Spartan Championship heads to Palisades Tahoe

Thousands of athletes expected for two days of racing

The Spartan North American Championship is scheduled to Saturday morning in Olympic Valley.
Justin Scacco /

Roughly 5,000 athletes will descend upon Olympic Valley this weekend for the Spartan North American Championship.

Some of the top racers in the sport will battle it out across 30 obstacles and 13.5 miles in a bid to claim a part of $62,000 in total prize money.

Olympic Valley has previously served as the host for the Spartan World Championships, which attracted roughly 10,000 athletes to the area in 2019, but that event has been moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. After having events canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, Spartan now returns this weekend with the North American Championship, which was also put in danger due to recent wildfires before given the green light by officials on Sept. 13.

“We were very sensitive about what’s going on,” said Spartan Race Course Manager Steve Hammond, who added that once given the OK, the Spartan team had just enough time to set up this year’s course.

Aside from the Beast distance championship event, this weekend’s competition also features a 50-kilometer course with 60 obstacles like sand bag carries, spear throws, and rope climbs. One notorious obstacle, however, a plunge into the pond at Olympic Valley’s upper mountain, has been removed from the race. The swim has been noted by athletes in past years as one of the tougher elements of the course, and due to limited resources in terms of medical personnel, Hammons said race officials decided to remove the feature from the event.

In past years, the race has also been plagued by inclement weather with rain, snow, and wind often playing a factor.

“Every single year there’s always been weather elements in play,” said Hammond. “Every year around this time we get our first taste of winter but I don’t think it’s going to come in just yet.”

The National Weather Service has forecast hazy conditions and highs in the 70s for this weekend.

Going into tomorrow’s championship, the field of athletes will be without reigning men’s champion Robert Killian, who has retired from competition. Ryan Atkins, the runner-up in 2019, will enter the day as the men’s favorite.

On the women’s side, 2019 champion Nicole Mericle won’t be racing as well. Two-time champion Lindsay Webster will also not be competing this weekend, leaving the championship race wide open.

“It is extremely wide open,” said Hammond. “It’s a chance for someone who’s never won before to step on up.”

First place in the men and women’s championship will receive $12,000. Second place receives $8,000 and third place receives $5,000. The North American Championship serves as a qualifying event for the Spartan World Championship, which will take place Dec. 3-5.

“The Spartan Beast in North Lake Tahoe is feared and respected by Spartans across the globe,” said Spartan founder and CEO Joe de Sena, in a news release. “Instead of sticking with the status quo, we’re doing what we do best and making one of the hardest events on the North American race calendar a stepping stone to the World Championship, putting our athletes to the ultimate test. We’re excited to get back to competitive racing and can’t wait to bring the North American Championship to Tahoe.”

Championship racing gets underway tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. at the Village at Palisades Tahoe. Additionally age group racing will take place Saturday and Sunday.

For more information or to purchase race entry, visit

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