At the end of September, I attended my first ever Spartan Race. It took place in Killington, VT. I opted to do the Spartan Sprint due to the fact that I hadn’t tried to finish one of these races before and therefore I didn’t know what to expect. The only thing I looked up prior to attending the race was the average length (mileage), the average time it takes to complete and whether or not it was worth carrying a camelbak during the race. I knew very little background other than it was going to be a tough day. I figured the element of surprise might enhance the experience.
It all started with Groupon…
I was looking through offers on Groupon when I noticed that they were selling tickets to the Killington Spartan Sprint for 75% off. This meant that it was $75 off. I paid thirty something dollars after taxes and the beer voucher. Who would of known that it costs over $100 to spend an afternoon getting your ass kicked by rough terrain. However, when you add up the preparation and supplies it takes to set up one of these races, the price makes perfect sense.
Fast forward to race day…
I packed a change of clothes and took the half hour drive to Killington, VT. Once I arrived, it became apparently that I probably should have purchased the parking pass with my ticket. Me and many others walked at least a mile up hill to get to the registration area. Registration was simple once I got there. A tip here is going to be that you should bring your ID with you (doesn’t say you should on the website). The registration people gave me a hard time and ordered me to do thirty burpees because I didn’t have it with me.
I forgot what my actual start time was, so I ended up standing around for about an hour. I didn’t bring my phone to the race because I knew I wouldn’t be using it and I couldn’t see renting a locker to put it in. I just ended up “people watching”, so I had time to make some observations.
- Some people seem to do Spartan Races as a sport. This surprised me because it really seems like one of those “when in rome” or “for the hell of it” type of things. There’s actually people out there that do Spartan races competitively.
- Spartan Races get people seriously hype. Apparently its normal to see people in ridiculous costumes and all kinds of other frivolous stuff.
- Everyone else was doing the same thing as me. Those people were standing around, not really knowing what to do and people watching.
The race itself…
You start off in kind of a staging area while trying to find the heat (based on start time) you should be starting with. Once your heat is called, you have to jump over a four foot wall and then muster in a crowd of people (who smell unshowered) and wait. Shortly after, a hype man gets over a PA system and starts his bit. He gets everyone all hyped then tells you some good information about the race. For instance, he said that the race is 5.6 miles (which was a surprise to most people there). Online it says that the average Spartan sprint is 3-4 miles and takes 1.5 hours to complete. It took me around three hours to finish.
The race starts extremely innocent with two very simple obstacles (basically a warmup). The first major obstacle was the crawl under barbed wire. This wasn’t too bad, but it goes on for 100 yards (estimate) and you’re crawling uphill. I’m sure this obstacle is harder for bigger people because you have to drag more of your body on the ground. Either way, you’re pretty much guaranteed to rip the back of the shirt you’re wearing.
After that, the running turned into hiking because pretty much the whole rest of the course was hills. It had rained the night before, so this was a bit of a struggle after a while. At the hill of every hill was a six foot wall that you needed to scale over. I’m 5’7 on a good day and I was doing the race by myself, so these were a bit of a challenge.
From there, the rest of the day was a lot of steep hills, walls to jump over, and a couple heavy things that you had to carry up/down hills. There was also the spear throw, which is basically impossible for an average person to accomplish. There’s mostly just fun obstacles after that. You’ll be glad when its over.
- The pictures are free for a reason. Race staff take photos of people at random obstacles in the race. Only the people who had ran one of these races before knew where they were. It was overcast that day and that really didn’t help the quality of the pictures. A few days after the race, they post pictures and you can look up your photos by searching for your bib number (the number on your headband). All of mine and the majority of other peoples picture I saw looked bad.
- Bringing a camelbak would be helpful. As I said above, I read that bringing a camelbak during the race isn’t advised. Personally, I’d recommend it. There’s only a couple water stops along the course. Bringing your own water would definitely be beneficial. You could also use it to keep your keys and ID in.
- Don’t wear street shoes. I did and it didn’t help me much. Good luck trying to dig up a hill with a pair of Nike Free Runs. Street shoes would be fine if you’re participating in a stadium series race, but for the traditional outdoor race this would be ill advised. If I could go back in time, I would of worn my Vibram five fingers or bought a pair of sneakers that are made for trail running.
- Beer afterwards? The free beer voucher came with my admission, but I guess its optional when you buy directly from the Spartan Race website. After what I went through that day, the beer was almost hard to enjoy because I was so dehydrated after the race. However, The banana and FitAid that they give you after the race were fantastic.
- Gloves. I would of worn a pair of mechanics gloves because there’s a few obstacles where they make you carry heavy objects and after a while my hands were starting to get sore.
- Early start time. This is important to note if you want some flexibility. Spartan race asks you to pick a start time when you register for the race. If you show up early, you have to wait for your start time. However if you pick an early start time, you can start the race whenever you want. I personally would of rather started the race rather than standing around and people watching.
- Warmup and stretching afterwards. There’s pretty much no place to accomplish this unless you want to lay in the dirt somewhere. I guess you end covered in dirt anyways, but I waited till i got home and showered to stretch.
- Burpees. If you can’t finish an obstacle, you will have to do thirty burpees. I even had to do thirty burpees when I didn’t bring my ID to the check in area. It definitely doesn’t hurt to practice doing burpees.
Would I do it again?
I’ll probably participate in another one of these races, but the conditions would have to be right. I’d want to train for it properly. Training for it properly would mostly involve crossfit/functional fitness style training (like I already) with the addition of a lot of running on trails and up hills. I’d practice doing more burpees.
It would also be nice to try doing it with a group of people. I’m not the type of person that wants to earn some sort of course record, I’d rather just enjoy the day with some good people that will be able to have those memories and have lived through the same thing. Other than that, you end up making small talk with random people who are all out of breath like you.
This event was worth the money and its events like these are the types of things where you feel like you know more about yourself after you’ve lived through it.