Remember I wrote a post, Get Spartan Fit, about training for a Spartan Race? I posted that after having a look around online for the obstacles, and after finding only a few (Spartan are cagey about which obstacles they have at each race) I did a bit of extra upper body stuff at the gym and headed towards my first Spartan Race with confidence.
Oh, how wrong I was. As I walked towards the race village last weekend and spotted some of the obstacles, I realised how under-prepared I was. Now I know the only thing that prepares you for doing a Spartan Race is to do a Spartan Race, because most of the obstacles are pretty unique. Of course, now I have completed a Spartan Super I feel much more wizened to Spartan’s suffering, so read on for my tips on surviving your first Spartan.
So naive. So fresh, clean and un-bruised. Completely unaware of the mud, sweat and tears to come..
Spartan survival tip #1: Stick with your mates.
You know what me and my ego are like when it comes to races – I tend to go racing off from the start and end up knackered after a few kilometres. There was no way this was happening during Spartan, so I stuck with my mate Matt, who I’d managed to convince to run with me. It’s more for moral support to be honest, or even just being there when you’re climbing over something massive. There was a massive wall in our race, I’d estimate around eight feet, so there was no way I’d get over that without some help!
Next time I’d be more confident to race alone, though for the first time there definitely needs to be more than one of you, even if for moral support.
Spartan survival tip #2: Tie your shoes.. TIGHT! No, tighter!
Some of the mud was pretty thick and deep, and although I didn’t actually lose a shoe, the girl in front of me did. I felt mine move around a lot and after getting wet through they felt even looser, so I’d recommend starting the run with shoes that are on the more uncomfortable side of tight.
Spartan survival tip #3: Learn how to climb a rope.
Even if you don’t get to do it before you race, read up on the technique. Two days after running Spartan I learned how to climb a rope, and found that as soon as I knew the correct technique it was actually quite manageable! Not easy mind, but I could do it, and I did it five times in one night.
Let me see if I can explain:
✓ Jump a short way up and grab the rope.
✓ Get the rope between your legs, then run it on the outside of your chosen foot (mine’s the left, and I’m right-handed)
✓ Put the loose end of the rope over your other foot, and use this foot to clamp down on the rope.
✓ You should now be able to use your legs to push yourself up on the rope, just using your upper body to hold on while you re-adjust your legs.
✓ Ring the bell at the top.
✓ Come down SLOWLY, hand under hand.
Spartan survival tip #4: Work on ‘pull’ exercises in the gym.
This includes the seated row, lat pull-downs, cable cross-overs, pull-ups (assisted if necessary) – anything that involves you pulling things backwards using your arms, lats and core. There were quite a few pulls in my race, including using a pulley to lift a heavy weight up and pulling a heavy rock around a muddy circle using a chain (see, you just can’t train for those specifically!). If you get the hang of using your whole body to pull rather than just your arms you’ll be in a much better position when you hit the race!
Spartan survival tip #5: Dress appropriately.
I thought I’d done well by covering my calves up, so I got no shin bashes or nettle stings, but I got bruised on my thighs and shoulders pretty badly. Covering your shoulders and upper thighs is probably a good idea, with a t-shirt and longer shorts, though I imagine this really would be of minimal assistance, psychologically it should make a difference.
The picture I’ve painted here may make Spartan sound quite scary, but in reality it was the best thing I’ve ever done, and I didn’t want it to end. As well as your full medal you get a third of a medal, which you can only complete if you run the other two races – the Spartan Trifecta. Being an absolute runners’ bling addict and having loved my first Spartan, you can guess what I’ll be up to next..!