Spartan Kids Race Kimberley 2018 Review

Kimberley British Columbia, Canada

Confidence, exercise, empowerment, experience, getting a little dusty, a few scraped knees or elbows in the name of good fun… the Spartan Kids race is a great way to get your kids excited about the outdoors and all that. However, kids think differently. Instead, my kids are highly motivated by the less noble promise of post race ice cream and/or iPad time. In all seriousness though, they really were excited about this race.

Arrival

11:00am start. THANK YOU SPARTAN RACE CANADA. That means we are not having to be up at 5am with our kids. Someone is thinking carefully about this whole process.


Getting ready for kids race
Sponsorship Altra Team Red swag added to keep my contract alive. You didn’t say I had to wear it Altra.

Kids Race Elite

Check in was amusing. Overshares of information with the race staff as standard (like sharing exactly what where we live and what we are doing the rest of the day etc). There is lots of bouncing around and excitement – we put the bands on their wrists and head into the main arena. There is no easy way in there with a stroller – we have to walk around the back of the restaurant building and slip through a gated area to avoid flights of stairs at the front. Theo (the littlest one) is already plowing his way through our snack supply.

Kimberely Kids race

Of course if you do have elite race arm bands, make sure you put them on your kids also since this parenting thing is awfully competitive these days. We notice something is wrong. Elena’s face is puffing up and her head is bulging on one side – which turns out to be an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite on her forehead, so if one eye looks a little closed up, that is why.

Starting corall

Pre-race confidence building routines were used. Affirmations were shared. Chins were grabbed.

“You are strong, you can do this Elena”

“I know”


Race Ready Spartan Kids

So with the shout of, I AM SPARTAN! The race began!

Let’s flash forward a little in time to breakfast on Monday morning following the race. Look at the little darlings.

Drawing therapy spartan race

Getting the kids to draw about their experience was really easy and fun… can’t you tell by their faces? After some coaching and some hard negotiations over TV watching time, eventually we ended up with one sheet of paper that had most things on it. You’ll see sharp peaked mountains at the back, and the rolling hills in the front.

kids race drawing

Euan pointed out to me that the orange lines represent the orange tape on either side of the course. Obstacles are below.

Euan: You have to run inside the lines, or they kick you out.

Elena: No they don’t!

Euan: YES THEY DO. IT’S THE RULES!

Elena: I ran outside the lines and I GOT A MEDAL!

Euan: That’s cheating!

Both together: AHHHHHHHH

-CALMING EXPERT PARENT INTERVENTION-

Obviously the blue lines are the hurdles they had to cross going up and down the hill. This left certain people’s legs exposed to prickles that were hidden on the leeward side of the hurdle. Cue screeching and shoe removal mid race – a lot like an adult race TBH.

Hurdles for kids race

The hills were pretty steep, and Euan powered through, while Elena didn’t really engage with the course aggressively.Lainey on the Hurdles-ANIMATION

Once we had truly given up on running up and down the hills, the first obstacle was the Spear throw –  a blunt tipped spear (not as sharp as depicted in blue) was to be thrown into a hay bale (in pink). I’m not sure what the blue lines are above the spear. I think it’s a pile of spears. For this spear throw, I’m going to guess about a 50% hit rate I’d assume – probably about the same as the adult race. Kids don’t dwell on it much if they miss.

Spear throw (2)

After a few more steep ascents and descents (and yes there was some pretty good hills for these kids to run up and down), they made their way into the next part of the obstacle cluster.

Kids Race Kimberley Hills

The balance beam came next (0ne of the only adult obstacles I am actually good at) but my kids didn’t acknowledge this in drawing form at all. Balance Beam Spartan Kids

We then climbed the hills a few more times and arrived at the triad of obstacles shown below. The rope climb (left complete with bell) Monkey Bars (centre) and hercules hoist (blue right).

For some reason Euan thought he had to hoist all of the bags in the line – despite my wife trying to shout to him to just move on. He did about three of them before moving onto the next obstacle. I helped Lainey because she was too light to shift the bag.

Herc Hoist

The obstacles were challenging for kids, but definitely possible for slightly older kids to complete. I found them all to be very well judged in design and safety.

Help was generally on hand when needed for Euan. He’s been practicing his monkey bar skills ever since this race, since he found them quite difficult to complete on his own. He’s got it now, so thank you Spartan for helping him with the motivation to work on something. Lainey sat on my shoulder and squealed when I tried to let her go on her own!

Monkey Bars

Elena however had no problem with accepting help with his obstacles, in fact – the race became a little more casual at this point and we checked out the local flora instead before dominating the slip wall.

Kids Spartan Race Kimberely

She had no problem at all with the slip wall side, but froze when it came to turning around and coming back down the ladder side of the slip wall, but then again I’m no different!

Hand over hand for this one.

Slip wall

Euan had already finished his lap as Elena crossed the finish line. He made sure she got her medal and I snapped this photo of them. They are so often at each other’s throats that it was genuinely a proud moment to see Euan showering his sister with praise for finishing her first Spartan Kids Race.

I think the only improvement to the Spartan Kids Race I would add is the opportunity for the kids to get a little bit mucky, or some kind of water obstacle to walk through or something. Having them run a free second lap would be a fun addition – I’m not sure if this was offered or not. If it was, then great!

Of course I’m proud of them for doing the Spartan Kids Race, but the greater thing for me though is to see them proud of themselves.

Thank you for a great event Spartan Race Canada!

Kids Race medal

Should I Fib To Let My Kid Race OCR?

