"Spartan" is a concept created six years ago by Joe De Sena, a 47-year-old New Yorker who takes the phrase "no pain, no gain" seriously. In an interview, he said his goal is to get people off the couch and he now holds 150 events a year internationally.
He modeled his races after the Ironman Triathlon and NBC now airs his competitions on weekends.
"People nowadays tend to go for what's softer, slower, easier," De Sena said. "I want people to reverse direction. I want their lives to be a little bit harder, a little bit difficult. Purposely take cold showers. Throw away the junk food. Trade in hot dogs for celery sticks!"
The prime-time show, which has seven episodes, is modified for teams. Four regular folks are grouped with a Spartan expert. They could be family members or friends or work colleagues. Like on "Ninja," the more colorful characters will have their back stories aired.
NBC created 36 teams of five. The winning team splits $250,000.
Given De Sena's "ride or die" attitude, he said if he had his way, "the obstacles would be five times bigger but we have to stay within the realm of what's humanly possible."
Credit: Rodney Ho
Credit: Rodney Ho
Co-host and former pro soccer player Kyle Martino grew up in Dunwoody until he was seven before moving to Connecticut. He said the mile-long obstacle course is so brutal, he didn't even dare try it. And the challenges are set up so the only way to accomplish them is teamwork.
For instance, there's a muddy 25-foot-tall slanted "slip wall" that requires team members to figure out a way to get all five members over. The trailers reveal just how difficult this can be.
The quickest time a team has gotten through the entire course is 20 minutes, Martino said. But it usually takes much, much longer.
"Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge," 10 p.m. Monday, NBC, starting June 13, 2016