Regarding Volunteering at Spartan Race…

Recently I wrote an article for MudRunFun blog that received negative press in the Spartan world, and understandably so. It was related to volunteering for different events, and unfortunately, Spartan scored the worst out of all four events in the post. This information was based off of multiple accounts of people who had personally volunteered for Spartan in 2015; while my personal experience wasn’t as bad as some of the reviews suggest, several others had less than desireable experiences with Spartan Race, thus the rankings that were given. I’d like to clear up some issues I’ve been seeing. 

1. The common misconception that I did not research before posting.

    – While not everyone I interviewed had had a bad experience with Spartan (I believe it was about 50/50), more people had negative experiences with Spartan than with any other company reviewed. Since my review was based off of personal experiences, it’s hard to use the term “research” in conjunction with the article. Though I did not speak to a Spartan staff member (or any member of the staff for any of the events), the volunteer benefits were accurate for the specific shifts of those people I interviewed. Some people have complained that the benefits were incorrectly represented, but at the time of my personal volunteer shift, the benefits were as stated in the original article. As each experience while volunteering is very personal to the volunteer themselves, it’s possible that the people I spoke to for this particular piece simply had worse experiences with Spartan than with other races, and it showed in their reviews.

 

2. Regarding the statement of bias towards other races:

    – Everyone has a favorite race. While I admit that I love Tough Mudder and it received no negative reviews whatsoever among those who had volunteered for it, it was a bit harsh to suggest that the Spartan fees were not as well received as those at Tough Mudder. In reality, the only race reviewed that truly offered a FREE race with no fees to participants who volunteered was Savage. Therefore, comparing a different race to Spartan probably wasn’t the best idea. In reality, any race that offers a severely discounted rate is preferable to receiving no discount at all. It’s the reason many volunteer and how we keep our love of OCR alive even if we are short on cash.

  Volunteering at the Spear Throw was fun! I tried about ten times and still didn’t make it…womp womp.  

3. On the subject of argument over volunteer perks:

    – This was one of the categories that Spartan scored highest on, and to be honest, I agree that they have awesome volunteer perks. They do offer lots of extras toward full day volunteers. As of the time I wrote it, the volunteer perks that were explained were what was offered to those of us who personally volunteered for Spartan last year. However, I’ve come to find that the volunteer benefits have changed since then. I can’t speak for any events this year, as I have not yet volunteered nor do I know anyone who has volunteered for Spartan this year. If the perks change every race, it’s hard to find people who can provide an accurate picture of the benefits currently received. I enjoyed the benefits I personally received for volunteering last year, and I know many feel the same. The one complaint about this that I received was from someone who was told that, for volunteering the entire weekend as an Obstacle Captain, they would receive one free race credit and a hoodie. They did not understand why, after volunteering two days, only one free race was offered. This was a personal experience, and it might have changed since then, as I stated above. However, as this article was mainly based on the personal experiences of those interviewed, I had them give me the pros and cons accordingly.

 

4. Overall Grades:

    – The fact that Spartan’s overall grade was a C- was very upsetting to some who have had great experiences with Spartan. The way the grading was done was by taking the grades from each category and dividing them by the number of categories, much like grading is done in school. The grades were based off of the reviews of multiple people, so they are not indicative of any ONE person’s experience. I’ll amend some of them as follows:

 

Shifts: Maybe a B- was a little harsh for this one. I’d give Spartan a solid B+ (89) for their shifts. While 12 hours is a long day, it’s similar to many other ‘full day’ shifts in the industry and does come with perks for that particular length of shift. I do stand by what I said when I say I do not consider a 9 hour shift to be a ‘half day.’ Many other races offer shorter half day shifts and I prefer those as do many others who volunteered. 
Food: I stand by what I originally said- the food was horrible. Most of the races in the original article provide catered lunch from places such as Publix, Subway, Panera, etc. I see no reason why Spartan can’t as well. Food could be different at different venues, and I sincerely hope they up their food game for future volunteer shifts, however, had I known it would be soggy sandwiches, I would have brought my own lunch. Practically everyone who answered my survey in this area felt the same. I cannot increase the grade here for that reason. As many who have attended school know, one bad grade can bring down the overall grade quite a bit. Unfortunately, that’s probably where the overall grade was most affected was in this category. 

