Spartan Announces 2019 Path To One Million $ – Is It Achievable?

Spartan CEO and Founder Joe De Sena today announced a $1 million prize, part of the largest purse in Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) history, to elite athletes competing in Spartan’s three World Championship events in the 2019 season.

Notably changed in 2019, is how you win the $1 million prize. In 2018, athletes needed to win all 3 Spartan World Championships – The Spartan World Championship in Lake Tahoe, CA. The Trifecta World Championship in Sparta, Greece and the Spartan Ultra World Championship in Iceland. After Jon Albon’s victories in Lake Tahoe and Sparta, the eyes of the OCR world followed him as he took on Iceland, only to drop out before reaching the 100-mile mark needed to claim the million dollar prize.

In 2019, Spartan has developed a new points-based system to cash in on Joe D’s new generous prize purse. The payout field is much deeper this year, awarding cash to not only the top 30 Elite athletes but also this will be the first time that cash prizes are also awarded to athletes competing in the gated age group categories. It’s clear that Spartan is looking to bolster the fields for the 3 premier events on their calendar this year.

Spartan Prize Payout System

Now, this excitement aside, the question still remains – Is the $1 million prize achievable?

If you don’t win Tahoe and Sparta Greece, the chance that the answer to that question is “yes”, is minute at best. Ryan Atkins, regarded as one of the premier endurance athletes of our time, won Iceland last year, with just over 80 miles complete in 24 hours.

That distance would have only landed him $1,500 under this new system, regardless of how well he did in the previous 2 events. Jon Albon would have gone home empty-handed in Iceland, failing to make a qualifying distance.

What the athletes are saying:

The best in the sport of OCR are still a bit tenuous about how achievable this million dollar prize truly is:

Jon Albon: “Let’s see how Tahoe goes first”

Ryan Woods: “I’m not the caliber of OCR athlete to contend for the newly announced bonus money but I’m extremely excited to see how this chase for a million plays out.”

Ryan Atkins: “I’ll show up in Sweden ready to run as many miles are my feet will let me, regardless of the prizing structures. Ultimately, our bank accounts will be at the mercy of the course designers who will have the final say in everyone’s mileage.”

Rea Kolbl: “It’s exciting that the new challenge this year allows more flexibility, but whether or not it’s achievable really still depends on the course set up in Sweden which we won’t know ahead of time.”What if there isn’t a winner?

What makes 2019 more interesting for athletes is if someone doesn’t win the million dollar prize, your payout could be even better. Spartan has instituted a backup payout scale, that doubles the payout for athletes who finish in the Top 10. This gives athletes not named Albon, Atkins, Webster or Mericle even more incentive to attend each Championship event.

Wild Card Athletes?

Spartan says they are inviting all manner of athletes from OCR, swimming, hiking, biking, triathlon, and more to step out onto the Spartan race course. To qualify for events like Tahoe, Sparta Greece, or the Ultra World Championship in Sweden, Spartan athletes will have to jump through some hoops.

How will a non-OCR athlete hope to attend with these hurdles in place? Joe De Sena added the fine print: “We reserve the right to use some wild card slots for athletes outside of our sport.”.

Inside Look at Spartan Race Big Bear Winner Johnny Luna-Lima

Courtesy of Johnny Luna-Lima

Johnny Luna-Lima finished up the barbed-wire crawl, jogged toward the finish line, leaped up in the air and let out a ferocious double fist pump in celebration. He had just won the fourth race in the Spartan US National Series at Big Bear Lake, California, on a rugged and unrelenting mountain with steep climbs and blazing descents. He gave a few aw-shucks interviews and soaked in the adoration from those close by, but it was clear to everyone watching that this guy was making a statement. This win was no fluke, and he’s arguably one of the favorites to win the World Championship in Lake Tahoe this September.

If you were shocked by the results of the Big Bear Beast, then you haven’t been following the sport closely enough. Lima has been putting in quality work for a few years now and has a truly balanced and holistic approach to endurance athletics. (This season he has finished 7th, 14th, 4th, and 1st in the National Series races.)

