Standing in the Way of Speed

The vast majority of my race reviews are positive towards the event’s provider however good or bad my own personal performance and experience has been. I’ve done many truly amazing races in my time and I’ve also done some that haven’t been as great but I always try to promote the positives. On this occasion however I feel putting the focus on what I felt were the negatives is the right way to go about this particular race review.

I don’t like bashing races, especially at a time when so many are struggling, OCR’s in particular, but I feel my opinions (and that’s all they are) about this race are important within the growth of what is still a very developing sport.

I have done four previous Spartan races including two Beasts (20km+), one Super (13km+) and one Sprint (5km+) and in the main I’ve only had good things to say about them. The experiences I’ve had at those races are what motivated me to sign up for my second Trifecta this year (completing all three distances in one calendar year) and the sprint race I did at London Olympic park last year was one of the most enjoyable I’ve done. It was challenging yet fast and really suited the speedier runners. Even though I’d been to the South West venue in Gloucestershire for the Super 12 months previous and therefore knew the course was very hilly in parts as this was a Sprint I came expecting another quick blast out but that’s certainly not what I got.

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I appreciate Spartan have their signature obstacles and challenges which they like to get into all their races which means carries, lifts and pulls are all expected but for me if a race provider are going to put on three different distances and offer elite waves in all of them (something we have to pay more for the privilege of being in) then each race should be designed to suit the abilities of different athletes. Much like the 100, 200 & 400 meter races on the track are for powerful sprinters, the 800 and 1500 meters is for middle distance runners who possess good speed endurance and the 5k and 10k for endurance based athletes.

I came into this race off the back of running nearly 40 miles in one night at Europe’s Toughest Mudder the previous weekend so wanted at my sharpest but I felt less time on my feet was what I needed so chose the Sprint over the Super.

It all started well with some early flat and prolonged running in which I used to settle myself in positioning just behind the front three. I moved up a couple of places going over a six foot wall and got level with the leader as we began to climb an A frame cargo net but before I’d reached the top I realised how close a big chasing pack were as ten or more others also clambered into the same obstacle.

Then came a substantially lengthy barbed wire crawl going up, down and alongside a hill. I lost quite a lot of places here as I was finding it very energy sapping but didn’t let it worry me and it was still very early in the race and I felt I had enough time to make the places up. What I didn’t realise was that places in which to make up ground would be very few and far between from here on in for anyone that wasn’t a hill running, object carrying powerhouse.

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We were only just over the mile mark of this four and a bit mile course yet from here to roughly 3 and a half miles would now be three hideously long hill slaloms one of which was a straight armed, double log carry named ‘farmers walk’ and the other a double tyre carry while weaving round the shape of the letters that make up the word ‘Aroo’. This was separated with a long double sandbag carry loop. I can safely say that I wasn’t at any point during this period feeling like I was in any way sharp or form in a race that was named a sprint. A hunched over walk- yes, a sprint- most certainly not!

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It felt like rather than creating a course suited to the people who had actually entered instead everything possible was put in place to cut any speed and to make the race last as long as possible. It was nice to reach the hanging rings where finally some technical ability was needed but the multi rig which was listed on the course map was nowhere to be seen.

I had by now slipped to tenth position and lost a lot of motivation meaning I didn’t have my usual competitive urge to dig in and catch the two runners in view as I ran up the final couple of hills before leaving this dreaded section behind. I was however more encouraged as I ran back into the event village where I knew there was a sequence of good obstacles.

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I flew up the rope climb, across the monkey bars and over the slip wall and was back within catching distance of a couple of people before my day went from bad to worse and I missed the spear throw. This meant 30 burpee and cost me one more position before I ran on, negotiated the traverse wall and leaped over the 8 foot wall then did a lacklustre jump over the fire to finish in a very disappointing 11th place.

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This will by no means be my last Spartan race, it wasn’t enough to have put me off completely and I’ve seen enough in previous races to know they are worth giving another go but I did really feel there were some wrong choices made in the course design. I know people will say a lot of my opinions come from my own poor performance but in all honestly I don’t think I’d of ran a whole lot better had it been a course more like the previous Sprint race I did and when fresh I feel I could still do well on a course like this one but the wise decision would have been to have sat this one out altogether and let my body recover yet that red trifecta piece drew me in.

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