzine this summer. The focus will be on the Beast race for individuals and the Super race for team events” Olivier explains. “All the elite athletes and the different age groups will compete for the title”. Let’s also not forget that Spartan Racing makes for a truly epic spectator sport!
Returning to the ethos and philosophy behind Spartan racing, we’re keen to know more about the kids’ races. How do they fit into the event? “The kids’ races are a step to really cloning the adult races. We want the kids to have the same mottos and engagement, but also to start pushing their limits, just like the adults.” Taking place on both the Saturday and Sunday of Morzine’s Spartan weekend, children aged between 4 and 6 years of age complete a 800m course, whilst children aged between 7 and 10 years enjoy a 1600m challenge. Older children aged between 11 and 15 years face a 3200m course.
As the number of participants in Morzine’s Spartan weekend has grown, so has the atmosphere and hype accompanying each event. At the start line of each heat you’ll find actual Spartans, complete with battle cries. Obstacles now include fire pits and Morzine’s River Dranse has become part of the course. If that all sounds like your cup of tea, what should you do next? “The most important thing in sport is to fix an objective,” Olivier tells us. “The route to your first Spartan Race is to prepare your mind and body. On our website you’ll find training plans, workouts and tips for nutrition. Being confident in the capabilities of your mind and body means you’ll surprise yourself. And when you cross the finish line, you’ll be tired but proud of what you’ve accomplished.”
We’re keen to know Olivier’s longer term plans for Spartan racing in Morzine. After all, it pulls in thousands of visitors each summer and showcases the resort in the global sports media. As a destination keen to promote year-round tourism, the Spartan is now a major event on the annual calendar. “Morzine’s future as a Spartan destination is not something I can really predict but I am conservative in some ways. Why change something that is working well? Our brands are working well together, the local community becomes more engaged each year. This involvement is important to us.”