Soldier Hollow to morph into Sparta
Launch that spear. Crawl through pools of mud. Slide beneath razor-sharp barbed wire. Gather enough power to leap over a pit of blistering fire.
No, it’s not some sort post-apocalyptic nightmare. It’s the Spartan Race Series, the world’s leading obstacle racing event, which returns to the Wasatch Back for the second straight year Saturday at Soldier Hollow. Roughly 10,000 competitors and spectators are expected to venture to Midway as participants will take on a slew of primitive challenges in the 10-to-12 mile Spartan Beast obstacle race.
Since its inception in 2004, the series has grown furiously each year. Spartan Race founder Joe Desena was part of a group of ultra-endurance racing athletes who created the Spartan Death Race — a 48-hour race that, according to the website, 90 percent of competitors do not finish — the highest level of the Spartan Challenge
"The original idea was, ‘Let’s make an event unlike any other that really attempted to break people.’ One in which everything that could go wrong, would go wrong, where people wouldn’t know when it starts or ends," he said. "It was whatever we could come up with."
Spartan took off in popularity, Desena said. It was featured in The New York Times and was approached by a number of reality-television shows for potential series.
"We realized we had something the public wanted," he said. "We want people putting up a hoop in their backyard to throw spears through in anticipation. It’s caught on, and in a big way."
Desena said this year there will be 375,000 competitors in the Spartan series in 40 events throughout the world. Following Saturday’s race, the series will head to Canada, England, Scotland, and is planning races in South Africa, New Zealand, Slovakia, India, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Iceland, he added.
"When we think about why, the reason is primal," he said. "It’s more human than basketball or football. We’ve been on the planet a long time, and most of the time on planet, we did the things like the Spartan Race; we started fires, jumped and climbed and threw spears. And the viral nature is unbelievable. When we have someone compete, they bring 10 people with them."
Desena said Spartan looks forward to the series at Soldier Hollow due to its Olympic aura, and the way he views his races, the two coincide in more than one way.
"For us, we view this as an Olympic sport," he said, "and it really fits well with Soldier Hollow. It’s a keeper for us. It’s got Greeks roots."
He said in order to be a respectable series and sporting event, Spartan has done its best to remain consistent in its organization of obstacles to give participants a chance to complete the taxing event.
"Standardized obstacles are key for us. Even with that being said, we always throw in a couple surprise obstacles and we do change up the course and the locations of those obstacles," he said.
Asked to describe the ideal person who would compete in the grueling event, Desena said the field is wide open.
"Anybody can come out and do it and push through it. You just figure it out," he said. "You’d be happy when you got there wherever the finish line was. Just get out and do it.
"The biggest stumbling blocks for people not doing stuff is they worry they can’t. Just throw that stuff out the window and get out there. We used to travel 50 miles for food and, now, people can’t walk half a mile to the grocery store. "
Elite heats will start at 9 a.m. Saturday, with a three-person sprint relay heat at 9:30 a.m. Regular heats of up to 250 competitors each will start every 30 minutes from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
For more information on the schedule of events or how to register for a Spartan Race, visit http://www.spartanrace.com .
The Christian Center of Park City had a makeover last year, and its boutique felt it was time for one, too.