The final episode in the Spartan Race series is coming to you this Sunday, November 16 at 3pm on NBC. Tune in and Spartan UP!
Obstacles in the Spartan race — wire crawls, rope climbs, mud pits, stone carries, — have been replicated elsewhere, but the air of competitiveness that Spartan Race attracts is singular.
The appeal does not simply lie in watching others push their bodies to the limit, but also in the accessibility of the sport. “If I sit down and watch the NBA, even if I’m twenty-years old, I’m never going to be like Lebron James,” says Simmelkiaer. “But with Spartan Race, I can be a top athlete if I put my mind to it and work at it.”
A reality TV production slant deepens this sense of familiarity. Featured competitors are telegenic men and women from all walks of life, and the audience is given their stories through genuinely moving interviews. We watch the athletes drag stones, swim, and sweat, as they narrate their own journeys to the Spartan Race. It’s the quality of coverage that we’d expect from a broadcast company that Joe De Sena, founder of the Spartan Race, calls, “the ultimate TV brand.”
“When you think NBC,” he says, “you think Olympics. NBC is synonymous with sport.”
For De Sena, the Spartan Race coverage is a major step in solidifying his own brand. “It’s a big deal for us. This is a 14-year-old startup, developed by a team of true Spartans. The goal was to make the Spartan Race credible. To do that we needed a bigger platform.” De Sena hopes this show moves his event series in the direction of his ultimate goal: establishing the race in the Olympics.
But for now, the Spartan Race’s broadcasts reveal a quiet shift in the way society relates to sports. As awe-inspiring as it is to watch genetic freaks perform feats of grace and athleticism we couldn’t dream of accomplishing, there is a separate and undeniable giddiness that comes from watching someone we can relate to conquer an event through sheer force of will and training. We look at the Spartan Race athletes and see our own potential. According to De Sena, it’s downright necessary. “This show is a call to action, he says. “We want to get people off the couch.”