I've completed quite a few obstacle course races now, though have somehow missed out doing a Spartan Race, until now. I was pretty excited to be tackling my first one, eager to find out what the fuss was about. However, I was coming in nursing a minor knee injury, and so wasn't going to be breaking any records.
It definitely lived up to the Spartan hype. It was tough going, had challenging terrain, a lot of upper body focused obstacles, loved it.
The race took place at Aston Down Airfield. It was pretty cool driving on to the runway, and the massive wide open flat area provided plenty space for parking as well as a fairly sizeable event village. The flatness of the airfield definitely gave you a false impression of what the race would be like though, because once things got underway, it was hills, hills, and more hills.
The atmosphere at the start was fun, with a costumed Spartan given a motivational pre-race brief. The warm-up was a bit pointless if I'm being honest, as there was little space to do any of the prescribed exercises. Then just some time for another brief from the race director stating that the 30 burpee penalty for failing an obstacle had to be strict chest to floor, arms to sky; for those not familiar with the infamous Spartan obstacle penalty.
The race was quickly underway, and everyone shot off down the track and around the corner. There were no immediate obstacles which I always prefer, as it allows everyone to space out a little and reduces congestion (and therefore risk of injury) on the first few obstacles.
After a couple minutes of running, the first obstacles were fairly standard small walls, a cargo net crawl, and an A-frame. All passed without any drama, though it was quickly the start of the many, many hills as well as off-camber running along the side of hills.
The first barbed wire crawl was also near the start. I think I need to work on my technique for this haha, as many people seemed to shoot right past me here. I tried a mixture of rolling sideways when I had space, and an army crawl when I never. Definitely the quickest technique that people were using was a very low bear crawl, though pretty awkward for me to do, being 6ft 2 with very long limbs.
The double sandbag carry that followed was also pretty awkward. Individually the sandbags were not that heavy, but trying to carry two of them while traversing up and down multiple muddy slippy hills was tough going and sapped your energy.
Valley of Death
It wasn't long until the first of the valleys (later named the "Valley of Death" on social media haha). There would be obstacles along the middle of the valley, then after that you would go up one side, along the top, then back down across the valley again, and the same on the other side.
The obstacles were fairly straight forward, though the hills were tough. The prolonged running off-camber across the side of the hill forced my inside foot to overpronate, and it wasn't long before my feet and ankles were pretty sore.
Upper Body Strength
There were certainly a few obstacles that demanded a decent amount of strength. The atlas balls in particular seemed very heavy. In reality, they probably weren't that much, but they were damp due to the grass, and combined with the spherical nature of them meant they were difficult to pick up. Certainly took me a few attempts on the second lift.
The other particularly painful obstacle was "bucket brigade". Basically you fill a container full of stones and gravel, and then carry it a certain distance. However, instead of metal buckets I've seen in various Spartan videos I've watched, it was rubbery plastic containers. It felt like it took an age to fill, were awkward to carry, and then the route to carry them went on for quite some time.
I understood that Spartan rules were that you had to carry the bucket (or container) in front of you in a bear grip, and weren't allowed to put it on your shoulder, so this is what I started doing. Though a few other runners, and a marshall, shouted out that it was easier on your shoulder, so I quickly followed suit as well. Even still, it was hard work carrying it over the small hills, and through a small derelict building.
The last few obstacles were packed closely together, and consisted of the spear throw, 8ft walls, rope climb, and fire jump.
I had heard all the stories about the spear throw being called "The Burpee Maker", due to the very high failure rate. So I had watched quite a few tutorial videos in the lead up to the race, and it definitely paid off. I followed word for word all the advice I had learned: pick a spear with a straight tip, make sure the tether/rope is out of the way and the other side of the barrier, find the centre of gravity of the spear, eyes on the centre of the target, release with not too much force while imagining a slight arc in the path of the spear. It all went to plan, and the spear sailed majestically into the middle of the hay bale.
I was over the moon to have made the spear throw, if only because I was knackered and my knee was pretty sore by this point. The thought of doing 30 burpees was certainly not appealing at that point.
Past the walls and rope climb, it was time for the final fire jump. I can appreciate the health and safety side of it, though if I'm being honest, it was a bit of a let down; more like the "small smouldering rock jump" than "fire jump". In any case, my fire jump pose for the camera was a bit rubbish haha. I just hopped across, while others did huge extravagant dives and commando rolls. I'll need to work on something better for the next Spartan race.
So my first Spartan Race complete, and would definitely recommend it. It was tougher than I thought it would be as I was expecting a mass market fairly tame affair. Though definitely still achievable by everyone.
It was particularly tough while a nursing a knee injury, and all those off-camber sections running along the side of hills was painful on the old feet and ankles. I still had a great time though, and eagerly await the Sprint and Beast versions of the race to complete the sought after Spartan Trifecta.