Hold the mud: Go Ballistic Events brings outdoor competition to the suburban youth

When school resumes in August, some local kids will have a chance to add “indulged my inner Spartan” to their rundowns of how they spent summer vacation.

A Naperville couple’s newly established obstacle course-focused endeavor, Go Ballistic Events, already is poised to take a big leap forward by establishing a partnership with Spartan Race, an international organization that stages outdoor competitions combining runs with assorted additional competitive events.

“The Spartan race is an international phenomenon right now. It’s just huge,” said Sean Hastings, who with his wife Stephanie established Go Ballistic earlier this year.

The couple had planned to launch their undertaking with an all-ages event Aug. 2, initially aiming to involve younger competitors in divisions separate but roughly on par with the grown-ups — offering more family focus than what is offered in well-attended adult events such as the Mudder Run, Warrior Dash and Spartan events. Now, through the collaboration arranged earlier this month, the adults won’t have a division of their own — but they can play as part of a family team if they like. Now it’s all about the younger competitors.

“What we’re trying to do is get kids off the couch, rip them away from their laptops and PDAs, and get them outside,” Hastings said. “Our events now have a focus on kids, teens, families and special Spartans.”

The latter category will invite competitors who have disabilities.

The inaugural Spartan JV and Varsity Challenge will take place Aug. 2 at Frontier Park in south Naperville. A portion of the proceeds from the series of competitions will be donated to the YMCA of Greater Chicago, including Naperville’s two locations, and the Max Lacewell Foundation, which is based in Naperville and raises money for research into pediatric brain cancers.

Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena sees the new collaboration as a natural outgrowth of his wildly successful adult competitions.

“We pump about 100,000 kids a year through our course right now,” he said, noting that the Naperville engagement will be the first one strictly for kids.

De Sena said most adults recall childhoods when playing outdoors in the neighborhood all day long was the norm. That’s not how young people grow up now, and he considers that an ominous cultural shift.

“All data is pointing to the fact that the next generation is going to live 5 years less than the current generation, and that’s about poor lifestyle choices, and that traces back to the parents,” said De Sena, acknowledging that it’s easier and feels safer for busy parents to park their kids with a PlayStation than to send them outdoors to seek out adventures. “We’re more of a bubble-wrap society than we were a generation ago. I have four kids of my own, and I do it too.”

Bubble wrap will be nowhere in sight on Aug. 2 — nor, on the other hand, will barbed wire, fire, mud pits, bungee jumping, live electricity or other elements found in the adult challenges. The Spartan JV and Varsity events will include 2K and 4K obstacle courses that test upper and lower body and core strength, and endurance. The obstacle stations will be set up to accommodate a variety of skill levels. Food, music played by a DJ, photos and fun post-challenge activities also are in the plans. Registration fees range from $25 to $55, and contestants can enter as many events throughout the day as they like.

“Kids absolutely love this stuff,” Hastings said. “They just like to get out and climb around.”

It doesn’t have to be overemphasized, the planners say, that climbing around is a healthy habit. The idea is to have fun with friends and family. De Sena thinks the time is right for some Spartan events to go pint-size.

“The more we can introduce kids to the outdoors, as crazy as that sounds, the better. … I mean, you ask a kid where milk comes from, and they say, ‘The carton,’” he said. “This will not only change them, but it will change future generations.”

More information can be found at www.goballisticevents.com.

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