With the Manchester Spartan Race cancelled my wait for my first Spartan experience was extended. By the time I was on my way to the venue I was excited and anxious to get going after all a race with the tag line “you’ll know at the finish” leaves you with high expectations. The start line set the tone for the race, yes you had to clamber over a small (4 foot-ish) wall just to get into the starting pen. As Spartan newbies we didn’t really know what to expect baring a fire jump and spear throw, thankfully the duty Spartan quickly discovered our wave was indeed a wave full of Spartan Virgins. It wasn’t long before “I am a Spartan” was ringing in the ears of everyone within a mile radius and we were off. Months of anticipation and excitement were about to unfold.
One thing I have noticed in the events I’ve done is how amazing the marshals are and baring a few that looked like someone had stole their last jelly bean they were smiling positive and full of advise (does “30 burpees” count as advise?). The guy dishing out the burpees at the monkey bars had some good banter and inventive burpee variations to keep everyone smiling following a good old British downpour. The lady at the barbed wire crawl dishing out advise and hugs. The ladies at the penultimate double wall were amazing, all day the supported, lifted pushed and encouraged participants over the wall yet their enthusiasm never dwindled, they were still going as we left the event village. The only real criticism was the extended wooded section where not one marshal was to be seen and very little tape marked the route.
If I’m honest I was a little disappointed by the variety of obstacles, there was walls, rope climb, walls, spear throw, object carries, walls and drags, did I mention walls? Yes there were lots of walls, initially this was fine but having to clamber over wall after wall when fences also had to be climbed just got us wishing for a little more inventiveness. Admittedly they were varying heights etc but walls are walls. The main obstacle was terrain, rough, uneven and full of stingy plants, at the end of the day it’s there so use it and it did add to the course.
Overall I enjoyed the race, it wasn’t a massive challenge but it was only the sprint. It showed me that my training is working as walls were much less challenging than in previous events, I was even successful at the two overhanging walls. The rope climb was one obstacle I had been looking forward to and dreading in equal measures. It was made slightly trickier by the downpour that left the rope wet, muddy and slippery yet surprisingly I made it to the top and rang the bell (if you know my dad feel free to ask him how he got on). The remainder of the obstacle were challenging but realistic, and lets face it anything that finishes with a fire jump is going to make you smile.
They say “you’ll know at the finish” but what did I know? I was left still questioning it. Other events I’ve done have been better organised, offered more variety of obstacle and a more welcoming atmosphere. Spartan is a brand known to the general population, its reputation is one of toughness and challenge, not for the faint hearted. Spartan race, for me, was similar to some big brand shoes, they do the same job as a cheaper version and from time to time you’re left wondering if what you’ve really paid for is the name. Having said that I’ve still got that nagging feeling that I’m missing something, there is still a part of me that wonders if I am/could be tough enough to complete the trifecta? I can see where the “cult” label comes from, once you’re in you are left wanting to delve further into the community, see what the longer, harder races have to offer, see if you are strong and fit enough to take on their challenge or if you are just destined to a life of lesser known challenges.
So where to now? Away from OCR I have a mammoth 2km “swim” in 10 days time. OCR wise I am returning to the Suffering Race at the end of October and am looking for another race before then. I am already compiling a wish list for 2017. I started this blog to track my progress to Rat Race Dirty Weekend 2017 and help raise awareness and funds for two charities, the Royal British Legion and Scotty’s little soldiers. What I am finding is that this journey is one that will continue beyond next May.
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