This weekend Spartan came to the iconic home of England Rugby to host their first UK Stadion event at Twickenham. As a huge rugby fan the opportunity to run, swing and climb around the hallowed ground was something I could not resist.
Parking at the stadium is plentiful and there are numerous public transport links and hotels nearby making this one of the easiest Spartan events to attend. Once parked there was a brief security and bag check at the stadium gates before you moved through to the usual quick and efficient Spartan registration. The event village was set up around the outer stadium concourse and included the usual merchandise and food stalls with the addition of a yoga and warm down class alongside an area to test out a number of treadmills and stair machines.
The Stadion has been a popular and competitive series in the US for a number of years now and has finally made it’s way to UK shores. It differs from traditional Spartan events with no trails, mud or technical terrain instead making use of all the elements available within a stadium and including crossfit style exercise stations throughout the event. There is also the reduction in burpee penalties for obstacle failure from 30 to 15 to highlight the fast paced nature of the event.
Even early on there was a special atmosphere around and a palpable excitement about what was to come. This was only heightened by a fantastic move by Spartan to take runners through the England dressing room and out of the tunnel to the start arch on the touchline. Walking out of the tunnel towards the center of the pitch under the floodlights in the overcast halflight of a Saturday morning was special, the only thing missing was 80,000 rugby fans singing “Swing Low”
Spartan Phil was on hand to give his usual brand of pre race motivation. The Elites even got some special pre race motivation from Joe De Sena himself, who had made the journey over the Atlantic to see the first UK Stadion race in action.
The course was brilliantly executed with a fast start along the touchline of the pristine Twickenham pitch down to the corner before taking you back inside the stadium and over some hurdles before the first set of the many stairs that were to come. The course itself made excellent use of the multiple levels of the stadium transitioning between them via stairwells and the stands. A sandbag carry took people weaving through rows of seats and stairs with multiple rows open to allow for overtaking and avoid any congestion.
The crossfit elements were well worked into the course and included reps of Slam Balls, Box Jumps and Heavy Rope skips. All designed to get the blood pumping and keep the heart rate elevated throughout this high octane event. I do think the marshalls on these stations could have done with a more detailed briefing on form as there were a few people not releasing the slam ball and basically just doing squats or not fully extending on the box jumps.
Another variation employed to replace the traditional barbed wire crawl was a bungee crawl up a stairwell. Keeping low and bear crawling up 4 flights of stairs having already negotiated ½ a stadium and multiple stairs already definitely got the quads fired up and was a great way of using the stadium’s structure to enhance a familiar obstacle.
One of the easiest spear throws you are likely to encounter, halfway down some stairs the distance to the target must have been less than half the usual distance so I definitely feel this could have been better placed, it also meant that there was no opportunity for people to watch what is usually one of the biggest crowd pleasers on course. Following this runners were brought outside the stadium for an obstacle intense section of some Spartan classics, Z-walls led into a rope climb, A-frame, 6ft wall and Herc hoist followed by O-U-T.
Spartan again used the structure of Twickenham to great effect, there was a spiral ramp from the outside concourse to the top stand of the stadium. It’s a long punishing run meant to really tire the legs before the final section to the finish. This ramp was reversed after looping the top level of the stadium to the opposite corner, the run down was quick and dizzying.
Entering pitchside once again for the final set of obstacles before hitting the finish runners were greeted with another of the Stadion Races signature obstacles, The Gauntlet. A series of full length punch bags hung from scaffolding that you have to run through. I like the concept but feel the bags need to be heavier and more in number to make it a challenge as there were lanes you could pass between bags without touching any.
At the finish there was great Spartan swag as always, where sprint, supers and beasts are colour coded with red, blue and green. The Stadion gets Yellow. The wedge piece will also count as a sprint towards your trifecta and who can say no to a yellow Spartan Tee.
The Stadion is a fantastic new format for the UK OCR scene and this was the most I have enjoyed a Spartan event in years. I really enjoyed the addition of the crossfit zones which I didn’t expect, the surroundings also added a unique atmosphere to the event. The reduction in the burpee penalty and lack of mud and hills make a Stadion event the perfect introduction for anyone new to OCR. Stadions though are also perfect for the experienced competitive OCR athlete, they can be fast and furious and the tight confines of stairwells and stands make for some excellent racing.
Spartan will be returning to Twickenham in December next year and I would recommend you sign up now so that you don’t miss out. I am also hoping that we see more Stadion events for 2020 as a series would be fantastic