Saturday morning was very cold and very wet – the perfect morning to stay indoors and whack the heating up, right? Wrong. I was at Pippingford Park in East Sussex battling the elements and ready to support the hordes of runners taking on the Spartan Beast – an epic 25km obstacle race.
As the climactic event on the Spartan Race calendar, this was going to be tough and it seemed as though Mother Nature herself was intent on making it even tougher for the runners. With a muddy and rain-soaked course greeting runners in the very first elite heat at 10 a.m., the non-stop rain made the trails boggy and the mud pits … boggier!
Having completed one of the shorter events, the 5km Spartan Sprint back in September, I couldn’t wait to see what the organisers had in store for the 15+ miles of challenging terrain. Oh, and did I mention that, if you fail ANY of the 25+ obstacles, there is a 30 burpee punishment?!
This race was hardest yet, but don’t just take my word for it, we have a first-hand account from a Spartan survivor, Darrell Skipper, who crossed the finish line after a gruelling four and a half hours.
Here’s what Darrell had to say about the race:
The Spartan Beast was by far the toughest physical and mental challenge of my life. I’d signed up for the 2013 Spartan Race Season Pass this year and had already completed four of the shorter Spartan Sprints (between 5–8km) and one Spartan Super (12km) over the summer, but this was on a different level.
I ran in the 10 a.m. ‘elite’ heat (I didn’t feel too elite by the end!) and we set off just in time for the first of many torrential downpours of the day. It wasn’t long into the race before we realised that this was going to be a lot different to those nice warm race days of the summer … It was raining pretty much the whole time and this resulted in people getting stuck in the mud and the freezing bogs being at chest height at times.
The obstacles ranged from fire jumps, 8ft wall climbs, rope climbs and barbed wire crawls to carrying heavy sandbags up and down steep and slippery slopes. Some very ambitious person also decided to put a 25ft rope climb at the end of the race, which apparently only about 10 per cent of finishers managed; the other 90 per cent accepting the 30 burpee punishment instead, which, for me, seemed to take a lifetime to finish!
The obstacles were actually a sweet relief, a brief respite from the horrors of the trails and the hills, oh god the hills! A lot of people struggled with the naturally formed mudslides, but luckily I had learned from previous races that the quickest way down is on your backside. As soon as the other runners see you doing this they all follow your lead – it was definitely the quickest way downhill.
I completed the race with my brother and father, who have been my Spartan training buddies for a few years now. We first signed up as motivation to lose weight and we ended up losing over 250lbs between us! After that, it just became an addiction. We love the whole ethos of the Spartan Race, the spirit and camaraderie between fellow Spartans is amazing. Lots of helping hands and lots of crazy, delirious laughter from the sheer insanity of it all.
I’d highly recommend obstacle racing for people who are looking to get in shape or to kick-start their fitness regime. Nothing motivates you better than cold, dead-eyed fear! Despite the aches, pains and countless hours of training, I’m definitely doing the whole season again next year – who’s with me?
If you are interested in joining the Spartans next year, or would like to find out more information about their races, you can subscribe here. Who knows, maybe I will see you at the start line next year…
A huge thank you to Darrell for his guest post and to Epic Action Imagery for allowing us to use their brilliant photos.
In a moment of madness it seems, in the euphoria of having moved near the river, I decided to join up at my local rowing club on the Thames for a beginners’ ‘Learn to Row‘ course. At just around 5ft 4in, I probably don’t have your typical rower’s physique, but having worked on my fitness beforehand, I’m hoping that I won’t show myself up too much.
The cox who will be taking us out on the river on Sunday for our first water-based session gave us a rundown on safety and general info, which included learning about the tidal Thames which has a twice daily rise and fall. The second half of the session was spent on the ergos with an experienced squad member talking us through the terminology of the parts of the stroke, and the body positions that maximize the power of your muscles in moving the boat.
Set the challenge of rowing 1000m against the clock, we rowed with passion – if not great technique . Times were taken and at the end of our month course we’ll be doing it again to see how much we’ve improved over the course through (hopefully) better technique and fitness. I’ll keep you posted as to how I eventually do. In the meantime though, I’m going to be doing a spot of swatting with the help of The Complete Guide to Indoor Rowing (out May 2012). It’s definitely worth a gander if any of you are in the same boat (pardon the pun).
Sunday approaches and apprehension increases, but as long there’s no capsizing or anti-elitist(!) swimmers to avoid, it should be a cracking day.
When it comes to sport and exercise, “No pain, no gain” may be a catchy phrase, but pain can often be the first warning sign of an injury so it’s important to listen to your body.
To be on the right track in regards to managing treatment whether it be for ankle sprains, shin splints, groin pain, slipped discs or torn hamstrings, it’s worth checking out The Complete Guide to Sports Injuries by Christopher M. Norris.
The book is packed full of helpful photographs and diagrams to aid both understanding and technique in treating sports injuries, with practical guidance on massage, taping, hot and cold. Norris also gives great advice on structuring rehabilitation through exercise therapy to help with recovery through the healing process.
If you’re a sports coach, fitness instructor, student, physiotherapist or sports massage therapist, then this is the ideal introduction to understanding and treating sports injuries.
The November issue of the Bloomsbury Sport newsletter is now available, featuring information on our brand new titles publishing this month.
Including The Complete Guide to Circuit Training by Debbie Lawrence and Bob Hope, this is the definitive guide to planning and teaching a circuit class, covering everything from planning a session to assessing individuals.
For the cricket lover, the new edition of The Wisden Guide to International Cricket 2012. This paperback annual contains quick-fire records of every country and features the 200 players expected to appear in international cricket during 2012.
Steve Barrett is a well-respected fitness industry expert, personal trainer, presenter and leading fitness brand consultant. He has worked in the industry for over 20 years and is the creator of some of the world’s most successful consumer fitness campaigns.
Steve is the author of two brand new books, The Total Gym Ball Workout and The Total Dumbbell Workout. These complete how-to reference guides show you how to get the most out of your gear, whatever your level of fitness. Accessible and practical, they are packed with a wide range of tried and tested exercises, each accompanied by easy-to-follow photos and illustrations. Whether you want to take them to the gym or use the books at home, these indispensable handbooks are perfect for both the fitness enthusiast and the fitness professional.
Originating from Russia, kettlebell training is now a global phenomenon with clubs, gyms and individuals investing in equipment and training. Celebs such as Penelope Cruz and Sylvester Stallone are reported to be big fans, but what can kettlebells be used for?
Well, kettlebells can be used for a variety of purposes including weight loss, improving coordination and anaerobic fitness and strengthening your core muscles.
Perfect. But how do you use them?
It’s your lucky day. Published this October, Allan Collins‘ The Complete Guide to Kettlebell Training is a comprehensive guide to this popular fitness tool, providing practical tips on how to use and get the best out of training with a kettlebell.
I know what I’ll be asking for for Christmas.
2011 has been a great year for long-distance cycling: We’ve had the first Australian winner of the Tour de France, joined by two (Schleck) brothers on the podium (another first); the Manx Missile Mark Cavendish winning the green jersey as well as becoming UCI Road World Champion 2011; and finally the publication of this great book.
Best-selling author Chris Sidwells explains how to choose the right sportive, prepare for it both mentally and physically, and get yourself and your bike to the finish line. Linking sports science to practical training, Cyclosportive will help you improve both your strength and speed.
Whether you’re embarking on your first sportive or trying to improve on your performance in the next one, this essential guide will help you reach your goal.