After two years of anticipation, disappointment, excitement, and postponements, the weekend we've all been waiting for finally went down — and it couldn't possibly have been more epic. For the first time in Spartan history, the World Championship was held outside of the United States, in the Liwa Oasis outside of Abu Dhabi, and the desert and dunes made for a simply unforgettable weekend.
The first-of-its-kind championship weekend featured a full slate of bucket list events. Off the course, racers experienced the annual Parade of Nations and an action-packed festival opening that coincided with UAE National Day. On the course, competitors from all across the globe competed in a multitude of events, including a 60-hour Agoge, a Super, a Beast, a Kids race, a half marathon Trail race, and a 50K Trail race.
And in addition to the Spartan World Championship Elite Beast, nations squared off in the Teams World Championship Super.
The Power Couple Sweep: Atkins and Webster Win Titles
Ryan Atkins is arguably the greatest male Spartan racer of all time, but coming into 2021 there was a pretty large void in his sparkling resume: a World Championship. Now he has one, and the proverbial monkey is off his back. The two-time Ultra World Champion and reigning North American Champion took first in the Elite Beast, finishing in 2:13:40. Russian Sergei Perelygin (2:14:12) finished just behind him, and two-time World Champion Jonathan Albon (2014 and 2018) finished in third, with a time of 2:20:04.
Atkins' wife, fellow Canadian Lindsay Webster — also considered by many to be the greatest female Spartan racer ever — took first in the Elite Beast (2:38:54) to win her third Spartan World Championship. American Annie Dube (2:41:22) came in second and Russian Alisa Petrova (2:43:47) rounded out the podium.
In the Teams World Championship, the French team of Jeremie Gachet, Gregory Basilico, and Myriam Guillot-Boisset took the gold medal, with a time of 1:09:39. The Russian team of Perelygin, Petrova, and Egor Belousov took the silver medal, finishing in 1:10:54, and the Canadian team of Webster, Atkins, and Jesse Bruce took third with a time of 1:11:23.
Unlike in the championship heats, Agoge students weren't competing against each other; they were competing against themselves. And this Agoge was arguably the most daunting yet. Among other obstacles, students had to build and move Bedouin tents, hike more than 100 kilometers in the desert on minimal sustenance, hunt for water, navigate using only the sun and the stars, and survive on 65 hours of no sleep. As is always the case after an Agoge, every single student that finished left the desert completely transformed.
Conquering the Dunes in the World's Largest Desert
Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena has raced all over the world, and Spartan has hosted races in some of the most incredible locations on the globe. It's hard to impress Joe, to say the least. But this race, which was initially scheduled for 2019 and subsequently postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, absolutely blew him away. More than just the scenery and the energy, both of which were unmatched, he was taken by the level of difficulty that the desert course presented to racers.
“This World Championship was no joke," De Sena said. "All of our Spartans came to compete in the most breathtaking, challenging Spartan competitions. Congratulations not only to our winners, but to all our athletes who conquered the dunes in the world’s largest desert. We’ve raised the bar for the next World Championship, and that’s what it’s all about: pushing ourselves to the limit and seeing what we’re made of.”
Racers who traveled to the Empty Quarter also got to experience the rich culture and tradition in the region, combining the physical challenge of a lifetime with incomparable sightseeing and exploring.
For a comprehensive tour of the desert course, check out the video below.