For a long time, we have encouraged first timers in to obstacle course racing. More than that, we have tried our best to support existing races’ ventures in to new terrain too. That’s why we’re doubly excited about Spartan finally making its way over to Ireland. The benefits are twofold: we get to explore another little corner of the world, and the OCR newbies of Ireland finally get to line up in the start pen of a world-famous race.

We caught up with race director, Sean Meehan to find out about the how the Emerald Isle’s entry to the Spartan roster is shaping up.

Finally getting to hold a Spartan Race in Ireland will be something of a homecoming for Sean, who, despite directing operations in Europe and the Middle East, lives in County Fermanagh. He knows his audience, and has finally been able to give in to his family and friends’ constant requests for a race on home turf. Set up has therefore been something of an easy ride; “Living [in Ireland], it was quite easy for me to find the contacts and the venue we needed, and our UK team will literally roll the trucks onto the ferries to put on the event, so it’s been all smooth”. This is excellent news for the 2500 Spartans anticipated to descend upon Punchestown Racecourse, just outside of Dublin. The venue may be more used to hoof beats than rampaging Spartans, but we’re assured it can handle its transformation into a Spartan village, having hosted festivals for up to 130000 people over a weekend. Sean is confident that it can more than handle the mud and merriment of Spartans from an expected 25-30 countries.

Flights from as far as the US are coming down in price, making an Irish jaunt a realistic trip for American Spartan enthusiasts, and Spartan have made sure that it is a more cultural experience, with tour packages including walking tours, visits to the Guiness factory and other quintessentially Irish spots. But this isn’t just a destination Spartan – it’s a long overdue opportunity for the Irish to enjoy a race on their own doorstep without a long journey. That’s why there’ll be no gimmicking up of this race to make it ‘more Irish*’, “I think 75% of the people are Irish so, they just want to come and see the brand for the first time, and run their first Spartan race. They want to get what they’ve seen in the videos, so you want to deliver a good Spartan that will get the new community in Ireland engaged.” With the race falling on a bank holiday weekend (27th May), there’s no excuse for people not to take advantage of that extra recovery day and get involved in what could be their first OCR.

If you’re still of the opinion that a Spartan sounds too technical, let us try to sway you towards the 5k Sprint option – in open waves, it’s very much a fun challenge that you can complete with friends, surrounded by supportive (if slightly dirty) Spartans who will welcome you to their ranks. Spartan Ireland is not set to be the vicious (literal) uphill struggle that we sometimes encounter, particularly on those beastly bucket carries. The terrain is largely 400 acres of rolling farmland, and while there may be some ups and downs, Sean reckons we need only expect a “couple of hundred metres of elevation on the Super.” We won’t go expecting any mountain climbs, but it’s a “cool venue in that you’ll be in and around the horse racing stadium, and then you get out into rolling countryside, with some water and natural mud, which ticks the boxes nicely for us.”

This slightly flatter course will, naturally, mean that the elite and competitive waves will be slick and speedy; “I would advise that the more competitive people go out fast, because it’s going to be quite a fast course,” which is no bad thing considering how exciting the elite waves are becoming as a spectator sport.

Speaking of spectating, Spartan is currently working on their streaming capabilities, given the obvious issues that come with being in the countryside. “It’s quite venue dependent, whether you get signal. We’ll get as much live streaming as we can”. Whether on screen or in person, watching our finest athletes come past the grandstand will make for a pretty epic finish line.

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All in all, it seems like Spartan Ireland have secured a unique venue, willing to let thousands of Spartans trample their hallowed racecourse, and it will make for excellent beginner terrain and a lightning fast elite race. With the ever-stronger UK team behind this race build, we have a feeling that there’ll be a lot more Irish racers on the Spartan circuit of the coming year. After all, if you want races in your neighbourhood, don’t take the ‘wait and see’ approach. Make the most of the time you have to train: take the plunge, sign up, and get working on that final furlong fire jump pose.

Images from the 2012 UK Spartan Races by Epic Action Imagery

There is one final question that we must ask of this experienced and enthusiastic race director – how many burpees can he do? Though he reckons he might clock up 40-50 in a strength session, it’s not without some physical pain.

So that settles it then: 31 means you’re working too hard.

If you would like more information on Spartan Ireland, or to sign up, follow this link to get you there.

*Sean did say he’d look at Guinness at the water stations next year, though.

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Ami is the Editor of Mudstacle, but moonlights as a farm animal vet, so basically she's perpetually dirty.

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