At Spartan, we're all about resilience. Grit. Overcoming obstacles. Optimism. The glass is half full. We will finish, and finish strong.
But we're not going to sugarcoat 2020. The truth is that it was hard. Really hard. It was unquestionably the most challenging year in the history of the company. The vast majority of races were cancelled, we had to pivot from an event-based company to a content machine, we were forced to go from in-person races to virtual ones, and we had to make some tremendously difficult decisions in order to stay afloat.
But for all of the misery we endured, there was no shortage of memorable moments that helped shape us, both in the present and for the future. We hosted an epic, record-breaking 24-hour virtual event; returned to racing post-COVID and proved that we can host live events safely without missing a beat; continued to build our brand in countries throughout the world; partnered with an iconic animation studio to help promote youth fitness; dropped a new original series that instantly went viral, and so much more.
Through it all, you guys — the remarkable, unparalleled, unbreakable Spartan community — have persevered alongside us, inspired and motivated us during the darkest periods, and constantly reminded us why we put so much energy and effort into our mission of building unbreakable humans. Simply put, we couldn't do this without you.
Here are some of the highlights from a turbulent, yet transformational 2020. In a year to forget, these are the things we'll always remember.
The Season Heats Up in Southern Cal (January)
Before the world was turned upside down, the 2020 season got off to a kick-ass start in Chino, California. The turnout was expectedly huge, with 18,000 — can you even imagine that today?! — people showing up to tackle the SoCal Sprint and Super on Jan. 25. With the anticipation of a new season building, the exceptionally passionate Southern California Spartans made it an especially epic weekend.
The U.S. National Series Kicks Off in Jax (February)
The first U.S. National Series race in Jacksonville, on Feb 22., didn't disappoint. After each winning the series in 2019, husband-and-wife power duo Ryan Atkins and Lindsay Webster took first in their respective heats to establish themselves, yet again, as the favorites. Unbeknownst to anyone, that would be the only USNS race of the year.
Spartan and Tough Mudder Join Forces (February)
On Feb. 26, Spartan completed its acquisition of Tough Mudder, and the two largest OCR brands in the world officially joined forces. We can't wait to add Tough Mudder races to our arsenal next year. Click here to check out the schedule and learn more about the events.
The Final Race Pre-COVID (March)
The final race in the U.S. before COVID lockdowns forced cancellations was the Greek Peak Winter Sprint in Cortland, New York on March 7. With snow on the ground and a chill in the air, it was the last time we would feel any semblance of normalcy on the course.
A New Era of Virtual Racing (April)
With in-person racing no longer an option, we worked tirelessly to provide some kind of challenge that you could tackle from the comfort (or discomfort, in this case) of your own home. The result was our first Spartan Virtual Race, and you guys came out in droves. On April 4, thousands of athletes logged in, overcame "obstacles," and recorded their times. Spartans seized the opportunity — however unfamiliar — to work towards a goal, persevere, sweat, cross a finish line, and get a brief reprieve from what was going on in the world.
24 Hours of Virtual Madness (May)
With much of the fitness community putting on virtual events, we were committed to giving our audience something different, an enhanced challenge to push everyone to their breaking point. What we came up with was Unbreakable 24, a 24-hour virtual competition combining various elements of every one of our events. On May 2, more than 700 athletes from 32 countries around the world participated, and the finishers ran (or completed the cardio equivalent of) 86K and tackled more than 135 obstacles. You can stream the entire event above.
Racing Returns With a Bang (June)
Amidst an unprecedented number of postponements and cancellations, we were able to put on one scaled-back event. In Jacksonville, on June 13, we utilized our Unbreakable Code and held a safe, successful race. With our safety protocols firmly in place, 1,400 Spartans took to the course on a memorable summer day. After the race concluded, we conducted a survey with racers and were delighted to hear that 97% of them felt safe. Unfortunately, as the pandemic continued to worsen, we were unable to hold any events in the States for the remainder of the year, making that afternoon in Florida all the more meaningful.
Joe Meets Joe (July)
On July 24, Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena was a guest on The Joe Rogan Experience, the most-listened-to podcast in the world, for two-and-a-half hours. In a fascinating conversation that touched on seemingly anything and everything — Rogan's podcasts tend to brilliantly run the gamut — they touched on De Sena's childhood experiences with the Mafia, how he helped one man drop over 400 pounds on his farm, the role that the government should (or shouldn't) play in your health, and more.
For a full, detailed analysis of the podcast, click here. Unfortunately, the full episode was taken down from YouTube, but you can listen to it on Spotify above.
Making Our Mark the World Over (August)
There weren't races in the United States in August, but the race season continued in other parts of the world. Spartans in the U.S. watched with envy as races were hold in such foreign locations as China, Poland, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, and Andorra.
Spartan Goes Hollywood (September)
In September, Spartan partnered with DreamWorks Animation to develop the Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Spartan Kids Challenge. The four-week program, which helped promote youth fitness, took kids off their couches and put them on a dinosaur-packed expedition to Jurassic World’s Isla Nublar. The challenges — called missions — debuted on Oct. 2 and continued through the rest of the month.
Battle of the Fittest (October)
In October, 24 superhuman athletes descended on Riverside Farm in Pittsfield, Vermont to partake in Spartan Games™, presented by Harley-Davidson. The hardest extreme fitness competition in the world, it featured 10 grueling events — from wrestling to a Trail Ultra to DEKA STRONG — over four days, with $100,000 on the line. Learn more about the competitors here and here.
The First World Championship of Its Kind (November)
Unable to hold the Trifecta World Championship in Sparta, Greece as planned, we pivoted quickly and instead held the first-ever Virtual Trifecta World Championship. On the weekend of Nov. 6, racers tackled the Sprint, Super, Beast — or all three to capture the coveted Trifecta — and finishers submitted their times on their Spartan accounts, which were linked to wearable tracking devices. It wasn't the same as being in Sparta — what is?! — but it was a special weekend in its own right. Next year we will return to Greece, where we belong. Learn more about the event, scheduled for Nov. 5-7, here.
The Hottest New Fitness Series Drops (December)
Remember that Spartan Games event we held in October? Our video team was there the entire weekend and they caught everything on camera, and we mean everything. On Dec. 2, Spartan debuted a four-part series chronicling the event on our YouTube channel, and it became an instant hit. The series perfectly encapsulated the athletic excellence on the ground and the tension and drama that filled the air. Click here to watch all four episodes, read additional features about the athletes, and listen to exclusive conversations with the series' major players.