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Spartan Race: Rules & Regulations You Probably Didn't Know About

fitness obstacle course racing obstacle course training ocr spartan spartan race spartan race blog Dec 06, 2021

Spartan Race: Rules & Regulations You Probably Didn't Know About


Written By, Coach Vanessa Panella


With races like Big Bear in the rear view mirror and looking forward to our next race season. I thought it would be a great time to talk about some race dos and don'ts when it comes to race rules and etiquette. We'll start off with some definitions so that we are on the same page with race lingo. From there, we will discuss official race rules and the most common rules that are broken. Finally, we will go over some unspoken race etiquette that many people may not know they are breaking.


I’ll start this off by saying that I understand that not everyone is out on the race course going for sponsorships or to be competitive. That being said, many people on that course are. These reminders are so that you can respect the people that are competing for fun as well as trying to achieve a podium. So, we’ll start with some of the basics…


Open  vs. Age Group vs. Elite


Open Wave: Black Headbands

This wave is strictly for people who are out there to have fun. No prizes or podium spots are on the line here. With that, you are still expected to follow the rules and regulations to the best of your ability on the race course. 

Can’t do the obstacle? Ask for help from another person. I promise someone will help you. If helping isn’t allowed for safety reasons do the burpees (30 for regular races - 15 for stadion). Can’t do burpees because of a limitation? Do squats or push ups. Anything you can to keep the integrity of the race going. I sometimes see people walking right past obstacles without even trying. This is technically allowed, but remember...You are doing a Spartan Race to challenge yourself to the best of your ability. If your race doesn’t go well then that gives you the things you need to work on for next time if you choose to try again.

I’ll end this segment with this. This wave is meant to be fun. I highly recommend going with one of our groups and sticking with a buddy if you are doing your first race.


Age Group: Red Headbands

This group is meant to be competing for podium spots. This is the gateway to a spot in an Elite Wave race. More on Elites below. Age group waves are earlier because they are meant for competitive athletes that are going for a competitive time. According to the Race Rules and Regulations. Red headbands have right of way on obstacles. Both Age Group (AG) and Elite waves wear red headbands. This wave also CAN NOT accept or give help to other racers on course. 


Story Time: There was an AG racer that was working on the box and an open wave racer helped her without asking. The volunteer was thankfully there and allowed her to attempt the obstacle again. This could have gotten that racer disqualified. Imagine working super hard to get to a race and getting disqualified because someone didn’t ask for permission to touch you. 

Moral of the story: no matter what wave people are in, you should ask for permission to touch someone always.

Elite Wave Racers: Red Headbands

This wave is gated through the use of Age Group heats. 


“One or more top 10 Elite finishes at Spartan OCR events in the Elite category in the same or previous calendar year for which you are applying.


One or more top 5 Age Group finishes at Spartan OCR events in the Age Group category in the same or previous calendar year for which you are applying.”


Once you have one or more of the above qualifications. You will have the ability to apply for Elite via the Spartan Website. Once approved they will send you an Elite code to use when signing up for an Elite Race. 

I’ll say it again...Red headbands have the right of way on obstacles.


Only with these people they are competing for money. Sometimes lots of money. 


Story Time: Ryan Atkins actually moved me out of the way of an obstacle. He physically removed me. Not aggressive or anything and he even said “sorry” as he crushed the tyrolean traverse in (and I’m not kidding) 5 seconds. The only reason I was ahead of the Elite Men was because they had to start the Ultra racers before the Beast Racers. So yeah, they caught up to us super fast. 

Moral of the story: If you don’t give the right of way for someone that is racing for their livelihood, they will take it from you. Don’t get upset, this is literally their life and their whole job.


Frequently Broken Rules on Course


Here is a quick reference of most common obstacle rules that I’ve seen broken on course:

  • dropping the bag on herc hoist - hips above fence line on herc hoist
  • improper burpee form (time penalty of :30 per burpee)
  • accepting help on any obstacle
  • feet on hand holds on olympus wall
  • touching vertical truss (support beams)
  • Multiple attempts on single attempt obstacles 

Mandatory Obstacles

“Any obstacle which a competitor must complete before progressing further on the course during a race.” 


If you don’t pass these obstacles they can disqualify you. Don’t worry these are things like the crawls and heavy carries. These are typically the ones you just have to get through and you can take your time if need be.


  • Armour (much like Atlas Carry)
  • Barbed Wire Crawl (and any low crawl variation)
  • Bucket Carry
  • Dunk Wall (not to be confused with Rolling Mud)
  • Farmers Carry  (most variations)
  • Sandbag Carry


Single Attempt Obstacles

“Any obstacle where once a competitor has committed to an attempt as defined within the specific rules for that obstacle, the obstacle must be completed successfully or a penalty will be awarded.”


I’m not going to get too into this one. But if you touch the obstacle and you don’t complete it. You got 30 burpees coming to you. 


  • Ape Hanger
  • Beater
  • Helix
  • Monkey Bars
  • Multi Rig
  • Olympus
  • Pipe Lair
  • Spear Throw
  • Twister
  • Tyrolean Traverse 
  • Z-Wall

Multiple Attempt Obstacles

“Any obstacles that may be attempted as many times as necessary until successful completion or a penalty is awarded.”


Pretty simple. You can take as many attempts as possible to complete these obstacles. However, you must give “right of way” to the racers behind you.


  • 4’, 5’, 6’, 7’, 8’, 10’ Walls
  • A-frame cargo
  • Atlas carry
  • Bender
  • The Box
  • Fire Jump 
  • Hercules Hoist 
  • Hurdles
  • Inverted Wall
  • Plate/Sled Drag
  • Rolling Mud
  • Rope Climb
  • Slip Wall
  • Stairway to Sparta
  • Tire Flip
  • Vertical Cargo/Vertical Cargo Plus

Race/Trail Etiquette 

Here are some “not rules - but maybe don’t do that” 


Joining a competitive wave (AG) just for the early start time. Spartan has given open waves some early start time options to help with this issue. But please don’t do this. This wave is for people trying to be competitive. 


Not giving right of way to other racers after missing an attempt on a multi-attempt obstacle.


Not giving right of way to AG and Elite Runners. 


If you are an open wave racer, you should really be pulling the spear out for the next person - this can also go for any obstacle that can be made more difficult if not placed back. Much like the slip wall rope, make sure all the slack is out for the next person etc.



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