Obstacle racing is the sport in which a competitor conquers obstacles that challenge him or her, both physically and mentally. Most races involve mud, water, and trail runs, and require the actions of running, climbing, crawling, swimming, jumping, and carrying. Chances are you or someone you know has recently completed an obstacle race. They have exploded in popularity over the last six years, as evidenced by the Google Trend below.

ObstacleRaceTrendI strongly believe that this increase in popularity has been fueled by connections to the community on social media. Spartan Race, in particular, has over 4 million Facebook likes, 110,000 Twitter followers, and about 100,000 Instagram followers. It has flourished from one U.S. event in 2010 to over 80 races world-wide in 2014.

I myself am a Spartan Race admirer and have completed three races so far. Personally, I do not actually view them as races, but as personal challenges. Although Spartan Race rewards top performers with cash prizes and prestige, the majority of the participants are in it for personal accomplishment and just to have fun. Spartan Race does a great job at connecting with this majority via social media to motivate, inspire, and educate them to live healthier lives.

Spartan offers races of different distances to cater to multiple fitness levels: the Sprint (3+ miles), the Super (8+ miles), and the Beast (12+ miles). Every day, they email and blog a Workout of the Day (WOD) to help motivate people and train them for the appropriate race level.

WODEvery 30 days, they post and Tweet a Spartan30, which challenges people to complete a task every day for 30 days. The current Spartan30 is 30 burpees for 30 days. This Facebook video shows Spartan’s Coach Casey motivating the Spartan community to complete day 26 of the challenge.

Much of the motivation Spartans experience results from a sense of camaraderie and community, for which Spartan Race is a major advocate. During the races, people help one another overcome the obstacles and cheer each other on. The organization shares images and words of encouragement to let the community know that they are all working toward the same goal.

NotInThisAloneThe Spartan Blog offers inspirational stories of people who have embraced the Spartan way of life, positively impacting their lives. One of the stories that really stands out and has inspired me is that of Amanda Sullivan. Amanda was involved in two serious accidents in a 6-week period, causing damage to her entire body and restricting her mobility to the point where she needs forearm crutches and a wheelchair to get around (read Amanda’s full story here). These unfortunate circumstances, though, have not stopped Amanda from persevering, both physically and mentally. She has become a Spartan athlete and consistently encourages the rest of the Spartan community by reaching out to them on social media. This video perfectly exemplifies her tenacious spirit. Whenever I feel like quitting my workouts, I remind myself that she did not, and does not, quit.

Spartan Race also builds community by encouraging participants to share their race stories on Facebook and Twitter. Users can use the organization’s various hashtags to read these stories and inspirational messages. The Tweet below was sent out on the day an episode of the Spartan Race series aired on NBC Sports. It cleverly uses the combo hashtag #Transformation #SpartanOnNBC to capture the attention of current Spartans as well as people simply searching the #Transformation hashtag.

TellUsSpartanRaceOther hashtags that Spartan Race and its community consistently use to share and motivate are #SpartanRace, #SpartanUp, and #AROO. They are usually accompanied by images of race participants conquering obstacles along with a motivational phrase, like the one below.

DigDeepSpartanAdditionally, Spartan Race connects to its community through education by providing fitness, health, and nutrition tips that complement the organization’s mission. It is important that their followers are using the right form when training, are training at a healthy pace, and are eating nutritiously in order to perform at their optimum level. The Tweet below links to a Spartan e-magazine article that walks the reader through the steps of measuring their run cadence, or their steps-per-minute.

RunningRhythmFun food facts and recipes get weekly posts on Facebook and Twitter, but are daily occurrences on the Spartan Blog. Here, the foods are referred to as the Spartan Food of the Day (FOD), similar to the WOD. Today’s FOD (as I write this blog) is pumpkin… yum!

PumpkinFODIt is obvious that Spartan Race relies on the gathering and communication of people to succeed. What better way to reach these people than via social media? It enables them to communicate their mission, recruit followers, share participants’ experiences, and, ultimately, achieve their goal of providing people with a “lifestyle overhaul.” So everyone, join me and SPARTAN UP! AROO!

NJ Spartan Sat. afternoon wall-171

My husband and me after completing the Tri-State NJ Super Spartan in 2013.


