Taming the Beast: Spartan Beast Review

I approached the Spartan Beast at the weekend with trepidation. Not because I was scared about running, but because Spartan has been about as reliable as Pierce Brosnan’s singing voice. Every race I have attended seemed to be the ‘worst one yet’ and every race I couldn’t attend was ‘ermagerdamazing’. So given that this was the only Beast in the UK this season, I didn’t hold out much hope that the shaky administration system could hold the number of Spartans clamouring for a trifecta.

Thankfully, my worries were unfounded.

I had a really lovely day. No, really.

It began with an evening of knee and foot taping, a beautiful dinner and chilling with my friends and teammates. We snaffled our pre-prepared breakfast the next morning and made it over to the (beautiful) venue in good time, which was just as well, because the single lane traffic was atrocious when we got into Ashburnham, causing some to miss their wave time. That said, registration was a breeze and we had just enough time to see Kimmy off on the first wave.

I will say that the atmosphere was a little, well, dull. This is probably due to the fact that teams and groups were separated due to the Great Wave Changing Debacle of 2015, but no matter. A couple of hours of dog and child wrangling later I was out on course.

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My plan was just to take it as easy as possible – the distance was unclear (I was thinking that it would be around 25k), so I didn’t want to be out of puff after 15k.  The first 7k was probably the hardest, not because it was technically difficult, but because it was a bit boring.  I loved the trails and what Spartan had done with the runs, but there certainly wasn’t anything new or inventive about the whole thing.  There was a bit of bottlenecking and queuing at some of the larger obstacles (like that pointless bridge affair), but to be honest it was quite welcome, as I had a visit from the Ibuprofen Fairy and Fuel Mule himself, Mr Darren Hogwood.

My gentle plod saw me meet and chat with loads of different people, and I love that about non-racey races.  Not caring about speed, pace, penalties and also being personally confident that I could go the distance meant that I was extremely relaxed and happy.

BUT, a week prior to the race, I injured myself, and ended up straining my pecs major. This doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal, as day-to-day activities weren’t limited, but I found a few days before the race that I was completely unable to take my bodyweight on my hands or arms – no pull-ups, no press ups, no burpees, no rings. I could *just about* hang, but pulling myself up a rope or completing a rig was absolutely out of the question. Given that I have World Champs in just a few weeks, I couldn’t risk my chest, especially since my knees and feet are already sketchy as hell. From a racing perspective, that didn’t bother me, but seeing how easily I would have completed the obstacles at the Beast, and knowing that it was a simple, invisible injury that prevented me from doing so frustrated the shit out of me.  I attempted everything, but as soon as it felt like my ribs were being torn apart and an alien was going to fall out of my chest, I had to stop and take the penalties.  So in all, the cool obstacles like the monkey pole and the rig were bittersweet for me – I couldn’t do them on the day, but knew that had I been fit, they would have been achievable.

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The course itself was pretty nice – we all know that I despise running around fields just for the sake of it, so I was pleased to see that there were carries involved in arguably the most dull terrain (the open fields). I LOVE a dynamic carry, so taking our tyres, bricks, logs and whatnot over walls and through rivers was the best bit of the course for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and hope more races involve carries that aren’t just, “walk up that hill to a cone and back with a sandbag on your shoulder.”

Other obstacles included some pretty brutal barbed wire crawls over the ripest smelling mud I’ve encountered in a while, the atlas stones provided a welcome challenge, as well as the hercules hoist, a great rope traverse over water, and the usual traverse walls.  I really enjoyed the wooden stepping stones, the slippery wall and the various schleps through little water features and thought the memory test was pretty cool, actually.

I’m not sure the course designers were going for “nice” – I’m sure they wanted something bigger, meaner, bleedier than that, but I can’t help it. I just had a nice day, would do it again, enjoyed the view, etc etc.  If that makes the race a bit beige for some, I totally understand.  It reminded me how far I’d come, because a year ago, I’m not convinced I would have managed it.

I was so ready to give up on Spartan, but felt they threw together such a great course last weekend that I don’t want to hang up my cape just yet.

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I’ll come back, if only to improve my form on the fire jump

The Kit

  • Asics Fuji-Runnegade trainers (now with orthotic insoles!) – absolutely incredible grip on these bad boys, and the gaiters kept any debris.
  • Nike Anti-Blister socks (still blister free!)
  • 2x Nike compression shorts (because I’m sick of them riding up)
  • Nike Hyperwarm baselayer and tech tee
  • ByMoxy sleeves

The Goods

A brilliant medal, good quality tee shirt, some water and loads of little fruit bags. Also, free photos.

The Verdict

I just can’t help it – I had such a lovely day out. If I had been running a more competitive race, fit and in an earlier wave, then I would have considered it a great challenge and would have hoped to knock at least an hour off of my time.  It was a nice day with friends, for seasoned runners and beginners alike.  If Spartan just learned how to communicate to its customers, then the season would have been so much better; less fraught, smoother and more enjoyable to be a part of – just like last Sunday!

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