A quick overview: What is a Spartan race?

If you’ve never heard of the Spartan races, they are a series of mud runs that happen all over the country. They are also divided into different lengths each with its own name. They all vary by distance and the obstacles, which I will get to later. There is no exact distance for the courses, as they are held in many different states with varying terrain and obstacles. The Spartan Sprint (the race I did) is about 3+ miles and 15+ obstacles. The Spartan Super is slightly burlier with 8+ miles and 20+ obstacles. Last but not least is the Spartan Beast which is 12+ miles and 25+ obstacles. Now they say 15+ for the Sprint and it was definitely “plus”, there had to have been at least 20 or more obstacles on the course. I did the NY tri-state Spartan Sprint in Tuxedo on June 1st, 2013 and I will gladly do it again next year.

Me in 2012 at Run For Your Lives!

I only got into mud running last year and I do not consider myself a great runner, but there is something so motivating and fun about obstacle racing that it makes the running actually enjoyable. The mud, the obstacles, the rough terrain, all makes it so much more interesting (and demanding) than a regular road race. (no offense you road racers out there!) So in this review I want to cover as much relevant information as possible about not just the race itself, but also the logistics of the event.

So let me start at the beginning. When my girlfriend Amanda and I were arriving in Tuxedo and were getting close to our destination on the GPS, I looked up and saw a plane pulling a banner. The banner was a little too far away to read, but as we got closer I realized it said Spartan Race. As I watched it across the sky, I thought, “That’s pretty cool we must be in the right place!” We were greeted by a parking attendant who directed us where to go, and we parked in a large grassy field. Parking was well done at this event, and honestly that’s a big deal. At the end of a tough race when you just want to go home, there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a car dealing with traffic because of poor event planning. Not the case here, well done event coordinators, well done. Amanda took all the pictures I have of this event and she has a great blog with all things food and cooking related and you can check it out -–> here<—

About half way done.

So we made our way to the check-in and everything worked pretty well here too. After finding my bib number on the bill boards, signed the waiver, and got my bib and tracker, we then headed through the bag check to get to the startup line. We timed our arrival so perfectly that I had just enough time to do some warming up and stretching before my 12:00pm wave was off. I could see some of the obstacles from the start, as the course snaked around the hills. I could already see the course was hilly, but what I didn’t realize was that almost the entire course was on a grade, there were almost no flat stretches which was an obstacle unto itself.

I started off slow and steady, there was a slight downhill start with large rocks and some mud and smoke, and I didn’t want to twist my ankle at the start so I took my time. After what seemed like a few hundred yards, we had to climb some small berms and were sprayed with water, by that I mean drenched- ok good, got that out of the way early. We were in and out of the woods, which was nice because the shade helped as it was a bright sunny day. I cannot emphasize enough how rugged this trail was -the running in the woods was tough. With large rocks everywhere, sometimes you were crawling up and over and between boulders the size of cars on a 45 degree slope. But all the more fun, I loved it, the terrain was so varied and rugged, that I stayed focused and interested the entire time.

Those shorts used to be yellow.

The obstacles were another challenge all together, and there were a lot of them. The announcer mentioned that this course is the one where they implement new obstacles for the Spartan Races to test them out, so we were getting new and different obstacles no one else had even seen before. I thought that was pretty cool too, we were like guinea pigs for the science of how to torture people in new and exciting ways! Awesome. So many obstacles, especially walls -which started out at about 2 feet high I think, and you could just step over them. But the further you went through the course the higher they became. The tallest one was at least 8 feet high with nothing for you to step on, except for women, then there was a red step you could use. I’m glad that I built my own wall to practice on, because a lot of people were slowed down by these, but I got up and over in a couple seconds. It’s all about technique, use a leg as a hook to pivot off of and not just rely on your arms.

My 8 foot wall that I built back in August for obstacle training.

Some of the other tougher obstacles included a 30 foot rope climb. Pull-up training really helped with that, I highly recommend it. Also monkey bars, which I hadn’t done since I was a kid. The second hardest obstacle for me was the wall scale, because you are already tired and muddy by that point. You have to climb across this flat wall that has these short pieces of 2×4 on the sides (similar to an indoor rock climbing wall), and you have to keep your feet and hands on them to get across, if you touched the ground you failed. Oh by the way, if you failed to complete any obstacle you had to do 30 penalty burpees before moving on. Yes 30! Do you know how tough those are after you have been running, climbing hills, crawling, dragging, pulling? I had to do one set of them after I failed to make the spear throw into the target. I think if I had three spears I could have figured it out, but one shot? What gives?! How much spear throwing does a person do in their training? Well, no excuses here, I will build some and practice for next time; that obstacle will not trip me up again. And the hardest obstacle of all was the barbed wire crawl. I would say it was about 100 yards slightly up hill through the mud with the barbed wire just high enough to crawl under. My technique was to get on my side and roll up the hill. It saved a lot of energy, was easier on the knees and elbows, and I think it was faster too. There were so many other obstacles that I won’t go into, but here is a partial list: Sandbag carry up and down a hill (40lbs men 20lbs for women I think), concrete weight drag up and down hill, tire pull, run through tires, weighted rope pull, cargo net, climb up and through a hole, climb under nets, balance on top of logs, and many more!

The beginning of the barbed wire crawl.

So after I made it through the last obstacle -a gauntlet of three guys with American Gladiator style staffs- I crossed the finish line and received my medal! I know the whole everyone-gets-a-medal thing bothers some people, but honestly if you finish this race, I think you deserve one. For me it’s a way to remember the race and what I accomplished. I believe everyone can be challenged by this race, it is tough enough to challenge all fitness levels, if you are more fit, you just do it faster. The fastest time of the day was just over an hour, my time: 1 hour 41 minutes and 56 seconds. Out of almost 7,000 people I was in the top 13%. Hardly amazing by any means, but I am happy with it. I am a jack of all trades master of none type of guy in regard to my fitness. I don’t specialize, I want to be decent at everything so I need to focus more on running for next year to step my game up. My suggestion to you if you do the Tuxedo Spartan Sprint is to run hills, you will be glad you did.

The wall scale.

After the race, there was a long line of goodies, there was bananas, water, your Spartan T-shirt, and a wall with the Spartan logo and some props to pose for pictures with. There was an area to hose yourself off and all kinds of other merchandise to buy if you wanted. You get a free beer ticket too, and there are some post-race celebration activities and an award ceremony, but I didn’t take part in it, I was ready to go home. After washing the worst of the mud off me, we headed out. As we left we could see many more eager racers heading toward the start line. People moved through the event very well, coming and going smoothly thanks to the frequent wave times (every 15 minutes) and the convenient placement of the registration tents. Thanks to the excellent organization of the event planners, we left the parking lot quickly and easily. Overall there wasn’t anything I would have changed about the experience or the way the event was run. I will know what to expect next year, and I am looking forward to improving my time.

The finish line!

Happy to be done.

Train hard, stay safe.