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Spartan races set to return despite COVID-19

Spartan CEO Joe De Sena says next month's Jacksonville event will be safer than "going to Starbucks"

Amelia Boone

It was announced yesterday that Spartan obstacle races are coming back in a month, with an event set for June 13 and 14 in Jacksonville, Fla. Spartan CEO Joe De Sena told Obstacle Racing Media that they are expecting 4,000 participants per day for this event, and for anyone who thinks this is a bad call, he added that, “If you’re too afraid to live a Spartan life due to a virus then you’re already dead.”

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Resilience. Grit. Dedication. Over the past two months, you’ve shown time and time again that you are unbreakable. You’ve inspired us and millions of others around the world as you refuse to give up on your training, mental conditioning and healthy lifestyles. All the while, you take time to lift those around you, sometimes literally. You’ve stayed race ready, every day. . Because of this, we feel a responsibility to you. To keep motivating you, keep delivering unbreakable content daily, and to keep working around the clock to formulate a plan to reopen live races around the world. We take this responsibility very seriously and we’re excited to say the day has come. . Today, we introduce The Unbreakable Code, a set of safety guidelines designed with the help of leading medical experts that will allow Spartans everywhere to RACE SAFE TOGETHER. We’re confident that, if you follow them, live races will become the norm for our unbreakable community once again. Swipe to see a few of these measures and visit the link in bio for the full list. #beunbreakable #spartan #OCRisBACK

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Already dead

De Sena apparently took some flack for his statement, so he posted on Instagram to explain that his words were taken out of context. “Listen, we are all cooped up in our houses. That’s no way to live,” he says in the video. He goes on to point to the two “ways out” of this pandemic, one of which is the development of a vaccine.

RELATED: Virtual Spartan races sound really hard

“We might have to wait six, 12, 18 months, who knows how long to get a vaccine,” he says. “The other is herd immunity. What does herd immunity mean? Herd immunity means 60 to 70 per cent of the population has to get the antibodies.” De Sena continues to explain that “we have to mix it up again” in order to beat COVID-19. “If you’re at risk … absolutely stay inside. But if you’re not, let’s start living.”


Safety features

De Sena told Obstacle Racing Media that the Spartan team has taken every racer’s health into consideration and that they have come up with new race standards to ensure that everyone is safe at future events.

RELATED: Spartan Race Canada revises 2020 schedule with tentative dates

“We have procedures in place to make a Spartan event safer than going grocery shopping, going to Starbucks or going in an elevator,” he said. Some of the new safety features were outlined on the Spartan Instagram page.

At every obstacle and around the entire race festival, there will be hand washing stations with sanitizer readily available. Instead of cups of water at aid stations, sealed bottles will be handed out.

All event staff and volunteers will wear protective equipment at all times, and racers will be asked to wear masks before and after races. Social distancing will also be considered, according to the Spartan page, and heat sizes will be reduced while the courses will be widened “to allow for safe spacing while competing.”

RELATED: Spartan race looks to acquire Tough Mudder in 2020

A tough call

Canada’s chief of public health Dr. Theresa Tam has touched on herd immunity—which De Sena said is a must-do to get over COVID-19—and she has cautioned citizens from placing much weight on the idea, as reported by the CBC. “The idea of … generating natural immunity is actually not something that should be undertaken,” she said.

The June race date is still a month away, and a lot can happen in that time. The race could go on without a hitch, but a second wave could hit Florida and the U.S., squashing any chance of holding the event.