The most challenging and hardcore of them all, however, might be the Agoge, in which students are pushed to their limits for 60-plus consecutive hours in distant, often remote locations.
Based on the arduous training of children in ancient Sparta, in which they were groomed to become warriors for future army service, the Agoge is the ultimate test of mind, body, and spirit. It is, quite simply, the pinnacle of endurance challenges.
There have been modern-day Spartan Agoges in some of the most fascinating, exotic, culturally significant locations on Earth, from under the northern lights in Iceland to the picturesque mountains of Japan to the Great Wall of China.
In 2018, the Agoge came to Mongolia, a breathtaking country that has produced some of the most notorious conquerors and fiercest warriors the world has ever known. It was a natural, perfect fit.
"There’s not a lot of places left on Earth where you can have a true adventure," Spartan Vice President of Product David Watson says. "Mongolia is the perfect mix of historical and cultural elements that blend with Spartan’s values."
'Welcome to Mongolia'
“This is the land of the open blue sky," expedition director, author, and explorer William Lindesay eloquently told the Agoge students. "The shaman religion teaches that every living thing is at the mercy of nature. Welcome to Mongolia.”
Over the course of 66 grueling hours, 40 Agoge students from all walks of life and all corners of the Earth put themselves to the test. Led by taskmasters, called Krypteia, they traversed the landlocked East Asian nation, from Ulaanbaatar (the country's capital) to Khentii Province (Genghis Khan's birthplace). They took on six grueling missions, including a Bökh wrestling competition, a 380-meter swim in brutally cold water, and shooting flaming arrows.
A Scary Scene
The swim, in particular, led to pandemonium. When three students were suffering from hypothermia — their bodies visibly shaking — their classmates did everything in their power to save them. (Thankfully Rudy Reyes, a Marine Recon and combat diver, was on hand to lend his expertise.) They gave them the clothes off their backs, covered them in anything and everything they could find, and used their body heat to help warm them up.
“Agoge is all about a balancing act between pushing people to their absolute limit and knowing where the line is between extreme endurance and danger," Watson says. "We get very, very close.”
Throughout this memorable journey, the Agoge students learned a great deal about themselves, about each other, about the world around them, and about life. Less than three days after embarking on the first objective, they had transformed into more confident, more capable people.
“It’s about changing your life, and that’s what happened," Bryan, a graduate, says of the life-altering experience. "I didn’t give up. I didn’t stop and I didn’t quit. I complained. I shivered. I took all my clothes off to help somebody who was in true need. And it’s just ... It's a very overwhelming experience."
To watch the full Agoge documentary, chronicling the entire 66-hour expedition, sign into your Spartan account here.