Spartan World Championship at Squaw Valley
Three Young Competitors to Keep an Eye On.
Saturday, September 30th, Squaw Valley is hosting the Spartan World Championship. The
event is the pinnacle of the Spartan World Race Series. Three hundred elite athletes will be
competing, all with their eye on the world champion title.
Most of us have heard of and perhaps, have a vague idea of what the Spartan Race entails. We
talked with three athletes to find out more and what drives these Spartans to do what they do,
which is train like mad men and compete like warriors.
The races vary in length, all include a variety of challenging obstacles. Obstacles that include
throwing a spear at a bale of hay, swinging from a rope, carrying an 80 pound pale of gravel on
a trail loop, leaping over burning logs, and that is not the worst of it. If you fail to perform any of
the obstacles you must stop and do 30 burpees before continuing to the next post, all the while
losing precious time.
Spartan’s Three Race Distances
• Sprint 3 to 5 miles
• Super 8 to 10 miles
• Beast 12 to 16 miles
Cole Schwartz and John Luna-Lima hurdling burning embers
John Luna-Lima, Til Leipziger, and Cole Schwartz all in their early 20’s, met at a competition
and became fast friends, training together and pushing each other to achieve elite Spartan status.
Most Spartan elites are 26 to 36 years old, making the accomplishments of these three, at
21 and 22, stand out among their peers.
One, Two, Three
Cole Schwartz: 21
7 podium finishes
3 1st place finishes
Back to Back 1st place finishes at the Montana Spartan Race
Til Leipziger: 22
3rd place finish at the Spartan European Championship
2nd place finish at the 2017 Spartan Austria
18th place finish at the 2016 Squaw Valley World Championship
John Luna-Lima: 22
2 1st place finishes 2017
2016 injured unable to compete
2015 20th place finish Spartan Race World Championship
John and Cole are from Northern California and Til is from Germany. Til and Cole, besides having
really cool first names, also share a background in track and field, while John grew up playing
soccer and played for the San Jose Earthquakes’ youth league. What drew the three to
Spartan racing? Each had similar stories. The first race they saw, they were struck by the intensity
and difficulty of the course and obstacles, the fitness level of the athletes, and the spectacle
of the race in action. Crawling under 100 to 200 yards of barbed wire, swimming in an ice cold lake,
climbing a wall of netted ropes and carrying 60 pound sandbags up and down a half mile
When they decided to take a shot and enter a race, each said that it was like being a little kid
again. Asking themselves, why at some point in our lives do we stop swinging from monkey bars
and playing in the mud. This was much more fun than working out in a gym or running on a
track or soccer field. Frankly the workout was not only more fun but more effective too. It is endurance,
strength, and agility fitness all rolled up in a race. Then there’s the training, for John, it
introduced him to the outdoors. Hiking, running and scrambling boulders and downed trees.
Each of them said they found a new appreciation for nature and this beautiful world we live in.
The first Spartan obstacle race was in 2010 and it quickly became a US phenomenon, then expanding
to Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. The World Championship in Squaw Valley
is expected to attract fifteen thousand spectators and 300 elite competitors, men and women of
To qualify for the championship, athletes must have an overall top 5 finish. Needless to say our
boys are performing well beyond their age group. Asking them about their future in the sport,
they smiled in unison, “We’re young, there’s more to learn, and we haven’t peaked. If we keep
at it, our future in the sport looks long and promising.”
Cole and John are a part of a training group called Team AMA (Advanced Movement Athletes).
Team AMA was formed by Ryan Kempson. Ryan seeks out like minded Spartan athletes to
share training ideas and healthy lifestyle practices. The group, although scattered across the
country, stays in constant contact, while Ryan pools the data and develops training and fitness
plans. Til, living in Germany, works with a similar group called MIT, (Mixed Intense Training), his
chapter is called MIT Tough Team Germany.
If you would like to follow Cole, John and Til on Instagram you can and we recommend you do.
Their enthusiasm for the Spartan Race is contagious and inspirational. All three are interested in
seeing the Spartan Race Series grow. More competition means tougher competition.
Follow on instagram
Film crews from NBC will cover the Spartan World Championship Race at Squaw Valley. The
event will be aired it in early December. Date to be announced on NBC.