By Jamie Gold
Martha Stewart made cultural history last year by announcing her online dating plans on national TV. Perhaps she should consider entering a Spartan Race to meet Mr. Right instead. Men who obstacle race are far more energetic and fit than many she’d find online, at least according to the female members of 40+ Spartan Singles, (an unaffiliated Facebook group created last year).
“I am no longer on any dating sites,” shares 44-year-old Rhode Island racer Kristine Dreher. “Too many billed themselves as active or fit and were very heavy,” she adds.
“They would like a fit woman, but are not much into fitness themselves,” agrees Laurel Wilson, a 47-year-old Spartan in Texas. Many other 40+ group members, male and female alike, have shared the same impressions about their online dating experiences in group discussions.
Singles events and groups haven’t proved to be successful dating outlets for most of these active adults either. Unlike their 20- and 30-something counterparts, men and women 40 and older tend to have more strings attached to their free time, more challenging dating criteria, and more difficulty in finding compatible partners.
Quite a few are single parents, caring for older relatives, serving on charitable boards, running businesses, serving in the military, or managing corporate divisions. Obstacle racing for many began as a stress outlet, a new fitness pursuit, or a fun way to spend some precious “self” time on the weekends.
Having caught the “mud bug,” though, these single racers started looking for a partner who will share this new passion with them. They can see the health-oriented lifestyles, and a sense of adventure and confidence in their fellow participants that they hadn’t found elsewhere.
“I thought it would be a good place to meet active men,” shares 44-year-old Massachusetts mudder Lynn Clark about one of the factors that interested her in the sport. “And obstacle races have raised my confidence level by seeing what I am capable of, and being part of such a supportive environment.”
For Florida-based Spartan Darren Brent, 44 himself and co-admin of the 40+ group, the dating possibilities occurred to him later. “When I first started, finding a partner did not enter my thought process. I was more concerned with just being able to finish the races. As I got more involved, I met a few couples who had met each other at races and I used to joke that I wanted to find my partner in the mud; if I do start dating someone again, interest in obstacle racing is a requirement.”
Virginian Chris Bellone, 43, is impressed by the women he sees at the races. “Spartan women are more committed to physical and mental self-improvement by facing often insurmountable obstacles, which translates into success in their personal [and] work lives,” he says.
Brent adds, “I think men and women in this community are different from others in the dating pool. Obstacle racing athletes have a combination of athleticism and willingness to have fun that I don’t see elsewhere. Also, if someone is willing to play in the mud, it demonstrates a silly, youthful attitude that I find attractive.”
You can tell a lot about someone on the obstacle course, 40+ members share, much more than you can tell online, in a phone conversation or on a standard first date. Shares Texan Laurel Wilson, “My experience with racing is that it certainly exposes character. People can be charming, say all the right things, give all the right answers, but put them in situation like an obstacle race and you get a MUCH better picture of who you’re dealing with.”
“Do they skip obstacles, skip burpees, cut the course,” observes Brent. “Do they complain and make excuses that obstacles are too hard? Do they help others, even if it’s as simple as yelling out encouragement?” These are tell-tale signs for many that the person you’re racing with may cut corners in their life… And in your relationship, as well.
One question that often arises in obstacle racing circles is dating compatibility. What if one partner is an elite racer – i.e., someone who ranks in the top of their age groups or competitions – and the other is a much slower “newbie.” Several members of 40+ Spartan Singles do race at the elite level.
Forty-seven-year old Spartan and Ironman Wes Barnard of Connecticut is one of those elite racers. As is Kari Roberts, 43, obstacle racer and triathlete, of Georgia. Both are divorced professionals, single parents, successful competitors and 40+ group members who want supportive partners, at the very least.
“I think both can be at different abilities and have fun together,” notes Barnard. “Sometimes, I’ll hang back with a girlfriend or others and have fun. And, sometimes, I’ll run [in the] elite heat and then do a second heat with [a] girlfriend.”
Roberts shares, “I would love to have a partner who was interested in and participated in obstacle races. Regardless of his athleticism, whoever finished first would wait for the other. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have my partner put my medal around my neck and seal the race with a kiss. (Hopeless romantic?) Yes, two Spartans of different abilities could definitely be happy.”
So how does one go about meeting someone in obstacle racing?
1) Join several obstacle racing Facebook groups, (including those for singles), and participate in the conversations.
2) Consider joining one of the large co-ed, regional obstacle racing teams. These include New England Spahtens, Weeple Army (West Coast), Lone Star Spartans (Texas), Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners, Corn Fed Spartans (Midwest) and many others. They all have Facebook groups for training, tips, race discounts, carpooling, socializing and hotel sharing at events.
3) Look for training partners in your area through Facebook, MeetUp.com, CrossFit, boot camp and other gyms.
The same meeting and dating precautions apply here, as they do in other dating situations:
1) Always schedule dates (and training sessions) for high visibility public places and meet someone there until you trust him or her enough to visit each other’s homes or take secluded trails.
2) Don’t become intoxicated on a first date, even if it’s a post-race celebration.
3) Be honest about who you are and what you want in life and love. At 40 or older, life’s too short to waste time with the wrong person.
So, what are you waiting for? Sign up today for your next Spartan Race and who know? Maybe you’ll meet that special someone at the rope climb, traverse wall, barbed wire crawl….
Jamie Gold is a Certified Kitchen Designer, author, journalist and co-admin/founder of 40+ Spartan Singles. She completed her first Spartan Sprint in January and will complete her Trifecta at the Monterey Beast. And, yes, she is single.
40+ Spartan Singles
New England Spahtens
Lone Star Spartans
Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners
Corn Fed Spartans