I have wanted to crawl under barbed wire in the mud ever since I watched Goldie Hawn in the movie titled “Private Benjamin” years ago. So when my trainer told me there was an Obstacle Course right down the road from where I live; I had to go try it out. I fell instantly in love with the sport and I began to hear a lot about Spartan Races. So I signed up for a Spartan Sprint in Killington, VT.
Spar·tan \ˈspär-tən\ noun: a person of great courage and self-discipline
The Mud Run Guide states “Spartan Races are timed competitions that are orchestrated over standardized distances and feature natural and man-made obstacles specifically designed to test mind-body fitness. Every race at every distance will have you climbing, lifting, crawling, rolling, carrying, running, swimming, balancing, throwing, and jumping. All Spartan Race courses are deliberately designed to leave you exhausted and exhilarated; the completion of any of our courses is an accomplishment that deserves to be recognized, and each finisher has truly earned their Spartan Race medal. Our motto is “You’ll Know at the Finish Line” is not just an empty marketing phrase, but a sentiment that is shared by all of our athletes who have been bonded through the collective challenge of completing one of the world’s best obstacle courses.”
So what do you need to prepare yourself? First, know that if you have any doubts, you are not alone. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions about my ability to complete a Spartan race. I would talk to one person and be all excited, ready to get out on the course and tear through it. Moments later when speaking to a different person I was terrified about what I had gotten myself in to.
With determination and help, you can do it. Here are my five tips:
Tip 1 – Find a Spartan “Buddy”
The first thing you will need to complete a Spartan Race is a “Buddy.” Someone who can encourage you and give advice is ideal. "Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds." is a SEAL team saying. As you run the course you will find you didn’t have to worry whether you could do the obstacles. You will also find that “team” spirit is all over the Spartan Courses; people you don’t even know will offer assistance and advice on technique to help you through. You can either do them or you can’t; it’s more about finishing as best you can.
Tip 2 – Practice Burpees
In case you aren’t aware… in a Spartan race if you can’t do an obstacle you do penalties…30 burpees. Burpees are wonderful exercises for your core and I try to stick 30 burpees in before every run. So what is a burpee?
- Begin in a standing position.
- Drop into a squat position with your hands on the ground.
- Kick your feet back into a plank position, while keeping your arms extended.
- Immediately return your feet to the squat position.
- Jump up from the squat position
Tip 3 – Hit the Hills
Most Spartan courses are at ski resorts or terrain similar to them. So not only are you running and doing obstacles…it’s a course of uphill…and downhill…and back up again…until the end. The Sprint is 3+ miles. We went up and down Killington at least 3 times. So get practiced in getting up the hills and dealing with the elevation.
Tip 4 – Fuel Your Body
Food and Water are really important too. I got great advice from an experienced Spartan. Eat something light before the race and be sure to have plenty of water and mustard packets. Yes, mustard packets! Those little yellow mustard packets we all find in premade deli sandwiches or at McDonalds is the best thing to squirt and eat if you get leg cramps going up and down the course. I packed my tailwind, salt tablets and grape goo but nothing worked as well as plain old yellow mustard. According to www.emaxhealth.com: “Football players and other athletes are sometimes told by their coaches to swallow a few spoons of mustard to fight off leg cramps. One reason mustard may be effective for this purpose is because the condiment contains acetic acid (in vinegar), which prompts the body to produce more acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that prompts muscles to work.” For water; typically there are water stations on the course, but if you can get a Camelback or some other pack for carrying water I encourage you to do it.
Tip 5 – Do Your Personal Best
Be determined to finish and just do your best. Accept help that is offered to you and offer help when/where you can. If you encourage someone on the way you will be amazed how much it encourages you.
That’s it. Once you have run a race you will be hooked. I survived my first race! I completed the course in 4 hours and 30 minutes. I traversed over 5 miles up and down Killington Mountain and through 23 obstacles. There were people at every obstacle helping each other over/under or through. And when it was all over I was ecstatic! 2017 will be the year I get my Trifecta (The Spartan medal that is made up from 3 individual pieces awarded you as you complete each of the 3 course levels…a Beast…a Super and a Sprint.) Be sure to say “Hi” if you see me out there!
For more information visit: Spartan Races
About the author
Annette has left Hallam-ICS to pursue other endeavors, but his contributions to the company continue to be valued.
Hallam-ICS is an engineering and automation company that designs MEP systems for facilities and plants, engineers control and automation solutions, and ensures safety and regulatory compliance through arc flash studies, commissioning, and validation. Our offices are located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont and North Carolina and our projects take us world-wide.