A New Fitness Craze With Big Drama

The men in the starting line at Hyrox in Berlin in April practically hummed with nervous enthusiasm. A few dozen racers, part of an early morning heat, stood watching the steady tick of a five-minute countdown, displayed on a huge television overhead. Dramatic string music played on tinny loudspeakers. A booming voice intoned a rallying cry, “This is the moment you’ve been training for!” Lights twinkled. Spectators cheered.

For the founders of the fitness race Hyrox, Christian Toetzke, 55, and Moritz Furste, 39, this kind of kitschy spectacle was always part of the plan. The original brief, when they introduced the race in Hamburg, Germany in 2017, was “to create an event that is a 200,000-euro (about $214,000) production that looks like a 2,000,000-euro ($2,144,000) production,” Mr. Furste said.

Hyrox’s “modern entertainment and light effects create a very special feeling,” Mr. Toetzke said, one that he hopes will create a “new proposition for mass participation events.”

A Hyrox race combines running with several functional fitness movements, such as the farmer’s carry, the weighted lunge and the burpee broad jump. It takes about 90 minutes to complete, on average, although elite racers can finish in under an hour. The race has exploded in popularity since the end of the pandemic: More than 175,000 people are expected to participate in the more than 60 races Hyrox has organized for 2024. Races in its most popular markets, including Britain, have sold out within minutes of going on sale.

Hyrox draws heavily from CrossFit, including the equipment it uses: Ski Erg and rowing machines, kettlebells, ropes and weighted sleds.Credit…Maria Sturm for The New York Times

A Level of Respect

Hyrox is not the first fitness race to emerge from nowhere and gain a cult following. What distinguishes it from fads like Tough Mudder and Spartan, according to Hyrox fans, is its athletic simplicity.

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