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Man vs. Beast: a Spartan’s tale of obstacle racing

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.

The Spartan Skippers in red setting off at the start line. (Left to right) Darrell, David and Nathan

The Spartan Skippers in red setting off at the start line (left to right) Darrell, David and Nathan

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.

Despite the cold and the rain, spirits were still high

Despite the cold and the rain, spirits were still high in the water crossing

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 fire jump

The fire jump was a great source of warmth for the spectators!

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.

The mudslides

Tackling those mudslides

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…

Happy training!
Sarah

A huge thank you to Darrell for his guest post and to Epic Action Imagery for allowing us to use their brilliant photos.

Triathlon Triumph

Feeling inspired by the success of the Brownlee brothers? Thinking of taking up Triathlon or just want to improve your current sporting performance?

Pick up a copy, pick up the pace.

Why not check out our Triathlon titles for guidance of avoiding injury, techniques and training tips for the swim, run and cycle. We even have a book on ultimate triathlons for those who think the traditional triathlon is a walk in the park…

  Pre-order at Amazon. Out Feb 2013       

Swim        

Also coming later next year is a book on Triathlon for the over 50 by Ian StokellTriathlon for Masters and Beyond. Ian  is one of the Guardian’s triathlon correspondents during the Olympics, but you can find more information on triathlon on his website:  http://www.over50triathlon.com/

Marathon Running

Keep on running…

Been inspired by yesterday’s marathon, well get ready for next years London Marathon with the new edition of Richard Nerurkar‘s bestselling book Marathon Running as recommended by Nell McAndrew, who finished this year’s London Marathon in 2 hours 54 minutes.

Written by Richard Nerurkar, Britain’s most successful marathon runner of the 1990s, the fourth edition of this classic, invaluable guide is packed with the latest training information and tips that will help you get the most from your distance training.

Fully updated to take account of the latest developments in running science and programme design. This guide also includes tips on how to choose a good marathon and the pitfalls of bad ones, as well as more insights from Richard and other leading runners.

The new edition is available September 2012. Pre-order on Amazon.

Top 10 Tips for Running

           Guest post contributed by Bloomsbury author Graeme Hilditch

Early spring sunshine is famous for kick-starting our cold winter souls back into life after months of shivering in sub-zero temperatures.

Although a range of outdoor activities are either resumed or started, it is running which is notorious for capturing the nation’s interest in the spring, and with so many mass participation 5k and 10k events taking place in the next few months, March and April are by far the best months to get started with a running regime.

So the question is, how do you get started?

There's no better time than spring to put a spring back in your step

There's no better time than spring to put a spring back in your step

If running has always been something you’ve wanted to try but you’ve never had the know-how or courage to give it a go, Bloomsbury’s 5K and 10K: From Start to Finish may be just the ticket.

Just the ticket for starting out.


To give you a taster, here are ten tops tips to get you started:

  1. Enjoyment is key – When starting out or starting up again after a few months ‘sabbatical’, always set out for a run with one intention and one intention only – enjoyment. If you enjoy yourself, you’re far more likely to want to do it again soon.
  1. Walk the walk – Combining light jogging and walking is a great way to get started. Just 2 minutes of jogging followed by 3 minutes of walking is perfect for the beginner.
  1. Buddy up – Jogging with a friend who is also new to jogging is a great way to stay motivated, and to have a good gossip and a laugh with during a training session.
  1. Nice and easy – Starting out jogging is never easy, so try not to jog too fast and stick to a nice moderate pace which you feel is comfortable – gentle enough to be able to hold a conversation.
  1. Hydrate – Although the temperature is not quite Mediterranean yet, always make sure you are well hydrated before any run.
  1. Running shoes – It is really important that when you start running you wear a pair of running shoes which suit your specific running gait. All good running shops will offer this service free of charge so whether you are recommended a pair of Brooks or Nikes, it’s a good idea to get analysed. See here for more information on gait analysis.
  1. Slip, slop slap – It can warm up nicely in the spring, and with a gentle breeze, it can often be hard to tell if the sun is burning your skin. So it’s a good idea on warm and sunny days to slap on a hat and slop on some factor 15.
  1. Variety is the spice of life – Try to vary your running route a little to keep the scenery fresh and interesting. As you get fitter, try including a few gentle hills too, which will really tax those leg muscles and make them a lot stronger.
  1. Sign up for an event – To keep you motivated, why not sign up for an event straight away. This will help to give you a goal, keep you focused and give you a purpose to keep jogging regularly.
  1. Join a running forum – There are plenty of forums on the internet where you can meet other like-minded people who are also new to running. Forums are great for questions, and they can help to give you peace of mind that whatever anxiety you have about running, you are certainly not alone.

Graeme Hilditch is a top personal trainer with over a decade of experience under his belt. He is the author of 5K and 10K.

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