Are You Unbreakable – Spartan Race

fitness2xtreme-images-spartan-race-header

Jumping through fire and swimming through icy waters. Slogging through mud. Shimmying under barbed wire and hurdling walls, dragging a tractor tire across a field and finding that once you’ve finished you’re being faced by a couple of armed goons blocking your path.

Sounds a lot like a scene from a prison escape movie rather than an event that you’d drive for hours to reach and pay over a hundred bucks to endure.

But Spartan Races have become a bucket list item for some and an addiction for others, an obstacle race against the clock that some look at as pure play and others look at as a test of their own mettle.

Birth

The Spartan Races are the brain child of Joe DeSena, fitness2xtreme-images-spartan-race-birthan adventure course enthusiast who decided it might be fun to put together an event a la the movie 300, in which Spartan heroes had to do glorious and bloody battle against invaders from Persia.

His initial vision took shape in May of 2010, and included ambulances carting a few contestants away.

That first race, with its 500 participants (some bloodied and broken), inspired a Spartan tidal wave; the Spartan Race facebook page has received over 1.3 million likes, and there are now tens of thousands of competitors engaging in multiple levels of events held throughout the United States and in the U.K. and Canada too.

Environment

Every Spartan Race takes place in the most challenging physical environment the organizers can find; ski slopes, wooded state parks… if they could find mosquito-infested swamps you just know they’d try to have a race there.

Everybody runs in heats and competes against the clock more than against their fellow enthusiasts.fitness2xtreme-images-spartan-race-coins

Whether you choose the three-mile Spartan Sprint with its fifteen obstacles, the eight-mile Super Spartan with its twenty obstacles, or man up and embroil yourself in the several hours long, 25-obstacle, twelve-mile Beast.

Pete Williams, who competed in various obstacle course events, succinctly stated this way:

…After finishing Muddy Buddy and Warrior Dash, I felt like I could get back in line and do them again. At the end of Tough Mudder, I was tired but not sore.

After completing the eight-mile Super Spartan Race at Oleta River State Park here Saturday morning, I’m sore all over. My legs are scraped, feet blistered, ribs bruised, head pounding. During the course of the race, which included running through woods and brush, pretty much everything but my shorts was ripped from my body…

Sounds awesome? Continue reading.

Starting Line

Your early morning arrival at the race grounds elevates your adrenaline immediately, as hundreds mill around amidst tents and blaring music, completing the registration process and grabbing protein bars and gels.

The atmosphere is excited and collegial with a touch of raw nerves thrown in too.

Participants compare notes on strategy and workout routines and keep their ears open for reports from the battlefield coming back from previous heats, and the tension builds as each heat is sent off into the unknown. When your wave of racers is up, you’ll be urged to battle by a Spartan warrior in full regalia, then set on your way, heart thumping.

Race Against the Clock

So what’s a Spartan Race like?  Here is what Jacki at the ReturnOftheJack blog had to say:

I woke up this morning wondering – and I go to bed knowing.

It’s insane. It’s fun. It pushes you to your limits.

You jump over fire. You climb ropes. You swim in swamps. You drag and pull cinderblocks. You’re pretty much forced to dig deep, act like a champ and get it DONE.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into this morning. And part of me was glad I didn’t know! Or else I might not have done it.

Whatever distance you’ve signed up for, you are going to end up covered in mud, sore, exhausted, scratched up and bloody after facing the kind of obstacles that modern life only presents if you’re in the military – or if you suffer from particularly realistic nightmares.

fitness2xtreme-images-spartan-race-crawling-barbed-wire

The race course itself is guaranteed to present loads of treacherous terrain and quad-straining hills, and is punctuated by the kind of challenges that you’ll either think of as crazy fun or just plain crazy.

Jumping over a flaming 2-foot tall bale of hay, scrambling on your belly through a dark mud-filled sewer tunnel, this is more than just a race where you get dirty and try to finish.

Here’s another perspective from a fellow Spartan racer, Drew:

I was muddy, banged up, exhausted and even bleeding just a tiny bit. I pulled a bit of skin off my left palm about 90 seconds into the race.

I sprained my left pinky somewhere near the end (well, that’s when I felt it, at least). I ripped my shorts and shirt. My shoes were a muddy disaster. My hands, knees and shins were black with mud and dirt.

