One thing I love about the obstacle racing community is how it instantly connects people, and creates a bond as tight knit as family. This past summer at the New Jersey Tri-State Super Spartan, Geoff and I struck up quite a long conversation and created an instant bond with a fellow Spartan that we had more than a few things in common with, including matching (sort of ) kilts. Yesterday afternoon I received a message from this friend, Walt. He had just completed his first Spartan Trifecta, which for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Spartan community, means that he completed all three distances of Spartan Races (sprint, 3-5 miles, Super, 6-8 miles, and Beast, 13+ miles) in one calendar year. While Walt was stoked with his accomplishments, and rightfully so, he had a very upsetting experience regarding the disrespect fellow racers had for the course.
In other words: they trashed it. Literally.
Now, I wasn’t at the SC Beast. But I did witness the exact same situation in both New Jersey and Killington this year, with wrappers for gels, chews, bars, and drinks strewn haphazardly and seemingly everywhere. It was more than disgusting…it was heartbreaking. It seems to me that Spartan Race has brought upon themselves a unique scenario: while “ripping people off of the couch” they are bringing hoards of new athletes out into the field that not only have little knowledge of general race etiquette, but they have zero experience with what it means to respect our trails ,and the whole philosophy of “leave no trace”.
Walt wrote a fantastic letter to the Spartan Race staff, and gave me permission to share it with all of you. Spartan Race has already replied to Walt numerous times, assuring him that they have a “sweeper” crew that comes a long and cleans up after the racers. This of course is commendable. But keep in mind, we are on the trails, not on a street, and chances are high that this trash may be blown off the trail into the woods before the staff has a chance to clean it up. Further, some of us (like myself) simply want to enjoy our time on the beautiful trails and not tiptoe over trash for the entire course. Therefore, even though this letter was intended for the Spartan Race staff, I felt it was important to share this letter with ALL OCR athletes to make them more aware of the situation.
It’s simple: if you bring it ON trail…bring it back OFF trail. Carry your trash in the exact same pocket/pouch/hydration pack that you carried it in when you stepped foot on the starting line. Water/aid stations ALWAYS have garbage cans. Please use them, and not the trail. Nature is a gift, not a given right. It is up to ALL of us to preserve it for future enjoyment. Be a true Spartan (or any athlete for that matter): respect our environment.
Thank you Walt for bringing this to our attention.
“An open letter to Mr DeSena and all other high ranking staff… Mr DeSena,
I did my first Spartan race in 2011 when it finally was close enough for me to get to in PA. Long before Reebok and all of the bouncy “athletes” of the world started making a sport of it. Although I admire what you have brought to the world with this race, it saddens me that with all the education for training and diet and the supposed “lifestyle” …the simple concept of being responsible for yourself and your actions (other than a small blurb here and comment there) is nonexistent. Please allow me to politely and enthusiastically encourage you to walk one of the race courses AFTER a weekend event.
Manipulating the ground and the construction of challenging obstacles is one thing but, the ignorance of so many of the participants is indescribable. I traveled through the Carolina beast this past Saturday and the forest already looked like a public DUMP by noon. At the same time, I made sure I thanked every volunteer that would hear me and every runner that I was able to catch tucking the wrappers from energy gels, protein bars and other products back in their pockets to take back out of the forest. To many, including myself, this concept is more important than any medallion you can give me and I will gladly mail all of them back to you in exchange for the simple effort of making sure your race announcers command attention and add this to their pre-race.
This race was started by a good man and has been a great accomplishment for everyone from single parents with just enough cash to register to now professional athletes… don’t let it go into history as just another even that comes into town, trashes everything and then leaves.”
– Walt Marinkovits, 2014 Spartan Trifecta finisher