The mission of the Mobile Sports Authority is to create a positive economic and public relations impact by attracting and supporting unique events. MSA has helped to bring auto racing, bass tournaments, bicycle championships and the always-popular Dauphin Street Vault to Mobile County.
However, few events have had as big an impact as the inaugural Alabama Super Spartan Race. More than 4,100 competitors took part last year in the grueling obstacle course race in Saraland. The largest previous event hosted by the MSA was the Color Run, which drew 3,000 participants.
The second annual Alabama Super Spartan Race returns on Saturday, Nov. 19. Much like all Spartan races across the United States, it will present a new and challenging course to the projected crowd of 5,000 expected to descend on a roughly 5,000-acre patch of land off Celeste Road. Within the 8-10 miles of the course, there will be 24 to 29 natural and manmade obstacles for the runners and teams to overcome.
“Since 2014, when the idea of bringing a Spartan Race to Mobile County ignited, the Saraland community — led by Mayor Howard Rubenstein, Saraland City Council President Joe McDonald and the entire Saraland Chamber organization, to our entire dedicated local committee as well as a few of our local Spartan competitors — have been extremely helpful in making the 2015 race a great success, as well as providing an innovative approach to the entire weekend,” MSA executive director Danny Corte said. “This has been a huge undertaking and we’re all looking forward to seeing what happens in our second year of the event.”
Action starts Friday night
Last year’s Saraland event was the first Spartan Race in Alabama. It made an impression by also being the first to host a Friday Night Pre-Race Party. The Saraland Chamber put on a “Taste of Saraland” event for participants and visitors that included food and live entertainment. Shell Chemicals is this year’s sponsor, and the music will feature Shelby Brown, who appeared as a contestant on “The Voice.”
The obstacle course race gets underway early that Saturday, with the Elite divisions going off at 7:30 a.m. Children ages 4-12 can participate in the Spartan Kids Race, with the option of a half-mile or full-mile course of their own. In addition, a new item on the agenda is the Spartan VIP Experience.
“Saraland Spartan is not only a great race but also gives the Spartan Community a fun atmosphere to launch new events such as our first-ever VIP Experience,” Cherie Bortnick, director of business development-destinations for Spartan Race Inc., said. “The VIP Experience will give an up-close look to the race while giving us a chance to impact the communities we are in by benefiting a local charity.”
All proceeds for the luncheon will go to the Fuse Project, which supports numerous causes that promote health, fitness, education and social responsibility for children in Mobile and Baldwin counties.
Those interested in volunteering or assisting with site build-up and/or race-day activities may contact Rita-Nicole Wright of the North Mobile YMCA via email at [email protected] To purchase tickets or get additional details, visit www.Spartan.com.
The first Spartan Race took place in 2010. The event caters to individuals looking to test their physical limits. The race is for everyday people looking to lead a more fit lifestyle, to elite endurance athletes seeking the ultimate physical test.
Currently Spartan Races offer three primary formats. The one in Saraland is the “Super” class (8-plus miles, 24-plus obstacles). There is also the “Sprint” (3-plus miles, 20-plus obstacles) and the “Beast” (13-plus miles, 30-plus obstacles).
Unlike other obstacle-focused events, Spartan Races are always timed. Competitors are encouraged to complete each of the primary race distances to achieve “trifecta” status, earning pieces of a medallion for each finish. The three sections interlock to form the medal.
Local family to participate
Among those seeking this special medallion is a couple from Fairhope. Charles and Kelly Montgomery have competed in 11 Spartan races since 2013. Joining them again will be Byron, their 14-year-old son, and Will, their 8-year-old son, is signed up for his first Spartan Kids Race.
“We entered our first Spartan race by accident,” Charles Montgomery. “I was overweight and out of shape. We saw they were hosting a race on the Mississippi coast. Kelly and I entered, and it was the spark for us both.
“The race almost killed us. I have never been in so much pain in my life. But it was the starting point to where we are now.”
Charles is just returning from the OCR World Championships in Ontario, Canada. He qualified after finishing fifth in a race in Fort Benning, Georgia.
“That was the most brutal event I have ever participated in,” he said of the championships. “I am still having trouble walking and sitting up straight. We normally recover by the next day. This is the first time to be sore like this in a couple of years.
“But I finished and I pushed beyond my limits. They had some obstacles I had never seen before. I was pleased with what I did.”
Charles added that it is not unusual for a family or friends to compete together in a Spartan race. While the Elite division is very competitive and a runner is not allowed to help another entry, a team is actually encouraged to support each other.
“When you are running with family or a group, you depend on their strengths,” he said. “You push each other mentally and emotionally.”
With regard to the Saraland event, this Baldwin County family was thrilled to have a course so close to home. The Mississippi event no longer exists.
“Out of all the other races we’ve entered, you always hear people complain about something,” Charles said. “Saraland is the only one where I have heard no negative comments. This worked like a machine. I wish all of them would be like this.”
With every race presenting a new challenge, the entire Montgomery family is looking forward to the upcoming adventure.
“The course is a metaphor for life,” Charles said. “As you move forward, you will come across obstacles. Each one of us has strengths and weaknesses, so we see how we approach each of them.
“After five miles, you are emotionally and physically drained. It is a real battle, and you must depend on your teammate. Learn to motivate each other, and learn what you can do with real-life circumstances.”