I cheated at the Spartan Sprint in Virginia. I’m probably not the only person that cheated at an OCR this weekend, but I might be the only one writing about it. And <<spoiler alert>>, I will probably do it again.
I did all my burpees. I didn’t cut the course (it was very well marked). I paid for premium parking, although they never asked me for proof. I ran in my assigned wave (and watched a Spartan official/volunteer ask a racer to leave the corral after he snuck in to run with friends a half-hour before his assigned time). I didn’t receive any assistance on Twister or the monkey bars. My bucket was filled up to the holes on the side of the bucket.

So, what did I do? I claimed that my 12 year-old was 14 so we could run his first big OCR together. For those that say “That’s doesn’t count” or “Everyone does that”, go ahead and skip to the next article. It is cheating and it is a big deal. And if we want the sport to grow, it’s something that needs to be discussed and addressed.

“I don’t care, I don’t have kids” – Just the fact that you know about ORM means you care about OCR. No sport will have sustainable growth without engaging children and teens in an appropriate manner, (except maybe Beer Pong. Hmmmm… “Milk Pong”?). Baseball has tee-ball. Football has Pop Warner. Soccer has a bajillion levels from 4 year-olds to over 50 leagues.

And let’s go ahead and get the “You’re a bad/unsafe parent” stuff out of the way – my son and I train every week at a Spartan SGX gym. I have run in ~50 OCRs from local mud runs to WTM with a healthy variety of Savage, Rugged Maniac and Battlefrogs along the way. I know my son’s ability and I have a decent idea of the types of risks that accompany the different obstacles.

Gym-Training
Finally, yes – maybe I could’ve applied for an exception (google “Milla Bizzotto”), but I didn’t because I am lazy and the application would have tipped them off since I would’ve tried to sneak him in anyway if they said no.

This is an important issue because we need to challenge our kids in order to get them to love the sport as much as we do. If there’s any chance that OCR will be in the Olympics, it won’t be Hunter or Hobie or Faye or Amelia on the podium. It will be someone that’s probably 12 right now. And I don’t want to have to make the choice between telling the truth and sharing the sport I love. Integrity is a delicate concept with a very slippery slope – how do I tell him that lying about his age is okay but doing only 25 burpees isn’t? If you think this is all easy and it’s a simple matter of knowing right versus wrong, then I congratulate you Mr/Mrs Safe Driver for never going 27 in a 25 and for reading EVERY Terms and Conditions paragraph before signing.

Before I actually make some recommendations, I want to commend Spartan Race for doing a great job in this area. They do the best job of the more established brands of providing options and challenges for non-adults. (Although my son does NOT agree that his free post-race Capri-Sun is equivalent to my free post-race beer.) Also, the volunteers were AMAZING. They cheered him on as he ran through and gave him clear and specific obstacle instruction – I’m not sure if they were supposed to make accommodations for him, but they did. He was allowed/directed to the women’s Atlas stone, women’s herc hoist and only filled his bucket halfway (which still kicked his butt). The other racers also cheered him on. I am so proud to be introducing him to a sport where a 12 year-old can be passing a 30 year-old and hear words of encouragement as she/he is being passed.

Here’s the landscape right now: Grades are based on the variety and challenge of offerings from ages 6 to the “adult” race.

  • Spartan Race – Grade: B+. They have a ½-mile race for ages 4-8. A 1-mile for ages 9-13 and sometimes a 2-mile for 11-14 year-olds. Then the adult races open up for you at 14.
  • Tough Mudder – Grade: C. TM has Mini Mudder. A 1-mile race for 7-12 year-olds and then you can run the 5k and the Half Mudder if you are 14. At least I think so. They hide this information and apparently change it depending on venue. Want to turn a kid off of OCR? Tell your 16 or 17 year-old that they are running TM Kentucky with you and then you get a message 12 hours before the race saying that the venue won’t allow racers under 18. Yep, that happened last weekend.
  • Savage Race – Grade: B. Savage Junior Race is a ½ mile course for those 12 and under. Then you step right up to the 6 mile course at age 13. So it’s pretty much like going straight from tee-ball to the minor leagues.
  • Rugged Maniac – Grade: C. Only one race offering. Must be 14 to compete.
  • Warrior Dash – Grade: B. Only one race offering. Must be 10 years old to compete.

Warrior-Dash-Kids

How do I recommend we fix this without boring our kids or lighting our pants on fire? AND without asking companies to operate at a significant financial loss? Here’s some starter ideas:

  • Parent/Chaperone Waivers – Have a special waiver for parents that want their kids to be allowed to race before they meet the age requirement. Maybe you even require the parent to run with the child.
  • Skill Requirements – Does your 13 year-old want to run with the 14 year-olds? Fine, here’s a special area with three obstacles they must safely complete before they can be allowed to the starting line.
    Race Progression – Underage? No problem, just successfully complete the course that’s appropriate for your age first. (i.e. do the 2-mile kids before you are allowed to do the Sprint).
  • Scalable Obstacles – Let kids fill the bucket half-way, make it half-way across Twister, stand 5 feet closer for the spear, or push the atlas stone across and back.

The best answer is likely to include many of these – special waivers, obstacle tests, and scalable obstacles. Of course it would be better to have 5 levels of different courses and different obstacles, but that’s not financially feasible for companies that don’t even have enough money to sponsor a college football playoff game.
In closing, I am comfortable with what I did, but I hope I didn’t open Pandora’s Box. We’ve had some good conversations about this topic and I think he is happy that I am writing this article to bring some awareness to the age/challenge gap in OCR. He had a TREMENDOUS time at the race. He is hooked on OCR and is already asking about other races this summer. Sorry, buddy, no WTM for you this year. You’ll just have to be happy as my pit crew again.

Father-and-Son