Spartan races aren’t for the faint-hearted…
A spartan race is the name given to a series of obstacle race events which range in difficulty from 3 miles to marathon distances. Even completion for the 3 mile race tests every muscle fibre by delivering 20-23 obstacles along the way. Failure to meet the stipulated standards of an obstacle results in a forfeit of 30 burpee’s.
My first race.
On October the 13th myself and another member of the Tripapt community ran in the Shanghai Spartan sprint. Before starting the race, we collected our race equipment (headband, track band and allotted time band) from the entrance. We just had to show our passports and email to do this as we had already purchased the tickets online here. After doing so, we located the bag drop zone and secured our important belongings from the otherwise inevitable mud and dust coat. In order to assimilate with the role of “Spartan”, it’s important to enjoy a little war paint before the race. We ran to the face paint station with 2 minutes on the clock, the representative might have mistook my nationality because I left with a rotated Italian flag on my cheek but I had little time to question the outcome.
We sprinted to the start line just in time to be asked about our profession in a fashion which could inspire the likes of Pheidippides. The typical 300esk triple “ohrah” was belted from the crowd we commenced the race.
Pictured: Actual photo of me at the start line.
Releasing the ape on monkey hoop obstacles.
Obstacle one featured several walls needing the contestant to roll, climb over and climb through them at speed. Alex, the 22 year old teaching Temployee accompanying me was called out on his inability to perform the obstacle properly but escaped the wrath of 30 burpees with a warning; Alex always had a way of getting his way in situations like this with a cheeky smile, a tool well used in this matter. After laughing it off, we caught the attention of a 27 year old contestant called Stefan. We shared a brief conversation amidst the curvature of the course before the next obstacle. The three of us, tackled through several moderately difficult obstacles emboldening each other on before reaching the first real test. It was an uphill 27 kg sandbag carry, I slung the sack over my shoulder and scoured the uphill woodland for a pinch of light indicating a finish line. In meditative like style we overcame the hill carry only to be greeted with a monkey bar like climb through hoops varying in height. Without taking time to recuperate, our spiked adrenaline caused the inner ape rattle its cage. We took to the hoops like a couple orangutan’s on their way to some juicy looking fruits.
Pictured: Actual photo of Alex and i “releasing the ape”.
Several obstacles passed and we were sweating out of every imaginable gland in the 30°C heat, we just completed another obstacle similar to the sandbag carry; this time with a bucket full of sand which we were not allowed to spill. After a 400m run through difficult terrain we found ourselves on the other side of the river from the starting point, saying nothing we momentarily slowed our pace steeling a deep breath of air from the beauty of Shanghai’s Sunland green. This injection of vigour was exactly what we would need for the next obstacle, the course was well planned.
Mud, Sweat and Burpees - The barbed wire crawl.
We took a sharp turn to be greeted by a 150 meter mud pit with an onslaught of rope and barbed wire based obstacles. As we looked over our challenge, the first obstacle had contestants tying their shoes around their necks to avoid discomfort in the remainder of the race, it was a 50 meter crawl under barbed wire. The opportunity to do this was ruined as Alex ran head first into the mud resembling Nick frosts character “Ed” jumping fences in the cult classic "Shawn of the dead". We ran after him sparing no time and began to crawl through the mud. I fell behind after snagging my shirt on the wire above, a fellow contestant humorously helped me remove my shirt.
Pictured: Myself and the gentleman who untangled me from the barbed wire mess.
We had a gentlemanly chat between gasps of air and mouths full of mud as we waded through the remainder of the barbed wire crawl. Next up was the rope crawl.
The rope crawl wasn’t as polite as the barbed wire crawl. It forced you to lift a heavy netted rope in order to make room for your next wriggle through the mud. I caught up with Stefan and Alex who also just finished struggling through the rope crawl challenge. We submersed ourselves in muddy water in the final few mud pit challenges before setting sights on the next area whilst looking like a mud skipper.
Pictured: My face after succumbing to the mud.
We could hear the shouts of encouragement coming from the finish line as we approached a 600 meter dry sprint stretch. My competitive nature took hold and I told Alex and Stefan that we better overtake those in front to secure a good time. We sprinted full force past the other competitors making a sound which can only be described as matching that of Sponge Bob Square Pants walking on 4 times speed. I came to the end of the dry stretch and took a corner expecting to see the finish line where I was disheartened by numerous obstacles in quick succession of each other before the finish line. First up, I climbed 15 meters up and then down a pyramid shaped net. Then I ran 20 meters to the next obstacle. It was another monkey bar like obstacle from before, only this time my hands were plastered in mud and my body was holding an extra few kilograms from water logging in my shoes. I tried three times, my hands were too wet, I bowed my head and walked over to the forfeit pit and began my 30 burpees. 15 Burpees in, I looked back and saw Alex power through the challenge that defeated me with relative ease, he looked at me surprised to see me where I was. I got up, found a barrel of sand to chalk up my hands and took to the bars. I felt fresh, my grip was back, I powered through the monkey bar hoops feeling relatively unscathed from the burpees. Next up, the 15 meter rope climb. When I was 17 I was an avid cross fitter who loved WOD’s (Work Out of the Day’s) which included the rope climb, this was my territory. I climbed up the ropes and rang the bell with haste. My long running interest in Olympic lifting would continue to serve me well throughout the next few obstacles.
Can you hit the target? The spartan spear throw.
The penultimate obstacle was the spear throw, “You get one chance to throw the spear at the straw-man” shouted the representative in mandarin and translated by the elder American gentleman in front of me. The American gentleman looked fresh faced and ready for the challenge, his happy demeanour filled me with confidence. I thought to myself, “this is going to be easy”, I looked back and Alex was with me. When I turned back to look towards the older gentleman he was jostling the spear in his hand as finding what I now assume to be the point of buoyancy. He took a few strides back and then powered forward burying the spear into the chest of the straw-man situated 10 meters away like a seasoned javelin thrower. It was my turn, It was quite the act to follow. I picked up the spear, found the point of buoyancy just like I previously observed and threw it. The spear span through the air in a distasteful fashion landing no where near the target, Alex had a similar result. We took to the sandy pit where numerous other contestants where performing their burpees close-eyed in trance like state, we joined in. After 30 of the most excruciating burpees of my life, we climbed a high wall and jumped over the fire pit to cross the finish line.
A runners high, finishing the spartan race.
After completion, we were joined by Stefan where we claimed our medals together (pictures below). We spent some time reflecting on the race with some like minded individuals and had a chance to speak to the elder American gentleman, John. John turned turned out to be 65 and had broken an ankle just 8 weeks ago, what a champ! We took to the showers, exchanged contact details with Stefan and began to plan our next event together, the tour de France.
Pictured: The start of three friendships.
If you want to get involved, go to the Spartan website’s race planner to find out how to participate.