Johnny grew up playing competitive soccer at the age of four – and didn’t stop until he was 19. He had aspirations of becoming a professional soccer player and worked tirelessly at the pursuit of his dream. (This is a thread that runs through all of his pursuits.) A younger Lima trained two hours a day, honing skills and building a strong fitness engine. It’s easy to get burned out on one particular sport, though, and after high school, it was time to try something new. His dad is a marathoner, so he watched closely as his mentor pursued long-distance races over many years. Johnny eventually took a crack at a half marathon his senior year of high school and ran a very impressive 1:20!

The talent was there, but he had developed many overuse injuries – everything from stress fractures to muscle strains – and kept getting hurt during his early 20s. Here was a young kid who ate clean, kept his running volume low, and looked after himself – and he still couldn’t avoid the injury bug.

Instead of being stubborn and banging his head against the wall– like many talented athletes tend to do– Johnny decided to pivot a bit.  He went to visit with Dr. Justin Brink at Premier Spine and Sport in San Jose, California on numerous occasions, and slowly learned that in order for the human body to work well and sustain high stress over a long period of time, he had to have all the bases covered. That might sound a tad generalized, but for him, this meant seeking out the expertise of a few coaches.

Enter elite OCR athlete Ian Hosek and multi-faceted specialist Taylor Kruse. To have Johnny tell it, each coach serves a specific purpose for him. “Think of Ian as being the engineer who tunes an engine to be able to move quickly and efficiently,” he told me in a recent interview. “Taylor is the mechanic that makes sure the car’s wheels are rolling smoothly; the brakes are working and that the engine can cool off well.”

Hosek has an insatiable work ethic and a desire to learn more about running, so he was a great fit for Lima’s lifestyle. He has taught Johnny how to train smart to attain his desired level of fitness. “[Ian] programs his run training according to heart rate zones, which for me is important since I do not come from a running background; this is helping me bridge the learning curve that comes with running.”

Then, Lima realized he wanted to find someone who shared a similar mindset with him regarding the movement of the human body and keeping it healthy and balanced long term—or as he put it much more succinctly, “the diversification of stress and movement the body needs in order to function well.”

Kruse comes with a breadth of knowledge in this area, and although he’s hiding out in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and not a household name, he’s a smart guy who brings a lot to the table for any elite or standard athlete. Hearing Lima talk about this crucial piece of the puzzle was very illuminating. He really cares about this shit and it shows.

“The body is meant to move constantly in a wide variety of directions with different loads,” Lima went on. “Embody that and integrate that into your training and I promise you will be a healthier and happier human being.”

Kruse has helped him take care of the body in many different ways, including mobility and strength exercises that keep his feet, ankles, knees, and hips happy. Durability, as he’s learned at a very young age, is not a given. He will balance out his training with running on varied terrains in addition to climbing and scrambling adventures. This is a life-long pursuit, so he’s doing great at making it an enjoyable process.

He told me he meditates daily as well, which is a practice many elite athletes adhere to. (I can just picture him sitting in the mountains, Headspace or Calm playing in his ears, setting the stage for a busy day to come.)

Lima currently resides in Boulder, Colorado, which he described as a “mecca for training.” Whether he wants to run steep technical trails, flat sections, or just climb easily in the beautiful Colorado Mountains, he has it all at his disposal.  His two favorite cross-training methods are Skimo in the winter and mountain biking in the summer.

“I train so that I can move through the mountains and explore,” he told me. “The fitter I am the quicker I can move through the mountains. I’d say that’s what really motivates me to train. Racing is a great way to test you and keep yourself honest and learn more about yourself… plus I enjoy it and am super competitive!”

The refreshing aspect is that, like his running coach Hosek, he wants to continue to learn more and more about endurance sports and his body within that arena. He currently lives with Andy Wackers, a pro-Nike Trail runner, who just finished eighth in the US 25k road running championships and has a 63-min half marathon PR. Running with a guy like that twice a week only enhances his ability to train smart and learn more about the sport.  He looks up to and admires Atkins, Jon Albon, and Kilian Jornet and Ryan Woods, all mountain-running legends that dominate in their respective sports and also have balanced training regimens that they’ve turned into a way of life. Woods, in particular, has been very helpful to Lima over the years, selflessly lending him advice and hard-earned wisdom.

