This weekend saw the long awaited inaugural UK Super Spartan event. There have been several 5km Spartan Sprints, but the 12km Super Spartan promised to satisfy the those seeking a bigger challenge.
Up until a few weeks ago the Super Spartan was going to take place on the Saturday and the Spartan Sprint was going to take place on the Sunday. At practically the last minute though, Spartan decided to combine both on the Sunday and change the venue (moving it a good hour further south). It was a bit of downer for some season pass holders who were keen on making a weekend of it (doing both events on consecutive days), and I know of a few people who cancelled or didn’t end up booking because of that.
Organisational grumbles aside, how would the Super Spartan play out on the day? Instead of one long 12km course, it would now be two laps of the 5km Sprint course with a few extra challenges thrown in. Many of those doing the Super Spartan were still keen to get a Sprint in on the same day, so were encouraged to go into the early 10am heat, to leave enough time for both. There was a little bit of a panic early on, with a slightly disorganised registration and queuing system, but it looked like most people who wanted in on the early heat managed to get in.
At the start line I found myself surrounded by quite a fit looking crew. There were some pretty serious athletes and probably quite a few folk from the armed forces ready to attack this competitive heat. There were a mixture of people doing the one lap Sprint and two lap Super. The Super’s were briefed with the extra challenges they would face. As well as doing two laps, we were told that we would have to carry a brick for the entire second lap. Then when it came to carrying sand bags and tyres we would have to carry two of each (as well as the brick on the second lap), plus there was an extra section where we would have to fill up and carry a bucket of water around a circuit. The extra challenge went down well with a pumped-up crew of Spartans!
As the start was sounded, the crowd burst into a very brisk pace. Normally I would like to get ahead of the pack early on to avoid congestion but it seemed that a lot of the others were of the same mindset – it was very hard to jostle any breathing space. During the first section of running and fence jumping that was fine, but the pace slowed down considerably when we hit the congestion of the first of many river walks. The river only had enough space to move in single file, so there was little chance of moving through the pack.
Thankfully the sun was beating down on the Spartan course, it would have got quite cold if not, as there must have been a good 15 minutes worth of wading through water in various places per lap. The water was refreshing but it was tiring work and definitely made it feel like a longer course. It massively added to the lap times. The best runners were knocking out laps in around 50mins, compared to very hilly London course where the best times were under 30mins! Thankfully though, the Midlands course was very flat, I can only recall one very short hill.
The course was filled with all of the usual Spartan favourites: balance beams, sandbags, tyres, fences, ice crawl, wall climbs, barbed wire crawls, spear chuck, etc. The course markings weren't the best I've ever seen, but any moments of confusion were usually short-lived. Marshalling also wasn't the best, sometimes there was a little confusion as to what to do on each obstacle. I think it needed army style guys screaming their lungs out. I'm always a little confused with the spear chuck. Does it need to in-bed itself in the target or is hitting it enough? If in-bedding is needed then it might be worth Spartan investing in proper spears and not just plastic marker posts... and keeping a marshal on each line to allocate whether the burpee forfeit is needed or not would be a good idea.
The brick on the second lap was a great addition for the Supers, it really did add an extra challenge, especially when it came to the gruelling double sand-bag carry, which was by far the hardest part of the whole day. I ended up shoving the brick down my shorts and limped along with awkwardly balanced and heavily laden shoulders. Amusingly the MC at the start of the race had instructed us not to throw our bricks at the pugil stick wielding gladiators before the finish line... I assume most people resisted that urge! I felt like giving them some after they swept my feet from underneath me at the end of the first lap - to a rising cheer from the baying crowd!
So another great day from Spartan. Sure they're not quite as polished as some of the other events in some respects, but it's always a lot of fun on the day and there are always a lot of smiling faces. If you haven't signed up already for the 20km Spartan Beast in November - DO IT! We'll see you there for sure!
Check out some more photos taken by Mudstacle on day here. And check out Spartans official photos here.