An Interview with Reebok Spartan Head Coach Richard Pringle

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Spartan UK have had an impressive 2015 so far hosting more events spread throughout the country than ever before! We caught up with Reebok Spartan Head Coach and Ambassador Richard Pringle as he prepares for Spartan’s final 3 events of 2015 in Battle, Kent – the UK South Sprint, Super and Beast… 

Good Morning Richard and thanks for speaking to us. So, looking back over how 2015 has been so far, this year has been pretty busy for Spartan UK’s with new events in even more areas… how has managing the increased number of events been, and has each race been as busy as you expected?

Yes, I think they have, we had a great start at Allianz where we hosted our first Reebok Spartan Stadium Race here in the UK. It was a real success for us and something we are definitely looking to do again in 2016.

We also went into some new regions; Wales and Manchester. I know there was a lot of talk about us consolidating races to one day, rather than over two, but we did this because we wanted to create an even more amazing atmosphere – and it was! Now looking ahead to the Sprint, Super and Beast at Ashburnham Place I really feel like we are on the rise. We are VERY close to being sold out and at capacity (which is not a sales pitch) and if you would have told me that we’d be in this position at the start of the year, I would have laughed!

Numbers are up, we are coming off the back of a brilliant race in Cambridgeshire and Reebok Spartan Race UK are really excited about the future!

Of course more events has meant more Junior Spartan events… how do you feel they’ve gone this year?

I love the Junior Races and in my new role as Spartan Ambassador I’m lucky that I get to warm-up and start every Junior wave. The Junior races are growing and growing at every race day and it’s something we’re keen to embrace, after all these are our future Spartans. We will continue to invest in the Junior events and I sincerely feel they are an amazing asset to us and a great platform to encourage our youngsters to be happy and healthy!

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Looking to the future, can we expect even more events in other parts of the UK in 2016?

Possibly, but ask me after the season ends. I think what we want is to make sure is that first and foremost we offer amazing races. That is our priority. We want to grow organically as a brand but to do that we have to build from strong foundations. Strong foundations come from a strong product and that’s our priority for 2016. We’ll keep you posted on that.

Yet again this year the number of OCR events has increased including the launch of Castle Series’ Commando series and even Bear Grylls has joined the marketplace… do you feel the OCR marketplace is becoming crowded?

OCR is amazing, it’s one of the most inclusive sports there is. The difference between OCR and other sports is that we set up challenges for people from all walks of life to achieve. They have a goal and something to train for. You can only do exercise to “keep fit” for so long before you get bored. We give you a reason to get fit.

You play sport but you don’t play OCR. You embrace it and it becomes part of your life. That’s why it is growing so quickly all over the world.

The UK has a really mature market in terms of OCR. It’s only natural that more and more brands will pop up. This is mine and Spartans take on this.

We live in a country with 60 million people. I think we have approximately 60,000 people who take part in OCR in the UK in total. We probably have approximately 10,000 die-hard OCR fans who attend lots of races throughout the year. That leaves millions of people who have never done an OCR. Spartan’s goal is to rip as many of those people off of the sofa and get them training. We want them to start feeling healthy and happy. We want these people to do that at Reebok Spartan Race.

To be successful in OCR you need to reach out to new markets, people who have never thought of doing an OCR before. Companies that do not survive do not do this. They try to compete with every other race for those 10,000 people who are already hooked. As an industry what we need to do is attract the millions of people who aren’t yet involved.

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With so many contenders appearing, how do you ensure your event stands out above the rest?

We evolve and grow. We want to make sure that the whole product is great.

For me Spartan is not just about the race, it’s about adopting a lifestyle that will change your life for the better. That’s the key. The race is the celebration for everyone that wants to change their lives around. For those that choose to live their lives and be healthy and happy. That’s what Spartan is.

In terms of race day, we have a new team involved in Spartan now. Karl Allsop and Ben Moffatt are in charge of the production and the build. They are great guys with a great vision. Cambridge was a great example of what they are all about. Lots of fun obstacles and a few surprises. They create an amazing event. The most exciting thing is that we have only just got started. Watch out in 2016. We are going to try and firmly establish ourselves as the number 1 race in the UK.

One of the challenges I imagine OCR organisers face is ensuring a good balance of obstacles which are achievable to all, but still tough enough for seasoned OCR veterans. How do you maintain this balance?

It’s very important that an obstacle is achievable on your own. One of the things Spartan is proud of is that we attract elite racers and fun runners. In order to maintain that we need to find that balance and that’s sometimes hard. I think what’s great is that as a company we are evolving and learning race by race. We are building new obstacles week by week. This is great as there will always be surprises and new challenges for every Spartan racer whatever your goal.

We know that you love to take part in your own events whenever possible, so when you do what is your favourite obstacle?

For me it’s the new rig (ropes, monkey bars, poles, hoops) it’s a great test and I love it! Oh and the rope climb too. I failed the rope in the 2013 Beast and vowed never to fail again. I went away learned the technique and I have never failed the rope climb since.

And a bit of a cheeky question, but are there any obstacles you’ve experienced during other races which you’ve thought to yourself ‘I wish I had that in my event!’?

Oh I love the Zip-wire at Nuclear Races and the slide too! I really liked the FIBUA (Fighting in Built Up Areas) section at Judgement Day, it was fantastic. The high wall at Dirty Dozen is great (especially at the end of the race). I could go on and on….

As my partner often reminds me while being dragged from event to event, a number of event organisers don’t pay much (if any) attention to the spectator experience. How do you feel Spartan Race have addressed this issue?

For me this is one of the most important aspects of a race. If I bring my family along I don’t want to run off for 3 hours and leave them in a field with nothing to do. That’s something we always think of when we are setting up a race. You might have noticed that normally our races loop back into festival 2, 3 or 4 times. We do this to try to interact with the crowd. People want to watch their loved ones and to cheer them on. It’s an important part of the sport and it’s something that we want to encourage.

We are also trying to develop more of a general festival experience. You hopefully noticed in Cambridge that we had a rope climb walls and atlas stones in the festival for people to try out.

Reebok always have some amazing things going on. Whether it be the 30ft giant screen showing motivational videos or the very popular Reebok #BreakYourSelfie screens where people can print off their selfie pics there and then. We will always be innovative when it comes to the festival area and that’s key to ensuring our races are leading the way when it comes to spectator as well as racer experience.

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Finally, it’s not long now until the 2015 season finale – the Spartan Beast – and team Trek and Run can’t wait to tackle it! Can we expect any beastly surprises this year?

Water, carries, water, carries and oh maybe some more water!

Many thanks for your time Richard and we’ll see you at the South Super!!

To discover more about the Reebok Spartan events, please visit http://spartanraceuk.uk/

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