If you're sick of making excuses not to try something new or push yourself out of your comfort zone, you can bet that we're sick of hearing them. (And we've heard them all: I can't do burpees, I don't have great grip strength, I can't run that far, I don't have anyone to race with. The list never ends.)
The hard truth is, Spartan races are HARD. But here's another truth: So is life. If you continue taking the easy way out of every situation, you'll never be prepared to persevere in the face of real-life challenges when shit really hits the fan. And if you're waiting to commit to making progress until you're "ready," you'll never start. The perfect time, or the perfect amount of "readiness," will never come. You just have to do it.
You don't have to be a burpee extraordinaire to complete a Spartan race. It's not the end of the world if you fail an obstacle (or a lot of them). And nothing will happen if you decide to walk. Fellow Spartans are there to support you and encourage you every step of the way, and you can build your own team ahead of time to ensure that you don't go it alone.
Being the toughest person out there isn't a requirement, but wanting to be tough (and working to be) absolutely is, both mentally and physically. Committing to doing something challenging — like a race — is the first step.
While every Spartan race is hard in its own right, most first-timers understandably don't want their first race to be one of our hardest. To help you get started on your OCR journey — whether it's your first race ever, or first in years — Spartan Pro Kevin Donoghue selected the 10 most beginner-friendly Spartan races on the schedule, along with notable features and insider intel about each event.
The 10 Most Beginner-Friendly Spartan Races for First-Time Racers
1. Arizona Spartan Super 10K and Sprint 5K Weekend (Feb. 25-26, 2023)
This weekend in sunny Fort McDowell, Ariz. features two of our shortest distances: a Sprint 5K (where most first-time Spartans start) and a Super 10K. The altitude is low, there's relatively little elevation gain (517 feet, to be exact), and rolling, hard-packed dirt roads aren't very technical, so your joints will thank you.
Tracking through parts of the Yavapai Nation Indian Reservation, the arid trail does have one notable incline: to the top of a mesa for an astonishing view of the towering cacti below. And, as an added bonus, it's February in the desert. Temperatures this time of the year peak in the (dry) mid 60s and 70s — practically perfect race weather.
2. San Antonio Sprint 5K and Super 10K Weekend
Our first San Antonio race weekend happened back in 2019, as part of the Spartan Honor Series, races that were held at active military installations where civilians showed their support for — and experienced a taste of — the fortitude of the U.S. Armed Forces. And according to Donoghue, it's one of the best courses he's ever competed on.
"It has a brilliant mix of single track, wide open range, stream beds, and rolling terrain," he says. "The course is perfect for the first-time Spartan, but it's still incredible for the seasoned veteran."
With both Sprints and Supers on the schedule, this late-March weekend on an operating longhorn ranch, Don Strange Ranch, will weave racers between obstacles and live animals. Like Arizona, you can plan for low altitude, little elevation gain, hard-packed dirt (with the exception of a river run), and mild and temperate weather.
After the race, a roughly 40-minute drive will find you (and plenty of your newfound Spartan friends) in downtown San Antonio, where you can explore the Alamo and enjoy good food and good times at the San Antonio River Walk.
3. Charlotte Spartan Sprint Weekend (April 15-16, 2023)
Not only is the Charlotte race one of Donoghue's favorite venues ever, but it has also become a favorite of NFL stars Randy Moss and Tyreek Hill: Both chose this course as their first Spartan race ever.
Just a 30-minute drive from downtown Charlotte, the 5K race takes place on an absolutely gorgeous family-owned farm in Concord, NC. Featuring all of the rolling hills you'd expect on a traditional farm and plenty of red clay mud, every mile is a messy one. Put elevation and altitude out of your mind entirely and focus instead on pushing through the discomfort of relatively technical terrain at times, including many creeks. (Though expansive pastoral views and mid-60s weather make it easy to forget the pain.)
"This venue truly makes you understand what it takes to be a Spartan, while still being very achievable and fun," Donoghue says.
4. Palm Beaches Spartan Sprint 5K Weekend (April 22, 2023)
This late-April weekend is the perfect escape for northern Spartans looking to evade the last few bitter cold days of winter. Forty minutes south of West Palm Beach and just an hour north of Miami, the race venue, South County Regional Park, is probably as flat and open as a Spartan race will ever get, as it runs through grass and open fields.
And although both Saturday and Sunday offer our shortest distance, the Sprint, there are still some added variables to consider: Temperatures will fall between a humid 70 and 85 degrees, and — to compensate for a lack of hills — this course is generally designed for back-to-back obstacles and heavier carries, so get working on that grip strength.
This race allows first-time Spartans to kick off the summer season early. After you earn your medal, pay a visit to one of Boca Raton's many beaches and soak in all of the sun and glory.
5. Tri-State New York Spartan Event Weekend (June 17-18, 2023)
2021 brought a lot of firsts, including a return to a full schedule of races after the COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 season. June 2021 was also the first time that Spartan came to Bethel, NY. According to Donoghue, it didn't disappoint.
Held in June once again in 2022, the Spartan race festival for this Sprint 5K weekend sits directly across the street from the legendary stage of the original 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair, where over 500,000 mud-covered concertgoers once descended upon the same fields to witness over 30 legendary performances on a 600-acre dairy farm.
