Have you mastered marathons? Do you envy the children on the playground equipment? Lisa Buckingham tells us about her experience doing the Spartan Race over obstacles and through rough terrain
I could have spent my Sunday having a nice roast dinner, taking the kids to the playground, ambling in the sunshine. Instead, I chose to crawl under barbed wire and do an open-water swim in my full running kit. I did the Reebok Spartan Race.
A worldwide obstacle race series, you can choose from Sprint (3+ miles; 20+ obstacles), Super (8+ miles; 24+ obstacles on tougher terrain) and Beast (12+ miles; 30+ obstacles). I chose the Super and persuaded three girlfriends to make up a team with me. You can race as an individual but there’s something so much better about sharing groans and admiring each other’s strength as you carry an enormous log around a field, try to shimmy up a rope, throw javelins and claw your way up a muddy slope carrying a bag of gravel.
Why, why would you do this, I hear you say. Because it’s so much fun. Honestly.
Why, why would you do this, I hear you say. Because it’s so much fun. Honestly. Running through the woods with friends, wet and grubby, and sliding about on mud that was sometimes deep enough to lose a shoe in was like being a child again.
Don’t be put off by the images of muscled men if you visit the website. As long as you’re not an elite who’s aiming to win, there’s no time pressure, and you just need to be fit enough to get around the course. I run 5-10K three times a week and that was enough to get me around.
The friendly, having-a-laugh atmosphere of the race also means that fellow racers are more than willing to help each other over obstacles
You will need a certain amount of upper-body strength, though, and part of the appeal of the race was expanding my usual weekly runs by adding upper body work. Many runners are fit and strong, but lack upper body strength, so it’s the ideal motivator for adding in a few press-ups after a run, and practicing pull-ups (I found a bar to do these on at the local playground).
There were a few obstacles that we failed (who knew monkey bars were so hard?), and we did the penalty burpees, but there was no shame in that. The friendly, having-a-laugh atmosphere of the race also means that fellow racers are more than willing to help each other over obstacles, and we all stepped on a fellow competitor’s hand for a leg-up over a vertical wall or shoved someone’s bottom up a slippery slope.
The only downside was a 40-minute queue for one obstacle, but the organisers have promised to review that for next year.
We finished with an exultant leap over fire (yes, actual fire) and there was much elation as we posed, filthy and tired, for a photo with our impressively chunky medals. We are now officially Spartans. You could be too.
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Lisa Buckingham is a health and fitness journalist for national newspapers and magazines. Follow her on Twitter at @lisabuckingham1