Where do you go on a mild Saturday morning when you’re hankering for some wall climbing, net clambering, barbed wire crawling action in Peterborough? Spartan probably have a race for that.
As part of their double-header weekend, Spartan hosted a Saturday Sprint and a Sunday Super at historic Elton Hall, and whilst the Sprint terrain may not have been terribly inspiring, it certainly made for a good fun run, and a warm up for the next day’s race. All of the highlights are immortalised in our video right here.
Spartan races are unapologetically predictable; in terms of obstacles, you can almost guarantee what will turn up in a standard course. The terrain will be a dice throw, but they have been known to make the best of it, even on very flat courses like this. There always will be lots of walls, crawls and plenty of flexing as you carry buckets, atlas stones, sandbags or your own limp sense of dignity as you fail the spear throw for the thousandth time in your OCR career. To this end, the Peterborough Sprint didn’t offer up any real surprises, but it didn’t mean that it didn’t present a worthy challenge.
The atmosphere was, as usual, very friendly and family orientated, and a huge emphasis was put on the children’s race in honour of Hughie Pringle. The adult waves went off in a slightly less than timely fashion, but quite honestly, it was hard to be bothered about that, as the small event village afforded lots of obstacle viewpoints and food options. Parking was simple and registration and bag drop were well-oiled machines manned by very friendly volunteers.
As the weather had been dry in the run up to the event, the terrain was hard, and recently harvested fields made for an unforgiving surface on the ankles – much of the run was spent with heads down to navigate the divots and potholes. There were some lovely trails through wooded areas, with most obstacles near the finish in order to encourage spectators to cheer (or heckle) as they saw fit. Encouraging marshals appeared in all the right places, and the course was very easy to follow, with our only major criticism being the rather slapdash inclusion of existing fences into the course without ensuring proper stability – wire fencing with planks nailed to it does not make for a safe obstacle for hundreds of people to go over in the course of a weekend, and I worried that feet would get caught in low lying wires that were not adequately pinned down or marked. I tend to think that Spartan obstacles are relatively sturdy considering they are not permanent fixtures, and these details did let the course down and posed a serious risk.
As expected, the drags were heavy, the carries challenging but manageable, and the barbed wire crawl was probably one of the best technical crawls on any course this year; it snaked through trees, forcing people into deep puddles and over branches, and culminated in an uphill scramble to a well stocked water station.
Probably the most difficult obstacle for anyone who wasn’t created from Stretch Armstrong material would have been the Z-wall, with one corner proving nigh on impossible to navigate without a serious test of grip and unwavering trust in core strength and control. The monkey bars threw a spanner in the works with some dastardly uneven spacing, but were good fun to navigate, and the rope climb, often daunting, wasn’t too much of a problem. We won’t talk about the spear throw.
Despite running in a later wave, obstacle flow wasn’t too shabby, with the only major bottleneck occurring at the barbed wire. The final mile was easily the most obstacle dense, and with it being so close to the event village, music washed over the course to provide an upbeat soundtrack to that epic feeling one has when hauling up the Hercules hoist.
Happily, the drizzle held off to allow for an iconic firejump at the finish, where we were warmly welcomed with Spartan’s notoriously excellent medals, along with gels, water and a very wearable finishers shirt.
In all, quite a pleasant course to stretch your legs on, and a great race in which to perfect those technical skills on ubiquitous obstacles, especially if you’re motivated by the looming threat of 30 burpees.
Thanks to Epic Action Imagery for the pictures.