“Ripping people off the couch.” ~Joe Desena
“When we started this band all we needed, needed was a laugh.” ~ Vince Neil.
Ripping people off of a couch and making better humans was an original idea. It was not “throw people into a race and create uber-athletes. In point of fact, making athletes is no where in that statement. Give people a struggle and they will rise to it, run from it, or keep doggedly at it until they can over come it. Keeping doggedly at it for better or worse was what people who really got Spartan Race understood. Determination to succeed. Progress in spite of failure.
So, what happened? Before the voices clamored Olympics and the pundits called foul at obstacles people ran obstacle course races primarily for one of 2 reasons: Mud or beer, and that was fine. Subset to those reasons were a sense of community, a judgment free environment, and oddly enough simply for fun. Remember fun? The challenges were either difficult or silly. But in the end it was fun. So much so that you told your friends about it.
So what happened? Races got longer, obstacles became more difficult, people got faster. Races became widely popular. Obstacle Course Racing became a “Boom-Town”. The gold rush was on and like any run on a good thing so came the ancillary industries. Media outlets, outfitters specializing in niche items, communities. And of course “The Experts”. The experts on everything. Over night every one had an opinion. Snake oil salesmen on every corner. “If you can’t drive a nail into a wooden shaft, I’ll sell it to you fully assembled!” “You need to do this, to do that.” “That race is child’s play son! Prove you’re a man and do this race, it was designed by a Navy Seal don’t you know.” The list is endless, everyone is cashing in.
So what happened? When we were ripping people off couches, or not “running” races but doing “event’s” we encouraged everyone. We “aspired to inspire” as I have seen the terms used. We said “I can do this” without having any shred of confidence we could. And we did do it. We did it not because we had the confidence to do it but because others inspired us to. Because someone told us “I won’t let you fail.” We helped “Rip people off couches.”
So what happened? The most hurtful thing I have ever seen written was by a very good friend of mine. He is one of the experts. No sarcasm, he is truly an expert. There probably is not one single person who has more access to OCR information than him. When he suggested that “There are a ton of less competitive, less “rules” driven OCRs out there that first timers, burpee haters and such can hit up if they need to.” I knew the party was over. Yes the context of the statement was specific to an event, but the sentiment is universal. And he is not alone. The culture of the industry has changed, and this is the way of the future.
So what happens next? A good teacher teaches without the students realizing the lesson. In the end the student is endowed with knowledge and the teacher satisfied with accomplishment. Lao-Tsu tells us “When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!'” I feel that anyone who has gone on to their second and more obstacle race, learned the lesson. They have been “ripped” off the couch. I have witnessed sedentary people do a Spartan Race and within a year run a road marathon. I have watched someone who can’t climb a rope, join a gym and shed 100 pounds. I have seen the most timid woman shake violently at a Sprint starting gate in the Spring, only to gnash her teeth in the chute of the Beasts starting line in the Fall screaming “Come and get them!!” All of this because they either got it in their mind to change, or someone told them “You can do it.” But it’s an elite class system now, and the gap is widening between the tiers.
So what happens next? Do you say “look out fatty”, “out of my way pokey”, “do all your burpees cheater!” or do you teach the lesson. Do you aspire to inspire. I have never once heard a top finisher say that their time was slowed because someone skipped an obstacle or dropped a burpee. But it never was about finishing first in the first place. It was about ripping people off couches. Now it seems it’s ok for some people to do the ripping as long as we don’t put those people in the way of the “real” Spartan Racers. Sad really. This isn’t about standardizing or maintaining etiquette. It’s about getting people to move. To be better. It is about a process that we all are involved in. Some of us are further along that journey than others. Some are still in the physical transformation stage. Some are developing the emotional stage. These journeys however are personal. If you are crippled by someone else’s journey and the way they navigate it, you are not as far along your own journey as you think.
What happens next is a mystery. Experts and prognosticators alike are just as in the dark as anyone else. Follow your own path. When the path leads you in a unintended direction you must either maintain the course or correct the course. Be careful in your corrections however. You may find the course, though divergent, was the correct one all along.