“The day may come when the courage of Sparta fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship but it is not this day, for this day we fight, and to prepare you for that battle I am going to ask a very simple question. Who am I? To which you shall respond that I am a Spartan! We are honored by your courage and commitment to excellence but know this, your mind, body and spirit will all be put to the ultimate test for you chase glory on this day. Look at the Spartans on your right and your left, you will draw strength from them as they will draw strength from you. You will not let them fail! Who am I? I am a Spartan! Aroo, Aroo, Aroo, Go!”
The speech rings out as anxious and eager bodies, pulsating with energy move and stretch within the confines of the corral awaiting the start to this grueling race. With a final shout of “Aroo!” the racers take off hurdling towards the challenge. The start is crowded with racers jockeying for position, the first obstacle which is likely to be 4-8 foot walls to scale or perhaps the hurdles may have a line but after that everything spreads out as your personal challenge begins. Spartans are encouraged to help each other and no one is left behind especially when you are competing in your first Spartan race.
The Spartan obstacle course races are probably the most widely known brand in the sport of OCR but there are many others such as Tough mudder, The Savage Race and the Warrior Dash with new ones popping up all the time. The Spartan race started in 2007 and was based off of a 48-hour endurance event known as the Death Race which should give you an idea of what you are in for. There are many different types of Spartan races including a version for little kids but there are three main races that we’re concerned with. The Spartan Sprint which is around three miles and contains about 20 obstacles. Then there is the Spartan Super which takes you to eight miles and 25 obstacles.
The third race and one of the most grueling is the Spartan Beast which is around 13 miles with 30 obstacles. Completing all three races within the same calendar year allows you to complete the Trifecta which is the Holy Grail of Spartan racing. You’ll receive a medal after completing each race as well as a wedge that makes up a third of the larger Trifecta medal. It’s a cool goal to accomplish and a nice little memento for your efforts.Complete this and you’ll be considered a member of the Trifecta Tribe.
Competing In your first Spartan Race is tough, but Spartans are a welcoming family and I’ve seen all sorts of people of varying athletic ability come out and be successful. If you have the will and a never quit attitude then you will make it to the finish line. It’s a fun event and I’ve seen people dressed up as Spartans, Firemen dressed in full kit, wearing their masks and carrying oxygen tanks, double leg amputees as well as weight loss teams all pulling together to make it to the finish. It’s really quite inspiring. If you want to learn what you’re made of then this is a good place to do it.
My first race was a Spartan Sprint. My buddy asked me to do it so I just hopped up off the couch and went for it. It almost killed me but I did make it through. To give you a feel for how rough it was, this was a 3.5 mile race with 20 obstacles. I ran a Spartan Super that I actually prepared for a few months later and turned in a faster time on the eight mile, 25 plus obstaclerace than I did on my first sprint. That’s the point though, see what you’re made of and then build on it from there. I finished the Spartan Beast that same year, completing my trifecta and had come a long way from where I started.
Depending on where you begin, a little preparation can not only ensure your success but also your enjoyment of these races. Being a good runner is useful but you really need overall functional fitness to make your way through obstacles like the Atlas Carry, Tyrolean Traverse and Cliff Climbs. You need upper body and grip strength to survive the rope climb and bucket carries. Flexibility and agility will aid you on the various cargo nets and barbed wire crawl.
Trust me, you do want to be successful on the obstacles because if you aren’t there is a penalty of 30 burpees for every time you fail. Too tired to complete the Hercules Hoist or the Ape Hanger, I can assure you that it’s not going to get easier after adding another set of 30 burpees onto the pyre. Go ahead and start working these into your plan as I can also assure you that you’ll get the chance to use them.
Overall, these races are great. Not every obstacle is an exercise in pain. I love challenging myself with the spear throw, balance beams, A-Frame cargo nets and the Stairway to Sparta. It’s like being on a giant jungle gym for adults and a great way to spend the day. Did I mention the beer? At the end of every race, you receive a medal, t-shirt and most importantly a free beer. What could be more worth it than that?
As tough as this may all sound, and it is tough, you can do it and it will be worth it. There will be highs and lows, frustration and elation but in the end, the feeling of accomplishment will make it all worthwhile. When you complete the fire jump and cross that finish line, it will leave you exhausted but satisfied and looking forward to your next Spartan Race, AROO!