The 2020 U.S. National Series returns this weekend in Jacksonville, featuring both Sprint and Super races. Ahead of the maiden USNS race, we've put together a primer on everything you need to know: tips from the pros, notable faces from the community, the storyline, the favorites, the ins and outs of the course, and more.
These previews will be published on the Monday of race week for all 2020 U.S National Series events. In addition to Jacksonville, the National Series will be held in Seattle (April 4), Montana (May 3), Utah (July 18), and West Virginia (Aug. 29), followed by the North American Championship (Sept. 26) in North Lake Tahoe.
HOW THE PROS PREPARE
Spartan pros Lindsay Webster and Ryan Atkins took time to speak to the Spartan community prior to the first USNS race. Get a glimpse of what life is like for pros on race week, and heed their invaluable advice!
Some inspiration and feedback from our wonderful Spartan community heading into Jacksonville:
Rebecca Clinco: I'm racing in Jacksonville. I use the Spartan races as a way to test my physical training. I have lost 80 pounds since having my son, and I use Spartan races to push myself to be the healthiest person I can be.
Jordan Hamilton: This will be my first time doing the Jacksonville race. I’ve struggled with mental health and substance abuse for 17 years. I turned 35 in November and for the first time in my life celebrated three years clean in January. Spartan has helped me tremendously on my [road] to recovery. The friendships you make on the course and motivation you get is something I’ve never experienced. Looking forward to my first 2x Trifecta this year!
Carolyn McSwain Lehmann: I'm doing Spartan Jax because it's my hometown and it's also my first Spartan. I have been doing triathlons for the last four years, but never felt more out of shape or injured. I wanted to get stronger (I'm 55) and I love the outdoors, so I did a terrain race and I was hooked. I immediately filled up my 2020 calendar with races, including a Trifecta. I'm so excited!
WHY THIS RACE MATTERS
Finally it's here! The 2020 U.S. National Series kicks off in Jacksonville this weekend, the first of five races in the series (Seattle, Montana, Utah, West Virginia). The Jacksonville Super and Sprint is actually the first national or regional series race on the 2020 global calendar. A flat, fast course, the 5K Sprint will favor the speedier athletes (with less emphasis on endurance). Jacksonville will set the stage for the National Series and establish an early favorite, and will give hundreds of racers an opportunity to make a name for themselves early in the season.
On the men's side, the obvious favorite is Atkins, the 2019 U.S. National Series champion. Atkins had a brilliant 2019 campaign, winning the Ultra World Championship in Sweden and placing second at the World Championship in Lake Tahoe. Atkins finished second in the Jacksonville Super last year, behind Ryan Kempson.
The women's field is a bit harder to predict, but the one-two punch of Lindsay Webster (2019 USNS champion) and Nicole Mericle (2019 World Champion) have to be considered the favorites. Last year in Jacksonville, Mericle (first) and Webster (second) were the top two finishers.
The Jacksonville 5K Sprint is the perfect start to the 2020 U.S. National Series. With a course that's flat and lighting fast in places, it is very spectator-friendly. With waist-deep water, muddy forests, and open-track running, the course lends itself to frantic and furious battles.