Just how long does it take to build a team of committed co-workers to compete in a Spartan race? For Walmart employee Jeff Berg, it took less than a week to gather 30 willing competitors to sign up for their first race, and he kept looking for more.
Berg is a trainer, motivational speaker, and Spartan veteran based in Tulsa, OK. He has also spent years as a facilitator for Walmart, traveling the country to train managers and supervisors for the retail giant, which employs 1.5 million people in the United States.
In early 2019, Berg optimistically sent an email to co-workers at the Walmart in Tulsa, trying to gauge interest in potentially competing in the Spartan Stadion race at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas that summer. Though he was an experienced Spartan competitor — he and his wife, Courtney, tried their first event years ago, and she willed her way to the finish line despite suffering a wrist injury during the race — he wasn’t sure what kind of response he would get.
But for weeks, he had been quietly speaking with his co-workers about Spartan training and what it had done for his life. Racing had helped him build physical and mental stamina, and it gave him the opportunity to take on new and unfamiliar challenges with every obstacle.
The word of mouth worked. Within a week of sending the email, he had dozens of associates interested in taking on a 30-day training regimen and competing in the race in Texas. He also started receiving emails from associates and executives from offices outside of Oklahoma, who were asking for more information about Spartan and future plans for a corporate team.
“Our society doesn’t always like to do the difficult thing, so it was interesting that people responded to that,” Berg said. “People are aching for the difficult, because they know that in the difficult, real life-change happens. And they’re ready for that life change.”
Berg said that while he was somewhat surprised at how quickly his associates took to the idea of competing in a Spartan race, he knew that his own experience with the races was the best advertising he could do. The Spartan lifestyle had revamped his life over the years, and he wanted to share his experience with others.
Bringing Others on the Transformational Journey
“Any time a life transformation happens, we want to tell people, we want to bring them on the journey,” Berg said. “It was already something I enjoyed and that had changed certain aspects of my life, and I wanted to make sure that the people who were asking me about it could jump on board as well.”
Berg built his team from a mix of athletes, including a number of long-distance runners who had never competed in an obstacle race but were curious about the experience. Other co-workers had competed in obstacle course races in the past, but had never tried their hand at a Spartan race.
“Spartan is different,” Berg told those co-workers. “And you’ll know why at the finish line.”
The only challenge for Berg and his team was the relatively quick turnaround ahead of their first race that June, with just a few months to prepare. Berg said that he received a wealth of questions from his teammates about how to train for the race in such a short window, but he quickly sent the group Spartan’s collection of training plans, and they were off and running.
“We’re going to go through some hard stuff, but we’re going to get through it together,” Berg said. “And it’s going to be exciting.”
3 Tips to Start a Corporate Spartan Race Team With Your Co-Workers
1. Make it Easy
Once you set up a team with Spartan, you’ll get a unique link for your team’s roster that you send around to your co-workers. Each person can use the link to register themself and pay the entry fees on their own when they’re ready. That means no more sign-up sheets posted in the employee lunchroom, and no more hassling people for money like it’s a recreational softball league.
The plug-and-play approach makes it so much easier for the team captain, and all of the participants can get signed up and start training right away.
2. Make the Ask
Send all of the group emails you want, but you’ll never generate as much as enthusiasm as when you share your Spartan experience with a co-worker, and then make a personal ask to join the team.
You’ll find that more people than you expected want to be asked or want to know more about competing in Spartan races. Most people are looking for a change in their life or a challenge — or at least an out from everyday mundanity — and you asking them personally makes them believe they’re capable of doing it.
3. Make a Movement
Jeff Berg and the Walmart team started with a hashtag — #SparkeeChallenge — then they called on each other to complete one physical task a today for a month. Even if it was just 10 burpees, they'd use the hashtag when they posted their challenge on social media. Once people could rally around a common calling, Walmart employees from around the country embraced the hashtag — and the physical activity — to show that they were part of the movement.