For the first time in Spartan Race history, our signature championship event is going global. On Dec. 3 and 4, the Spartan World Championship is coming to Abu Dhabi in what promises to be a memorable weekend for elites, open racers, and fans. In light of the major announcement, we've received a myriad of inquiries about the new, exotic location as Spartans across the globe prepare for the weekend of a lifetime.
To get more insight into what Abu Dhabi is all about, and why it's a perfect destination to hold the World Championship, we spoke with Spartan VP of Production Mike Morris and Spartan VP of Product David Watson. Both Morris and Watson have worked tirelessly to put this event together and have an intimate knowledge of what it entails, and what to expect.
SPARTAN.COM: Why is Abu Dhabi the ideal location for the World Championship?
Mike Morris, Spartan VP of Production: Since Spartan is a global brand, geographically Abu Dhabi makes a lot of sense given its proximity to Europe, Asia, and obviously the Middle East. Having the race in Abu Dhabi will allow an entire new population of racers to experience the most competitive OCR event in the world. After being there twice now and experiencing just a sliver of what the area can offer, I’m confident we have an amazing experience lined up for our customers.
SPARTAN.COM: What do runners need to know about the climate and terrain in Abu Dhabi?
MM: The dunes are beyond beautiful, and we plan to bring as much of the rich culture of the region into the festival and provide lots of things that our customers will be able to experience. That time of year (early December) is perfect. High 70s during the day and low 60s at night. I’ve been around the world racing and exploring — beautiful glacial peaks in the Pacific Northwest, harsh mountains of New Hampshire during the dead of winter, swamps of Florida, beaches and jungles of Central America, Iceland, the Alps ... This venue brings the same awe and impressiveness of anywhere else I’ve been.
SPARTAN.COM: What is Spartan's presence in Abu Dhabi, and the Middle East as a whole?
David Watson, Spartan VP of Product: We’ve been holding Spartan events in the Middle East for over five years, and are targeting five events in the UAE — and seven in the Middle East — this year alone. While it’s an up-and-coming region for OCR compared to mature markets like Europe and North America, men and women of all different abilities are taking to our sport with a passion, and we’re seeing solid growth. The quickly-growing level of competition is particularly exciting.
SPARTAN.COM: What kind of global presence do you expect to have at this year's World Championship? How many countries are expected to be represented?
DW: We’ve traditionally seen at least 50 countries represented at the World Championship, and this year’s event will be no exception. I personally think we’ll see closer to 80 countries, given that the Team World Championship is making a return, along with the fact that Abu Dhabi is really easy to get to from all over the world, particularly from both Europe and Asia. Add in the fact that OCR is growing exponentially and we’ve done a ton in the past few years to grow the sport. I think it’s going to be the most diverse global gathering of Spartans to date.
SPARTAN.COM: What should Spartans know about the festival area at the venue? What will separate it from past festivals at Spartan championships and races?
DW: This won’t be anything like a Spartan festival you’ve attended in the past. For starters, we’ve never held a global-scale championship event held across multiple days in the middle of this kind of desert. The environment itself automatically lends itself to epic experiences. The fact that days and nights in the desert in December are perfect will really help create a nonstop feeling of adventure. Racing and watching friends race along with some of best athletes in the world; taking part in once-in-a-lifetime cultural activities that are deeply rooted in the Bedouin history of UAE; great food and music in the evening with stars; cool breezes; lots of great, like-minded people in the one place — the whole thing is going to be completely unique.
MM: The region has so much amazing culture and history that will manifest itself into an amazing experience for our customers. Besides the normal festival components, we plan to integrate as much as we can that will allow our customers to get a taste of the UAE’s culture. Some of these things are rooted in centuries of history (falconry, Bedouin traditions, camel racing), while some leverage new technologies and traditions (dune bashing, sandboarding). One thing to keep an eye out for is the camping option. We have some fun and cool ideas up our sleeves for that!