Spartan Trail Series | Spectator Fees for Trail Races?

Before we get into the Spartan Trail Series…Spartan has a long history of success in Obstacle Course Racing and has built an incredible organization around the world.  Led by Spartan and competitor Tough Mudder, the sport of OCR catapulted into the mainstream and really hit it’s peak around 2012 and has stayed strong since. Reality shows, big prize purses, 250 races, and possible Olympic talk have made it an exciting sport to watch from both the athletic perspective as well as a business model.

Recently, Spartan launched a Trail Racing series of a dozen events that would run concurrently with the OCR races. These would be around 10 miles each and be traditional trail races–no barbed wire, no flaming spears, no deliberate mud pits to navigate. The series garnered a fair amount of attention in the MUT world because icons Charlie Engle and Luis Escobar were hired as race directors for the series. Loosely, Charlie would cover the east coast, Luis the west coast.

The problem arose when people noticed that spectators at the trail races would charged $20.  Spartan and other OCR races have charged spectator fees for years, and that’s their right and decision to do so. As RD Charlie Engle told me, most of the particiants are millennials, and they don’t mind paying the extra money to get, what he describes, a “festival atmosphere.”

But the fit hit the shan when they decided to continue this practice for trail running.  In this interview, we learn that the OCR events also charge for insurance, drop bags, parking, and more. Let’s hope the Spartan Trail Series doesn’t try for that money grab as well as they make a mark in trail running.

spartan trail series Matt b. Davis
Matt B. Davis at Spartan Iceland.  We talk about the Spartan Trail Series.

So what makes us different? Why don’t we feel that our loved ones should have to pay to come and support us? And shouldn’t we just let the market decide?  All good questions, and all topics that Obstacle Racing Media’s Matt B. Davis and I dug into in this episode.  To be sure, Matt and I don’t agree on everything but do agree that spectator fees suck.

spartan trail series

Matt runs Obstacle Racing Media, a site dedicated to OCR events, interviews, gear, and opinion pieces about the industry. I asked Matt on the show because he’s supremely knowledgeable about the industry and is not afraid to pull punches. 

We also talk about the growth and plateau of the sport and the million dollar prize Skyrunning Champ Jonathan Albon is going after this weekend. Different from a traditional award, this million dollar grab has not been without its own controversy. Will he get it this weekend? We’ll wait and see.

Jonathan Albon. Spartan Trail Series episode.
Top Spartan competitor and Skyrunning champ Jonathan Albon

Spartan Trail Series Episode with Matt B. Davis | Episode Notes

Here’s the site for the Spartan Trail Series.

Here’s Matt B. Davis’ site: Obstacle Racing Media.

Here’s our interview with Charlie Engle and here’s our chat with Luis Escobar. Both are a couple years old, but definitely worth listening to.

Here’s the first time Matt was on the show, and here’s the time I was on his.

Here’s more on the Spartan One Million Dollar Trifecta Challenge and here’s Jonathan Albon’s website.

Intro and outro music by David Rosales.


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