The win at Big Bear was no temporary blip on the radar, and it’s exciting to see where Lima goes from here. Whether it’s taking down the beast at Tahoe, or toeing the line with the best Sky Runners in the world this year across seas, he’s built an amazingly coherent and studied approach. “My career as an athlete is a work in progress and is just beginning, what is working for me now may change in the future. I by no means have everything figured out and I am still learning a lot about how to train, my body, running and racing. I am excited to see what else is in store for me!”

Spartan Race Numbers – June 1-2 2019 – Monterey


Total Finishers: 11,331

Podium Saturday Super

Men Women
1 Veejay Jones 1 Nicole Mericle
2 Mark Batres 2 Natalie Miano
3 Aaron Newell 3 Timmie Brann

Podium Sunday Sprint

Men Women
1 Mark Batres 1 Nicole Mericle
2 Veejay Jones 2 Natalie Miano
3 Aaron Newell 3 Annie Dube

North American Championships Qualification – Men

1 Damien Resch 11 Joshua Webber
2 Charles Hewett 12 Dustin Needham
3 Jamie LaPierre 13 Stewart Gerlach
4 Nick Hall 14 Angel Varela
5 Kurt McIntire 15 Aaron Bence
6 Christopher Mancillas 16 Anthony Ramirez
7 Josiah Schultz 17 Joshua Tipton
8 Cesar Perez 18 Nick Palladino
9 Jesse Uhlorn 19 Tanner Paris
10 Drew Will 20 Teddy Rojas


North American Championships Qualification – Women

1 Christy Weber 11 Hannah Damron
2 Heather Bode 12 Yanet Urciaga
3 Kamila Agzamova 13 Hailey Chiasson
4 Anastasiya Ryabets 14 Lyne Tchapmi
5 Jayme Del Rosario 15 Jas Deopa
6 Jennifer Philpot 16 Maria Tobar
7 Debbie Solis 17 Mary Scott
8 Alexandra Lathos 18 Maria Lens
9 Arielle Swan 19 Carolyn Galvante
10 Ashlee Richardson 20 Kristi Hirano


Finishers plus or minus: The number of finishers was 1,920 more than the same venue on the same weekend last year. This brings total number of Spartan Finishers for the year to 161,318.

Previous week’s North American Qualifiers

Spartan Race Numbers – June 1-2 2019 – Chicago

Date:   Jun 1-2 2019    Venue: MCHENRY COUNTYRICHMOND IL

Total Finishers: 7,227

Podium Saturday Super

Men Women
1 Robert Killian 1 Sally Thompson
2 Tyler Veerman 2 Callie Seidl
3 Brakken Kraker 3 Kelly Sullivan

Podium Sunday Sprint

Men Women
1 Robert Killian 1 Sally Thompson
2 Nicholas Ryker 2 Haley Brogan
3 Tyler Veerman 3 Callie Seidl

North American Championships Qualification – Men

1 Mike Ferguson 11 Kevin Earsley
2 Adam Baylor 12 Jon Coluzzi
3 Andrew Peternel 13 Evan Arbour
4 Garrett Toll 14 Brian Stoecker
5 Mike Lents 15 Pavel Polousmiak
6 Brandon Ours 16 Justin Medine
7 Matthew Baarson 17 Ryan Ploch
8 Junior Alex Hernandez 18 Drew Knapp
9 Joe Stotlar 19 Joshua Gregory
10 Kyle Hauser 20 Serhiy Shtonyk


North American Championships Qualification – Women

1 Callie Seidl 11 Maureen Gray
2 Lara Pence 12 Valerie Soderlund
3 Lina Shoaibi 13 Hailey Welch
4 Jennifer Hennig 14 Angela Brown
5 Luiza Barteldes Farinha 15 Paula Wiszowaty
6 Sara Cleland 16 Stephanie Katz
7 Ania Lasek 17 Trang Duong
8 Erin Stevens
9 Claudia Bragagnolo
10 Stella Barrutia

There are only 14 qualifiers as all the other women elites had qualified at a previous race

Finishers plus or minus: The number of finishers was 1,733 less than the same venue on the same weekend last year. This brings total number of Spartan Finishers for the year to 149,987.

