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.
I 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.
Every 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.
The 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.
Other 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.
Additionally, 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.
Fun 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!
It 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!