What remains today is the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, where Spartans will face a fantastic mix of beautiful trail running, open fields, and more than enough mud to make it feel like you were there watching Jimi Hendrix explosively shredding "Purple Haze." Temperatures expected to be in the low 70s will double down on the venue's peacefulness, but some moderate elevation gain might just give a few first-time Spartans some hell. Train those legs.
6. AT&T Stadium Spartan Stadion
Stadions — roughly 5K, 20-obstacle races held at some of the world's most iconic ballparks and stadiums, and paying homage to the Ancient Olympic Games event of the same name — are arguably the best introduction to Spartan racing. They are shorter in distance, eliminate the mud and water obstacles, and pack an insane historical punch with tons of local entertainment. Plus, most of them are in big cities and therefore close to hotels, airports, restaurants, and other downtown amenities — an anomaly for the usual ruggedness of Spartan racing.
This particular Stadion is a bucket list race, even if you're not a Dallas Cowboys fan. AT&T Stadium may be the longest of the Stadion races, but at under 4 miles, almost the entire course fits inside the climate-controlled stadium (so you can escape the summer Texas heat). With multiple obstacles in the center of the field and live-event footage broadcasted on the field's astronomical screen, you'll have plenty of opportunities to get connected with the Spartan community, make some friends, and get your own moment in the spotlight.
This race is the perfect way to explore Jerry World — what Donoghue calls "one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world" — like never before. And if you're looking for an even more behind-the-scenes look, you can even schedule your own private tour of the stadium.
7. Hawaii Spartan Trifecta Event Weekend (Aug. 19-20, 2023)
One of the most unique and legendary Spartan venues of all time, our weekend in Hawaii marks the first Trifecta weekend to make this list. If you've already worked through some of the Sprints and Supers above, you might even consider graduating to a Beast this weekend, or you can stick with the shorter distances.
The combination term for race vacation — "racecation" — was coined for this exact race. Aside from being an overall epic tropical oasis, the Hawaiian race venue, Kualoa Ranch on the island of O'ahu, has been the site of over 60 Hollywood films, television shows, concerts, and music videos, including The Karate Kid II (1986) and Jurassic World (2015). The course's rolling, wooded trails and expansive fields with ocean views (hello, low altitude) will run you right through some iconic filming locations. But beware: Hawaiian temperatures in August can reach up to the high 80s.
Hollywood-themed tours, a pre-race authentic Friday night luau, white-sand beaches, adventurous jungle excursions, historical tours in nearby Honolulu, endurance-testing hikes, and Kids races make this weekend a perfect race vacation for first-time Spartans and families.
8. Nashville Spartan Event Weekend (Oct. 14-15, 2023)
Neal Farms, a returning venue just 30-40 minutes from both downtown Nashville and the Nashville International Airport, features a Sprint and Super with minimal travel hassle. In traditional farm style, you'll barrel over flat, open fields and — though October may be cold in the northern United States — Tennessee temperatures will still likely be lingering in the mid 60s. But like Palm Beaches, wild cards are sure to decrease the comfort of the course in unexpected ways. After all, this is a Spartan race.
And by that, we mean that although you'll be racing at low altitude and lower elevation gain, you will have to wade through a 12-foot wide creek to reach the finish line. Donoghue encourages first-time Spartans to take in all of this course's beauty along with the pain.
"Much like Charlotte, this rolling course in beautiful farm country has all of the ingredients for a hit country song," he says.
9. Boston Spartan Stadion Race Weekend
America's oldest and most iconic ballpark, which first opened in 1912, was home to Spartan's first Stadion Race in 2012 — exactly 100 years later. It's still Donoghue's favorite to this day (and that's coming from a New York Yankees fan). While Stadions are typically only a one-day event, the home of the Boston Red Sox has earned weekend-long status for its incredible popularity among the Spartan community.
The streets around the park are shut down during the 5K, 20-obstacle race, allowing easy racer access to all of the area's vendors, bars, and restaurants, and ensuring that you get the most out of your visit to our headquarter city, Boston. A rite of passage for seasoned Spartans and an extraordinary starting point for first-timers, this course will have you doing burpees in the Red Sox clubhouse, and crossing home plate alongside the legendary Green Monster.
With all of that epic history, lots of stairs, and an expected low of 39 degrees, this Stadion is wicked in more ways than one.
10. San Francisco Spartan Stadion Event Weekend (Dec. 3, 2022)
If you're now dying to conquer a Stadion for your first race, but can't swing the trip from coast to coast, this stunningly beautiful park in San Francisco has western Spartans (and Giants fans) covered. Though it's later in the year than Boston, the weather will be far more mild. You'll traverse to the pinnacle of the five-level park up a ton of unrelenting stairs, and then be rewarded with an unforgettable view of the San Francisco Bay and Oakland Bay Bridge.
"The shear beauty of the park, being right on the water, gives the cellphone-carrying Spartan plenty of opportunities to stop for great selfies," Donoghue says.
After you earn your first-time Spartan swag, venturing out into the surrounding city will provide you virtually limitless options for exploring. Head down to Fisherman's Wharf's PIER 39 to shop, eat, or see the famed basking sea lions, or take a ferry to take in all of the history at Alcatraz. And if you're looking to put in some more miles on foot, visit one of these seven iconic Golden Gate Bridge viewing points, or take a hike through the miles of towering redwoods in Muir Woods.