On Oct. 9, 24 of the fittest human beings on earth descended upon Riverside Farm — the home of Spartan founder Joe De Sena and the birthplace of Spartan — for the Spartan Games™, presented by Harley-Davidson, a first-of-its-kind competition. Twelve men and 12 women battled it out in a variety of disciplines, from obstacle course racing and ultra running to wrestling and functional fitness (and so much more), to determine who is the fittest of the fit.
The 12 men below are superhuman. They are Spartan world champions, world record holders, professional NFL linebackers, CrossFit phenoms, Olympians, history-making triathletes, and so much more.
WATCH NOW: Spartan Games, Episode 1
The five-day competition will be chronicled in a four-part series on Spartan's YouTube channel throughout December. In the lead-up to the show, we've put together primers on the 12 male athletes participating. Learn about their remarkably impressive backgrounds, check out some of their workouts and tips, bookmark their Instagram handles, and check out some sneak-peek footage of the upcoming series.
To meet the 12 superhuman women at the Spartan Games, click here.
Meet 12 of the Fittest Men on Earth
The crowning achievement of Josiah Middaugh's career came in 2015, when he captured a gold medal at the XTERRA Triathlon World Championships. The Michigan-born triathlete, 42, has also won the Fat Bike World Championships, is an 10-time GoPro Mountain Games champion, and has claimed victory at the North American Snowshoe Championships eight times. Middaugh is also an old-school Spartan elite, having finished second at the first-ever Spartan World Championship back in 2011. Follow him on Instagram here.
Arguably the most skilled obstacle course racer alive right now, Ryan Atkins has established himself as the cream of the crop on the Spartan pro team. He is the reigning Spartan Ultra World Champion, finishing first in Iceland (2018) and Sweden (2019) in back-to-back years. The Canadian, who is married to fellow Spartan superstar Lindsay Webster — who is also participating in the Spartan Games! — has also excelled on American soil, racking up the most points in the U.S. National Series in both 2016 and 2019.
A supremely talented soccer player who aspired to play professionally, Max Fennell, 33, suffered a crushing blow when he sprained his MCL during a pick-up game. Just like that, his dream of playing in the MLS was all but over. Despite the setback, Fennell was determined to pursue a career as a professional athlete, albeit on a different path. In 2014, he made history as the first African American professional triathlete. A man of many interests and tastes, Fennell is the founder of an artisanal small-batch coffee company and an aspiring politician with a city council campaign under his belt. Follow him on Instagram here.
A professional triathlete since 2004, Jarrod Shoemaker, 38, starred on the cross country and track teams at Dartmouth University before competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. That year, upon qualifying for the Games, he graced the front of a Wheaties box. (Seriously.) The Sudbury, Massachusetts-born runner followed up his Olympics experience — he ended up finishing in 18th in the Triathlon in China — with a gold medal at the ITU Duathlon World Championships the next year. Jarrod's sister, Jenna, was formerly a professional triathlete. Follow him on Instagram here.
A relative newcomer on the Spartan scene — he only began racing Spartans in 2018 — Aaron Newell, 27, has made quite a name for himself in a brief period of time. A threat on OCR's biggest stages in 2019, he finished third at the Spartan Ultra World Championship in Sweden and fourth at the World Championship in Lake Tahoe. Despite a troublesome injury history, Newell is fearless on the course, and he's never out of a race. He's also a highly entertaining Instagram follow.
The son of a former NFL linebacker, Grant McCartney captivated audiences on NBC's American Ninja Warrior for five seasons. (He was a national finalist twice.) He also appeared on NBC's Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge in 2016. Affectionately known as the Island Ninja, the 31-year-old's life could easily be made into a feature film, either a drama (he struggled with suicidal thoughts following a traumatic experience as a teenager) or a comedy (he was a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant before becoming a reality TV sensation). In addition to his athletic pursuits, the 6'2", 200-pounder is a motivational speaker. Follow him on Instagram here.
Standing 6'3" and weighing 230 pounds, it comes as no surprise that Curt Maggitt played linebacker in the NFL. Despite his freakish ability, however, it was a long and arduous road to the top of the football mountain. The 27-year-old Floridian starred when he was on the field at the University of Tennessee, but he struggled to stay on the field due to painful, lingering injuries that derailed his ascending trajectory. Maggitt tore his ACL in 2012 and then, in 2015, was lost for the season after suffering a brutal hip injury.
Despite not being taken in the NFL Draft, the Indianapolis Colts recognized his potential and signed him as a free agent. He made the team's 53-man roster as a rookie and appeared in nine games, registering seven tackles. He's currently pursuing his MBA in supply chain management at the University of Tennessee. Follow him on Instagram here.
Staff Sgt. Matt Stevens
A real-life superhero, Staff Sgt. Matt Stevens is a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) specialist in the United States Air Force. He's only competed in a couple of Spartan races to date, but his wife, Emilee, is a member of the pro team. (Matt might not even be the fittest person in his family.) Click here to watch Matt and Emilee crush it on their Harleys, and follow Matt on Instagram here.
One of the most recognizable and revered obstacle course racers and functional fitness competitors in the world, Hunter McIntyre was named one of the 50 fittest men in the world by Sports Illustrated. Standing 6'2" and weighing 205 pounds, the 31-year-old set the Murph world record (34:13) earlier this year and is also a Million Dollar Mile defender.
A consistent contender at Spartan races for years now, McIntyre has never finished worse than seventh at a Spartan race, and has placed in the top seven at the Spartan World Championship six different times. Watch him break down his experience at the Games with Jacob Heppner below, and give him a follow on Instagram here. (If nothing else, come for the many shots of his Sid Justice-like mullet).
An international shipbroker and one of the most prolific marathoners of all time, Mike Wardian has accomplished a plethora of unthinkable feats, perhaps none more remarkable than running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. The 46-year-old father of two won back-to-back 50 km national championship and the USA 50 Mile Trail Championships, and set the world record for fastest marathon while pushing a stroller.
Never one to turn down a race, the 6'0", 145-pound former lacrosse player — he played at Michigan State, so he's a Spartan through and through — also held the record for fastest marathon on a treadmill. Earlier this year he won the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, running roughly 262 miles in 63 hours on no sleep. On the Spartan Up! podcast Trail series, Wardian discusses overcoming mid-race rough patches and tackling your first trail race. Follow him on Instagram here.
With 40 career Spartan victories under his belt — good enough for third all-time — and 64 career podiums (fourth-most all-time), Ryan Kent has been a mainstay on the elite Spartan stage for a long time. Especially comfortable in stadiums, he concluded 2019 with four consecutive Stadium Series victories. Click here to check out his favorite workout, find out how he adapted during COVID and stayed in peak shape, and follow him on Instagram here.
Herman Demmink has plenty in common with Maggitt. Both men have strong ties to the University of Tennessee, and both made their athletic bones in traditionally mainstream sports (Maggitt in football and Demmink in baseball). The 37-year-old played college baseball at Clemson University, helping his team reach the College World Series in his senior season, and played three years in the minor leagues after being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies.
The former Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning for the University of Tennessee athletic program, the 5'10", 190-pound trainer has established himself as one of the premier CrossFit competitors in the 35-39 age group. Follow him on Instagram here.