  
Not all about those sandwiches. 

Perks: Spartan received a good grade here and I’ve already addressed the issues with these statements above. Moving on. 
Working with the Staff: Again, maybe a B- was slightly harsh. While most of the people who volunteered did feel that the staff didn’t work with them during the race, as I said in the original article, I had a different experience, and enjoyed working with my zone leader. The only part about this that I was a little annoyed with personally was the fact that, towards the end of the race, the communication was lacking between Spartan staff and the medics, who seemed to know there were more racers on course even though the staff did not. This led to those of us who were further out on course having to man the obstacles for longer as many of the volunteers had already been taken back to the tent to check out by that point. However, miscommunication happens in every race; one of the people interviewed said they had two bad experiences with another race company and still gave them a third chance (due mostly to lack of communication) and were rewarded for their patience with a great experience. Clearly it is possible for the experience to go either way no matter which company you volunteer with. I’ll amend this grade to a B+ as well. 

Overall Grade: B- Once again, though this is lower than some of the other races, a lot could be solved by offering better food. That one negative grade brought down the overall grade quite a bit. Personally, the food was my main concern during my volunteer shift. The other thing that I believe could have been improved was, due to the parking situation at my shift, we were required to walk 1.5 miles to the race site. By the time our shifts ended, it was well after 6pm and it was dark outside. This made it a bit challenging to walk back to the parking lot unattended and without many street lights. I believe Spartan could have offered us rides back to our cars; though I know this isn’t common, we faced an uncommon situation in Miami with the storms causing parking changes last minute. 

  
At least Sunday was clear for race day!
On the whole, I did not personally have a bad experience volunteering with Spartan. I enjoyed the majority of my day, only becoming tired and cold around 3 pm due to the excessive rain and an inability to keep warm, which wasn’t the fault of Spartan at all. This was mainly written to clear up misconceptions and to hopefully make it clear that I really do enjoy volunteering for a variety of races. I intend to volunteer again with Spartan and hopefully some of the above mentioned issues will be better by then. At the very least, I’ll bring my own lunch just in case 😉

 

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8 thoughts on “Regarding Volunteering at Spartan Race…”

  1. Even if you provided harsh criticisms, I would rather read the details of why you thought something wasn’t good enough compared to a post saying it was okay/good/bad/etc., the end. And, man, I would really want to know if that was going to be my lunch because like you, I would simply just bring my own to make it a better volunteer shift. Keep on doing what you are doing!
    Lisa @ Lisa Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…The Convertible HDL and a PRracer Giveaway!My Profile

    1. Thanks Lisa. When I re read my original post I realized I did judge them rather harshly. However, there are a few things that could be improved upon, as I mentioned here. Hopefully they take those suggestions into consideration and make the necessary improvements.

  2. I thought your review was fair and impartial. There’s an almost cultish following to certain races that blind people to the obvious faults. (Not naming any particular race, of course lol) Great job on this follow up article as well!

    1. You have a point. There is a cultish following to most of the major events that blind people to their faults. I’m happy with the amendments. I don’t feel I compromised too much but I still have a fairer review and was honest about the faults I saw. Thanks for the support!

  3. I felt like you feel you had to defend your positioning. You used data from real people and topped on your own personal experiences. I myself stopped volunteering at races some time ago due to a crappy experience. I would have paid full price to rid that experience from my mind. Feedback that you provide will help others know what they are getting into up front. Like bringing beef jerky to Spartan if you don’t like soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after more than a normal days work.

    1. Well after much discussion with Spartan volunteer staff, I have learned that the shifts have changed for this coming year and that the discount codes aren’t the same. So this was a learning experience for me and hopefully they take something away from it as well and give better food! I really do love to volunteer and enjoy working the races for the most part. I wanted to make that much clear at least.

  4. As a review / opinion writer, my recommendation would be to never change what you have already written. Responding in comments on how you formed your opinion is one thing… changing scores is another. Folks need to remember, this is an opinion piece… the interviews you conducted are opinions of people. I do not condone flaming of an author, however, stick to your guns when it happens.

    1. Appreciate the advice. I wanted to make it clear that I didn’t dislike volunteering for Spartan myself because it came off like I did. I didn’t compromise my values or anything to do this- there is definitely room for improvement in their volunteer program and hopefully they do so this year.

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