The dry, cool desert air blew softly around the contestants, stirring up pockets of dust across the course. The first ever Spartan Kids World Championship was scheduled to begin in less than an hour just outside the river town of Laughlin, Nevada. Our family was there to support my second son, Matt, who had qualified to run in this race.
To qualify for the championship race, each participant had to finish with one of the top three fastest times at competitive Spartan Kids races around the world. Matt, had finished third at the Spartan Kids race in Utah back in July and had been training and anticipating this race for the last four months. The realization that he was competing on the world stage was buried in the back of his mind as his only focus was running the race in front of him.
Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) has gained in popularity over the last decade. Spartan Racing is by far the most popular of all the racing brands, according to RunRepeat.com, though other brands, like Tough Mudder, also have a dedicated following.
Matt was first exposed to OCR through Grit League, a local kids OCR league led by Spartan trainer Dan Beck. Matt was immediately hooked. Kids naturally flock to OCR. It builds strength, confidence and endurance as well as teaches them sportsmanship. As most of these races are outdoors, it gets kids away from the TV and into nature. This exposure instills a lifelong love for living healthy and enjoying the outdoors.
Many of the kids at the Spartan Kids World Championship, like my son, just focus on OCR as their primary sport of choice. While Matt has never been a fan of baseball or basketball, OCR gets him excited and he attacks a course with a contagious intensity that has brought other kids into the sport with him.
If you are looking for a way to get your kids involved in OCR, find a local Spartan event and sign your kids up for either a kids competitive or open race. While OCR is not for all everyone, my kids love it. My oldest son and I ran in our first Spartan race this year (he beat me easily by 30 minutes in a Spartan Super Race), while my daughter and youngest son enjoy participating with Matt in Grit League throughout the year and a Spartan Kids Race each summer.
As for the rest of the story, Matt placed 15th overall in the boys division out of the 50 who qualified to run in the championship. Now, he is about to age out of the Spartan Kids division, but he plans to keep competing and wants to run his first Spartan Sprint this summer.