We're big advocates of getting abroad to race if at all possible; experiencing OCR rituals in other countries can be rewarding in many ways, not least because you get to take in great views and check out your OCRWC competition while you're at it. Or just make new friends and sample the beer... Right, Matt Atkinson?
Due to a twist of fate and saying yes to a last-minute opportunity, I found myself heading to Munich, a place famous for its architecture, engineering, culture and beer! (I’ll let you decide which I was there for). By pure coincidence this happened to fall on the same weekend as Munich’s Spartan Sprint, a mere 3km from my hotel door - how could I not check it out? I threw my OCR kit in my bag and boarded my flight.
On the morning of the race I kitted up, grabbed a pretzel from a local bakery and headed to Munich’s Olympic Park where the race was being held, wondering what I might find and how my embarrassing lack of German would go down. This race was, after all, my first race in a non-English speaking country.
I needn’t have worried. As soon as I entered the park I was impressed; there was a real buzz about the place as supporters and soon to be Spartans were everywhere. The elites were already off running with their race being broadcast live via Spartan’s Facebook page (It’s here, for anyone wishing to check it out). Registration was as easy and efficient as you would expect from Spartan, and the free bag drop for everyone was a nice touch.
My time came and I headed for the start pen, the usual warm up ensued with me just copying what everyone else was doing and joining in the odd “AROO!”. Surprisingly someone motioned to me to jump on his back, we then trotted round the pen high-fiving everyone else. A quick intro later and Robert and I were instant OCR buddies. This was to be his first Spartan race, so I decided to stick with him for the run and a chat.
The race sent us straight up the steepest hill on the course to the memory board, where we would have to remember some numbers to recall later in the race (Echo 540-7443)! Then came the usual mix of classic Spartan obstacles as we ran through the beautiful grounds of the Olympic Park. Spear throw, walls, multi-rig, cargo net climb (out of water), tyre flips, balance beams, ALL the carries (log, sandbag, bucket, atlas stone) and a rather mean rope climb out of waist deep water! The use of the terrain available was impressive, including river and lake crossings, wooded areas, paths and gravel, despite never straying far from the race village and spectators. The course was about 8km long with the final 2km probably being the most evil (and satisfying). After the atlas stones and the bucket carry, Spartan had brought the Twister to Munich for the first time (I must admit I took great pleasure in completing it in full view of a full burpee pen), followed the memory test - another one that was getting a lot of burpees out of everyone. A quick sandbag carry and hoist obstacle and then it was in to the Olympic Stadium for the stadium run, something I had been quite looking forward to, but then I saw something: Chains. BIG heavy chains… The stadium run was a carry! By this time the temperature was 20°C and there were a lot of hot, tired runners looking a bit worse for wear! This is where I would place my only criticism of the day, there had only been one water station, at the halfway point. With the temperature, clear blue skies and practically no shade on the entire 8km I think it would have been wise to have two. After the stadium, it was an easy run down to the village with just a couple of walls to get over before the fire jump and the finish. Or so I thought… Spartan had once last dash of evil to throw in; a second go at the memory test, never have I been so pleased to remember a pointless string of numbers!
I think its worth mentioning that although there were a lot of carries, they were all (except the chain) short and used switchbacks instead of long courses. I felt this helped the flow of the race and allowed spectators to cheer runners on more easily.
In conclusion, it was a great day. The race was fantastic, the atmosphere in the race village made you want to hang around after your race and sample a litre (or two) of local beer while watching others who were still running. The people were friendly and helpful and showed that the OCR spirit is alive and well in Germany. If you get chance to sample an OCR in another country - jump at it!