  1. Great blog Kate, it makes me want to do a Spartan Race! I think building a sense of community is essential for fitness companies that successfully engage on social media. Working out regardless of athletic ability is difficult and at times everyone has thought about quitting, so having the community to fall back on and keep you motivated is key. For successful lifestyle brands, like the Spartan Race or Cross-Fit, they are able to build and grow the sense of community by harnessing the commitment and co-operation found during the race/workout and translating it onto social media. The people that I know that have done Spartan Races or Cross-Fit, don’t simply participate to stay healthy and active, they participate because they love it. By creating a wonderful enriching experience for the participants Spartan and companies like it have created brand ambassadors out of their participants. However, I think it may be difficult for these companies to attract people that have not committed to the brand. These are individuals who haven’t run a Spartan Race or worked out in a Cross-Fit gym. They don’t know what they may be missing out on. I think these lifestyle companies do a great job at fostering the community among participants, but the real trick will be using social media to attract people that have not engaged with the brand at all. I know I’ve had friends that have been trying to get me to run a Spartan Race for years, who knows this blog may have been the tipping point for me.

  2. Haha, I really liked this post, Kate! While I don’t think I’ll be shouting “AROO” any time soon, it’s clear to see that Spartan really does cultivate a dedicated and passionate following. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about these sorts of things, and as an outsider, these lifestyle trends often come off as somewhat ridiculed. This meme was a very popular post on Reddit the other day ( However, your point shines through the mockery: people want to stay healthy and they want to compete and they want to do it in a communal setting. Some of the Tweets you used really illustrate that point well.
    I do think that trends like this are here to stay. We are a much more health-conscious society at this point, and Spartan Race certainly fosters that sort of mentality. I hope they can convince people to be active and join the race, and social media is a very good place to start.

  3. Wow… props that you’ve completed three Spartan Races! I don’t know if I could even make it through the Sprint race to be honest. I loved your inclusion of the Google Trend chart… I remember when the idea of the Spartan Race first emerged, and now I feel like I’m seeing different spin-offs everywhere. The use of the hashtag #SpartanUp is also a great way for the company to brand itself. By keeping users engaged through different workouts and recipes, non-Spartan runners may be transformed by this “lifestyle overhaul” before even deciding to sign up for their first race. I’m curious if different race courses (such as the 5k Color Run) leverage SM in the same way as Spartan, or if they use different marketing and outreach tactics. Great post, Kate!

  4. alliemanning · ·

    Kate, such an interesting post! One of my best friends actually just started interning for Spartan Race in Boston and raves about it. She thinks that the social media presence is what really allows the “community feel” to foster. The different hashtags used are so unique to Spartan Race and get you really pumped up. I would definitely run around using #AROO if I were participating. Your post made me want to! The Google trend chart was also very interesting and definitely makes me think that social media is the cause for the spark in participation. Before blogs and tweets and Facebook posts, it seems unlikely that people would be able to learn too much about what Spartan Race is, who was participating, and why the races were so successful. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Totally agree with everything here! I think the creation of communities around fitness-related things is definitely on the rise, the biggest reason being motivation. I have never participated in a Spartan Race, but I can definitely see how seeing what other people are doing would be extremely motivational (especially when you feel like quitting or skipping a workout). It reminds me of Soul Cycle’s social media efforts – which give you a glimpse not only into the fitness aspect of the company but also the culture and community that are born through it. I know every time I see something they post I suddenly have the urge to sign up for a class! Fitness and social media seem to be a perfect match since they are both centered on a sense of community – why not combine them! Seems like Spartan has done a great job of this.

  6. Nice post, good links and pictures. Looks like Spartan Race is a perfect example of how a like-minded community used social media to connect, collaborate, and promote the event to people around the world. And I like that Spartan has continued to leverage social platforms to get its message out. Daily postings on workouts and nutrition keep the community engaged and can help attract new followers. Great example of using social to grow. Thanks for sharing.

  7. This sounds really interesting. I’ll certainly have to check it out. Thanks for sharing something you know so much about. The connection between social media and fitness has been an really interesting trend to follow over recent years. It seems to be a major use case (which is great).

  8. Interesting post Katie! It seems as though the social media used by Spartan Race really fosters a great community. I think that’s the great think about health and social-when it works, people are able to encourage each other and create a really supportive community outlet. Also this is a really great example of how Spartan used social media to grow. Thanks for sharing!

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