Who doesn’t get disheartened when they see a fellow elite athlete race off after doing 10 half-assed burpees?

The thing that’s been the most frustrating for me since I started participating in obstacle course races years ago has been a lack of defined etiquette. Aside from being a major point of frustration, a lack of shared etiquette that’s set in stone can cripple the motivation of an OCR athlete that’s dedicating time to improving their performance race after race. I mean – who doesn’t get disheartened when they see a fellow elite athlete race off after doing 10 half-assed burpees?

So I’ve gone ahead and written up a basic OCR etiquette. It applies to any obstacle race, to both open and competitive (elite) heats. If you’ve got anything to add, do let us know! As this sport gets bigger, it’s important to draw a line in the sand before unacceptable behaviours have had a chance to spread widely.

Without further ado, here are my 10 rules of Spartan etiquette, intended for both beginners and experienced racers alike:

1. Do your burpees and do them right

In my last race I had to break my own rules of decency in order to lash out on one of those burpee halfassers. I’m talking about the people who race in competitive heats and do shit like this:


Hmm… A plank-jump?

This is not acceptable. Your burpee should look more like this if you wish to compete as a serious athlete:

Chest to the ground, jump up and a clap.

This problem is the main reason Spartan Race will never become an Olympic sport. Some mid-tier athletes cheat by either lowering the burpee count or by doing some weird form of wonky plank-jumps instead of a full burpee. If you are at the race to compete – be ready to do all of your burpees and to do them with proper form.


2. Pass like a champ, not like an asshole

There are two scenarios you might encounter here:

  • If you’re slower than the crowd, move to the side. Don’t bundle up with your wolf pack taking all of the road; instead single-file it. You are there to perform but so are others so let them do their thing.
  • If you are faster than others, let them know in advance. e.g. shouting ‘on your left’ when you’re still a bit further behind them does the trick pretty well. Ego warriors tend to shout, push and act aggressively, all of which is unacceptable. Being considerate in how you make your presence known will save everyone energy.


3. Queue up and wait for your turn on the obstacles.

‘First come, first served’ always applies. The first obstacles in a race tend to get crowded which causes queues. All you can do in this case is to suck it up and stand in the queue until it’s your turn. No amount of pushing or shoving. Needless to say, this same principle applies to the festival area too: from registration and bag drop through to taking your place at the start line.

Spartan Race Volunteer

4. Show some respect to the marshals

I get it; it’s you and the obstacles. There’s no room for distractions. That’s ok, however don’t forget all those people who make this challenge come to life. Most of the marshals out there are volunteers – these people are there all day to make YOUR experience safer and better, and they don’t get paid to do it. So if one of the volunteers gives you a high five, give it back. If they encourage you out there on the course, say thank you. It’s as easy as that.


5. Don’t trash the course

Rarely is this a problem in shorter races. However, after a Super or a Beast the race course can look like a battlefield of glossy energy-gel wrappers, none of which are biodegradable. A sight even worse than the course, can be the portapotties and the changing rooms. I lose the faith in humanity every time I have to step into a place filled with scummy knickers, dirty socks and crap thrown all over the place. It’s not the race organiser’s or the volunteer’s job to pick up racer’s trash and clean toilet massacres. It’s each of our jobs to bring a trash bag, put all the nasty gear in it and then throw it away. Boom – everyone’s experience is improved instantly.


6. Don’t be a chatterbox

I don’t know if I’m sometimes too slow (usually arrive in top 50) but there is always THAT GUY, who jogs side by side and tries to talk about… nothing. Doing this out on the course just means distracting fellow athletes who are focussing on their performance and trying to nail PRs. Save your networking for after the race, when you have something in common and something decent to talk about with others: your shared race course experience.


7. Girls don’t need your help, bro

To the gentlemen out there: Rarely do the female athletes in competitive heats and serious races need your help. They come in all sizes and shapes, but they’re as strong, dedicated and capable to hustle to the finish line as you are. Just look at the Spartan Pro team and the kickass women on their members list. In short, these ladies don’t need your help. If anything, they could push your ass across faster that wall faster than you can. So take care of yourself first and allow other athletes, regardless of gender, to perform their best.


8. Stop whining

This one is a follow-up to the chatterbox athlete we saw under 6 above. These are athletes who complain, either while in the trenches or after the event is over, in whatever way they can: to fellow athletes, on social media etc. More often than not they unfavourably compare that day’s race experiences with those from the past. Sometimes it’s the walls that are too tall, then there’s no new obstacles, finally you get a reason as ridiculous as there being too much running or mud. Needless to say these people are racing for the wrong reasons. This sport is meant to be unpredictable, so the only way to truly enjoy it and stop being socially toxic is to accept whatever race conditions you meet.


9. The photos can wait

Spartan race pain photos

This photo is awful… It is also an example of me not giving a fuck about it.

The ‘veni, vidi, vici’ visual reminders are great. Most of those just getting started in OCR understandably want to show off their progress on Facebook, and social proof is by far the biggest reason why people sign up for these races to begin with. That’s fair – we’ve all been there. However, being showy becomes a problem when it impacts other people’s race experience. Some athletes slow down to pose whenever they see cameras pointing at them: at the end of barbed wire crawls, while climbing over a wall or at the finish line. Is this necessary? – FUCK NO. Unless the only reason these athletes are racing is to show off; but again, there are other ways to do this.


10. Put it back where you found it and do it right

Obstacles like atlas stones, spear throws, plank and jerry carries all require you to take an object from point ‘a’, and carry it around until you’re back at ‘a’. The latter is very important – don’t be an asshole dropping your bucket or log sooner than point ‘a’, ignoring what the marshals tell you. It’s as much cheating as skipping or half-assing burpees is. Weak athletes might even roll their objects up/down a hill instead of carrying them. These people are the ‘instant gratification’ crowd who aren’t there to embrace being uncomfortable. All too often, they’re the same filthy bastards who skip or half-ass their burpees.


Did I miss anything else?

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