How to Conquer Your First Spartan Race
By Ryan Felman
Spartan Race Finished!
In June of this year I ran my first 5K with a time of 31 minutes. I could barely breathe when I finished and had to walk run the last mile. I simply ran out of steam and had to convince myself that I wasn’t tired. I did no training for this race, but I thought I was in decent shape. I needed to find a baseline to start from though and this was it.
What is a Spartan Race?
A Spartan Race is an obstacle course you run in a race against other athletes, the elements and most importantly, yourself. There are three types of races: Sprint, Super and Beast at at 3 miles, 8 miles and 12 miles respectively. Each race comes with several obstacles including rope climbs, monkey bars, spear throwing and cargo net climbing.
At the time I weighed somewhere around 200 pounds and was not a runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I had a mission, and this was my starting point. I finished the race in about 30 minutes and had to walk run the last mile, but I did it.
I knew I had a long way to go, but if I could run a 5K, I could definitely run a Spartan Sprint with the right training, and I busted my ass for months. In about 90 days, I lost 20 pounds, worked on my strength and my endurance. This meant I woke up before dawn and ran before work. I went to the gym after work on days when I wasn’t running. I began to set new PRs in the gym and kept pushing harder. Limits did not exist for me.
It takes dedication and heart to earn one of these Spartan medals. And it will change your life.
Finishing one of these races is mostly about mindset. You’ll have a better time if you train for this, but if you can knock out 30 burpees, run a bit and do that over and over again, the right mindset can carry you through this race. If you are uneducated on the Spartan Race, it is an obstacle course where you run 4+ miles and are faced with 20+ obstacles. If you fail an obstacle, you have to do 30 burpees. I only had to do 90 burpees in my race because I prepared for this event. I didn’t want to simply finish, but to feel that I conquered the event.
At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t even run a 5K without walking part of it. I convinced myself that I wasn’t a runner. So, I changed my mindset and started small. I ran a 5K, then worked on running it faster. I then simply worked on running longer distances. I was more out of shape at this point than I realized. That 5K was a wakeup call for me, so I worked on losing weight and running more often. I ran a second 5K after training a bit and had a much more enjoyable time and was able to run the entire race. Little steps. Over time, little steps lead to big results.
I kept running every week and would add more distance to each of my runs. Today I can comfortably run 8-9 miles with a decent pace. By May next year I’ll be ready to run my first half marathon and my goal time is under 2 hours. This is the problem with these events. Once you finish one, your mission is over and you’ll feel a sense of emptiness. I spent all year with the Spartan race in my mind as the goal. Now that it’s over, I’ve had to find new goals to motivate myself.
Next year I plan to run my first half marathon, I’ll set a new PR on a 5K, I’ll set a new PR on another Spartan Spring, and I may attempt a Spartan Super. 2020 I’m going for the Spartan Trifecta.
Now I have a Spartan Sprint under my best and all obstacles in my life seem insignificant. Did I ever mention that I’m afraid of heights? Well I scaled a 70 foot cliff with no protection this weekend. I found something inside of me that gave me the strength and willpower to get over that cliff.
Anyone can do this… if you want it. It takes a lot of heart.
My whole year has been about overcoming obstacles and pushing myself to new limits. That’s why this Spartan Race has been so important to me. One of my flaws is that I sell myself short and don’t push myself. This year I pushed through my limits and honestly, I barely recognize the man I was last year. I have changed that much.
For example: I wanted to lose ten pounds this year and I’m down 21 with 2 months left. I wanted to run a 5K. I now run 10Ks for fun nearly every week. I also ran a Spartan Race which I thought was beyond my abilities. Until I adopted the Warrior’s Mindset. I simply figured out what I needed to change and went to work. If you want this, you can do this.
What I Recommend To Aid You on Race Day
As for what you should buy to give yourself the advantages you need to succeed. If you buy nothing else, you must buy these socks. They are comfy, protect your legs from rope burn and will somewhat protect your feet from getting wet. You’re going to get wet, but these will help avoid it to some degree. I thought they were expensive when I bought them, but they were well worth the investment.
Biggest challenge of the event for me was by far, the bucket carry. This obstacle involved carrying a bucket loaded with 60 pounds of weights up and down through the woods of Georgia. I desperately wanted to do it without stopping, but I had to put it down once. Judging by those around me, I seemed to do better than most on this event. You can’t put the bucket on your shoulder and holding it against your chest makes it difficult to breathe. This event wears out your muscles for the rest of the race and it is mandatory to medal. A good pair of gloves will give your hands some relief here. I used these, and they did a great job. And most importantly grab these shoes so you can get a good grip on the ropes, the trail and everything else the Spartan course will throw at you.
Which event did I earn the burpee penalty? The spear throw, the twister and the Olympic rings.