Picture this: Mud is flying, sticking to your shoes and socks, engulfing them as they sink into the bog, forcing you to dig deep before sprinting up another motocross hill. Yes, this is Jacksonville. Racing has officially returned!
On Feb. 26-28, three different Spartan events will collide at the WW Motocross Park in Jacksonville to welcome back the first in-person competition since last June. Here’s everything you need to know before attempting the Friday night 10K Trail, 5K Sprint, or 10K Super.
Trail Running in the Darkness
While racers were training, recuperating, and staying healthy, Spartan officials were busy developing new formats to keep the events fresh and interesting. While experienced racers will recognize the same obstacles and course layout in the OCR races, the introduction of a twilight trail competition and the first iteration of the Spartan Cross — a 1K devil-take-the-hindmost stampede run that was first introduced in Spartan Games — will bring fresh competition opportunities to the forefront. Two race series — the National Series and the Honor Series — will also be kicking off simultaneously in Jacksonville.
Spartan’s foray into nighttime trail running features more than a half-dozen night trail events planned for this year. This type of race adds an added layer of difficulty, as hazards that wouldn’t otherwise pose a threat become much more ominous once the sun goes down. Jacksonville’s trail race length will be a 10K, just over six miles. Other Spartan Trail events, for context, range as long as 50K (over 30 miles)!
Beyond top-tier competition, Spartans can expect new safety protocols. (Each event's safety measures may be modified slightly, based on local guidance.) Racers should make sure check their pre-race emails, for pertinent information related to their specific location, prior to showing up.
Jacksonville will again implement limited entry times, which allow for athletes to enter 30 minutes prior to their start time. New for this event will be mandated mask usage in the festival area. If racers don't bring their own, they will be provided one when they enter. The start and finish areas have also been modified to allow for social distancing.
Similar to the race in Jacksonville this past June, there will not be a Kids race, there won't be any spectators, and there won't be changing tents or seating areas. But there will be food vendors, showers, and a bag check, none of which were offered last June.
We are streamlining our processes to limit contact, and participants should expect to see over 150 hand sanitizer and disinfection stations added throughout the festival area and on the course. There might be a few additional implemented changes, and the pre-race emails will have all of those details.
Top-Level Competition Returns
Are you ready to get back out on the course after months off of it? You'll find out right away, because Jacksonville is a true litmus test. The course will be fast and flat, hopping from soft, sandy track sections to open pastures. It has a low elevation gain, but is not without deep mud and strength-sapping sprints up the motocross inclines.
In years past, elites and novices alike have commented on everything from the humidity to the moisture on the obstacles to the deep mud to the constant heart-rate changes as speed melds into endurance. The 10K Trail race will start at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, while the elite men and women will hit the course early the following day, at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The Spartan Super will feature 25 technical obstacles (all of them fan favorites), while the Sprint will encompass about half that amount. The 10K Trail on Friday will be without obstacles, but headlamps will be mandatory, and the new 1,000-meter Spartan Cross course will also be available for racers to try out.
Last year, Ryan Atkins rallied past Veejay Jones and Ryan Kempson to the finish in the elite field, while Lindsay Webster claimed the women’s crown ahead of Nicole Mericle and Natalie Miano. With a significant hiatus due to the pandemic, and with weather always being a factor, this year will welcome a clean slate and should propel a host of new individuals to the top of the Spartan ranks. We can’t wait to see who will come out on top.