As I’m typing this the next day, my right forearm sort of hurts, so I’m assuming there’s a bruise there, too.

With all of that, I had a great time and would do the race again in a second.

More Insanity

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Spartan Race is that you’re running for time, so while you’re struggling to make your way across a twenty-five foot wide rock wall using nothing but the tiniest blocks of wood for grip, there’s no time to stop and think, no time to catch your breath or recover before running on to the next obstacle.

fitness2xtreme-images-spartan-race-insanity-mud-crawlMaybe that’s a good thing, because if you had time to think you might just gather your mud-covered, exhausted self and head home before you get to the finish line.

There are a couple of obstacles that are a given at every Spartan Race.

You’re going to jump over fire unless the locale doesn’t allow it – if that’s the case, you’re sure to find a terrifying replacement.

You’re going to find a wide trench filled with mud so you’re advised to forget strapping on your music, no matter how water-proofed you think it is, and you’re going to have to make your way over a cargo net maze.

There are always Gladiators that are going to interfere with your progress and there are always surprises, and that’s half the fun – or the terror.

Some runners may face multiple rows of fire and stumble immediately into an icy, muddy stream where they have to swim under a row of floating barrels.

Some may have to climb ropes and ring bells, or scale a soap-covered tower, or make their way across a stretch of beach dragging a cement block behind you.

I swear they saved the hard obstacles for the end.

Here I am, limping almost vertical up a ½ mile hill and I get up top and there is 6 mud pits.

Each mud pit had water in it and a hill at the end to climb up.

They were VERY slick, I had one good foot, and each one got taller and steeper than the previous one.

-Cameron’s Spartan Experience

Conclusions

The intensity of the race is magnified by the craziness of the course, and unlike other obstacle events, Spartan is a race and you can’t skip a challenge– fall or quit or fail and you’re going to find yourself doing push-ups or burpees to make up for it, all while everybody else passes you by.

fitness2xtreme-images-spartan-race-insane-pain-mental-toughnessSpartan enthusiasts are by nature competitive – their determination is as evident in their skinned knees and sprained ankles and broken fingers as on their faces – but that doesn’t translate into climbing over one another or pushing other racers out of the way.

In fact, the Spartans are known for their encouraging words and helping hands, and many teams who are involved pledge “no man left behind”.

This pledge is remarkable when you consider that one of DeSena’s goals in creating the event was to give people renewed perspective on their lives and an understanding of what real difficulties are as compared to what is prone to frustrate the average Joe on the street.

Whenever people are confronted with something that is not ‘normal,’ like their iPod not working or their coffee’s not hot or there’s a biker in the road, they flip out.

And we think that flipping out is ridiculous.  Especially when you think back to the thousands of years humans had to live with ‘real’ problems. We forget that.

So we want to present you with these ‘real’ problems again, in a way.

You might not care anymore after one of these races that it’s a little cold out, or that your heat doesn’t work, or that your iPod is broken. –as told to ESPN by Joe DeSena, founder of The Spartan Race

There’s no doubt that the race does its work.

It’s dirty and dangerous and your muscles will ache for days no matter how well-conditioned you were at the beginning.

Athletes will feel that their WODs have been worth it.

fitness2xtreme-images-spartan-race-finish-line

But in addition to bragging rights at the office on Monday, it also builds a sense of pride and accomplishment at having suffered and survived it and a strong sense of being able to face whatever challenges real life may toss your way.

Lastly, a note worthy to mention that Spartan Race events have also grown into fund-raising events where individuals raise money for pet causes and the entire event contributes to the Wounded Warrior project.

Way to go Spartans!
 
Resources

Endurance Sports Florida – http://endurancesportsflorida.com/2012/02/26/spartan-race-toughest-obstacle-event/

Event Information

Name: Spartan Race
Website: http://www.spartanrace.com/
Location(s): US, National
Owner(s): Joe DeSena (founder)

 

Comments

  1. Nice write-up. I had a ton of fun and I recommend the Spartan Sprint as a first step. Cross-fit train with hill running and burpees!

    • admin says:

      @knakao

      Awesome @ Spartan Sprint. Which Tough Mudder will you be competing at?

Speak Your Mind

*