Basically the Spartan has a course for nearly every walk of life. There’s an obstacle challenge for juniors and three races for adults beginning with the Spartan Sprint, Spartan Super, and the most grueling, the 25-obstacle 20+ kilometer Spartan Beast.
Scratch that. There’s was an Ultra Beast adventure in athletic agony at Sun Peaks, Canada, last September. At 42 km, the winner would probably time in around seven hours, plus. And Mikhail Gerylo won in seven hours, two minutes (and four seconds.) The top women, who finished 15th overall, was Allison Tai completing in nine hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds – so basically, ten hours.
And scratch that. There’s a Spartan Death two-day race. That’s probably longer than the weaker-limbed entrants will live afterwards...
Let’s look at this toughest, most ornery ordeal going...First of all there’s the pressure to compete and complete this excruciating event.
And, no, we are not talking about the contestant, but about his or her shoes.
Normal running shoes need not apply, for the tough terrain will leave them a wreck. And if you’ve decided to go with a rugged trail shoe, train in them beforehand – under dry and wet conditions. Afterwards, once you are mobile, take them to the car wash and use a pressurized hose to take the gunk, mud, and crud off. Once white shoes will be forever gray, but at least they’ll be clean. Can’t have everything, sorry.
Basically, the best shoe for spring and summer, let’s not talk about winter races (for to conceive such a beast is probably illegal if not gauche) will be light in weight, with good treads, that drains water well – and dries as quick as can be.
And unlike many sports where you’d think cotton would be great for tops or underwear, for the Spartan race it’s the worst. Cotton retains water, and the extra weight and its uncomfortable feeling will leave you feeling bogged down physically and mentally.
Now, if you are a newbie to this sport, did you know that it has coaches? For example, Donald Wilkinson of Calgary is a certified Spartan Group X (SGX) Coach.
This (pun intended) movement - that then crystallized as a cult, before forming into a fad, with its burgeoning later into an almost-somewhat-mainstream endeavor – has now the icing to put on its athletic-cardiovascular cake: this brutal, testing, and exhausting fete, now produces elite male and female athletes - and world championships, albeit without the glam, fame, and fortune of sexy sports like sprinting...
Now, how about Hobie? Is he icing on the cake, la crème de la crème, that could take obstacle racing up to the next level - such as becoming an Olympic sport as its CEO, Joe De Sena, ardently hopes?
Hobie Call, considered the best man in obstacle racing events, has had unfortunately life-obstacles prevent him from continuing in such contests.
Rather sadly, he’s gone: A-B-C gotta make-me-some-money via HVAC. Yet, he knows, as do his followers, that he inspired many to get into this fitness forum.
On the women’s best list, meet Amelia Boone, she with the glowing smile and six-pack abs, sponsored by Reebok, who actually makes a living from this sport. She has, however, come to a cross road, as do so many of us with a vocation: when does it stop being unmitigated fun and turn to drudgery...work? Despite her superhuman strength and determination she has not found an answer to the dilemma of deciding if Spartan Races are work or play. She calls the problem of balancing herself between the pull of fun and the push of competition, a tightrope.
Many of us would regard these athletes - who push themselves through waist-high mud, icy-snow, under barb wire, up mountains, while carrying logs, and throwing spears, and jumping through fire - as crazy and neurotic. And if you fail to complete an obstacle you have to do 30 burpees as punishment. Why go to such extremes when a good brisk walk and some light weight-training work might be enough to keep one healthy and sane? Why do these athletes, risk serious injury, hypothermia, shattered confidences if one decides to quit, and the loneliness and absence from friends and family while training?
In fact, for Spartan Racing, loneliness need not be a factor at all. Have you heard of the Spartan Queens? They are not a troupe in drag but are, in fact, real-live Colorado women who competed together and, as a group, in the Breckenridge Colorado course on August 18th, 2015. NBC showcased them. And thank god for that. No normal person can relate to the elite warriors that tackle such terrains. But everybody can relate to the trials they’ve endured, as they put themselves “out there” on this trail, pushing, urging the other on. For this, Spartan Races and others of their ilk may make some sense...
Finally, here’s what makes eminent sense if you are a Spartan elite athlete, an OCR (Obstacle Course Racer), like Mikhail. You need a balanced training program. He works on strengthening his grip, doing speed work, increasing his stamina, mixed in with circuit training, functional training, and something called lactic-threshold training, and the obligatory calisthenics - all with the idea that in each workout, there should be no stopping.
Now that’s Spartan.