Previous week’s North American Qualifiers

Spartan Race Numbers – June 1-2 2019 – Fayetteville

Date:   Jun 1-2 2019    Venue: MCCORMICK FARMSSPRING LAKE NC

Total Finishers: 5,941

Podium Saturday Super

Men Women
1 Brian Gowiski 1 Heather Gollnick
2 Mark Gaudet 2 Imogen Cross
3 Nathan Frantz 3 Michelle Kasold

Podium Sunday Sprint

Men Women
1 Brian Gowiski 1 Heather Gollnick
2 Mark Gaudet 2 Imogen Cross
3 Michael Blye 3 Lauren Tierney

North American Championships Qualification – Men

1 Nathan Hale 11 Philip Justice
2 Noel Medina 12 Theo Longenecker
3 Connor Davis 13 Luke Hayes
4 Joseph Miraya 14 Cody Hodgins
5 Matt Marcantoni 15 Gabriel Scott
6 Jonathan Ryen 16 Mark Clark
7 Luke Mazzu 17 Jake Giamoni
8 Andrew Chabot 18 Rusty Newsome
9 Daniel Mallozzi 19 Andrew Ficco
10 Steven Barringer 20 Chase Conner


North American Championships Qualification – Women

1 Rachel Hamrick 11 Charlotte Curtis
2 Janet Barry 12 Leyla Kosakowski
3 Judith Seebohm 13 Tracey Zola
4 JaLyssa Walker 14 Kimberley Mcnally
5 Melinda Barnard
6 Chantel King
7 Victoria Wolsh
8 Lindsay Gaudet
9 Allison Young
10 Caitlyn Whitson

There are only 14 qualifiers as all the other women elites had qualified at a previous race

Finishers plus or minus: The number of finishers was 577 more than the same venue on the same weekend last year. This brings total number of Spartan Finishers for the year to 142,760.

Previous week’s North American Qualifiers

Spartan Race Numbers – May 18-19 2019 – Big Bear

Date:   May 18-19 2019    Venue: SNOW SUMMIT SKI RESORTBIG BEAR LAKE CA

Total Finishers: 9,334

Podium Saturday Super

Men Women
1 John Luna-Lima 1 Lindsay Webster
2 Ryan Atkins 2 Rea Kolbl
3 Ryan Woods 3 Nicole Mericle

Podium Sunday Sprint

Men Women
1 Veejay Jones 1 Nicole Mericle
2 Aaron Newell 2 Amanda Nadeau
3 Ryan Kent 3 Rea Kolbl

North American Championships Qualification – Men

1 Shaun Stephens-Whale 11 Barrett LeHardy
2 Kristopher Brown 12 Damian Diaz
3 Grady Jackson 13 Benjamin Pina
4 Richard Ryan 14 Brandon White
5 Omar Padila 15 Luis De La Vega
6 Kristopher Scott 16 Trever Townsend
7 Kyle Shade 17 Adam Castro
8 Cary Dunagan 18 Logan Wolf
9 Trevor McQueeney 19 Drew Williams
10 Omar Enrique Guerra Chagoya 20 Todd Pingaro


North American Championships Qualification – Women

1 Samantha Wood 11 Cora Volkoff
2 Cindy Lynch 12 Isabel Bush
3 Ashley Seeger 13 Danyelle Drenk
4 Sarah Rich 14 Theresa Larson
5 Bianca Bosnoyan 15 Emily Kerlin
6 Shannon French 16 Claire Barthelot
7 Natalia Guzman 17 Agne Bakchis
8 Taylor La Force 18 Corinne Messer
9 Samantha Neary 19 Marissa Nickles
10 Aurora Arlt 20 Rosa Martinez

Sunday’s beast was cancelled due to bad weather

Finishers plus or minus: The number of finishers was 806 more than the same venue on the same weekend last year. This brings total number of Spartan Finishers for the year to 127,485.

Previous week’s North American Qualifiers