Spartan Beast: A Throwback to Childhood

When you were a child, did you enjoy the outdoors, climbing trees and throwing rocks?

If there was a mud puddle in view, did you right toward it instead of veering away from it?

Did your clothes wear the activities of day, versus looking pressed and perfectly stain-free?

If you like a sense of adventure, aren’t afraid of heavy objects and answered “yes” to the questions above, then a Spartan race is in your future.

Before the race, with Luke

After the race, covered in mud

I just completed the Spartan Beast in Midway — Utah, a 12-mile, 25+ obstacles race. Spartan offers shorter distances as well, including three-mile (Spartan Sprint) and eight-mile (Super Spartan) versions.

Obstacles involve water, mud, fire, barbed wire, walls, spears and heavy concrete objects, just to name a few. If you want to see the video from the race in Utah, click here. I originally signed up because I wanted a new and different challenge; after all, the water is not so welcome in triathlons and I’m running the NYC marathon this fall. In addition, I was hoping to build some muscle mass in the process of training.

My goal was to finish without injuring myself; in other words, I set the bar low!

Below is my list of True, False and Thank Yous to describe the experience.

True. It was hot in Utah that day, broaching 100 degrees, and those starting the race at 12:30 (like myself) got to feel it. However, the five mud pits we had to run and wade through and climb out of definitely helped hold down the body temperature.

Thank you. To the two kind men who helped drag me out of the pit when my feet kept slipping down the wet, muddy wall.

True. The altitude at Midway, Utah is 5500’ feet, considerably higher than Boise ID.

Thank you. To the kind lady, about my age, who recommended during the first few miles of the race that I pace myself. After all, I didn’t know how my body would react to the heat and altitude (turns out it handled everything just fine).

True. There are burpees involved, 30 per missed obstacle to be exact. And boy did I dread them.

Thank you. To Spartan pro Jenny Tobin who coached me on how to handle the various obstacles. I only missed two: the rope climb out of the mud pit and the spear throw. Sorry Jenny, despite your instruction, I missed the target (but barely!). Thanks also to the lady from Wyoming I followed early in the race, who unknowingly showed me the technique for climbing walls. I loved climbing those walls – even the 8’ one!

True. There are lots of buff men and women who participate in this race because many of the obstacles require brute strength (of which, shall we say, I might be lacking!).

Thank you. To my faithful boot camp leader, Marla, whose classes gave me the strength to carry sandbags, pull cement blocks up a hill, toss tires, and carry a bucket of rocks (those rocks almost killed me).

True. If at first you don’t succeed, you can try again. (At least on most of the obstacles if you’re not an elite racer).

Thank you. To my spouse who suggested I try a different rope to climb near the end of the race when I failed on my first attempt. I was so excited to ring that cowbell!

False. A Spartan Beast is harder than a marathon, or so the rumor goes.

True. In my opinion, the beast didn’t hold a candle to the mental and physical anguish of a marathon. But I did pace myself, per the advice I’d received, and wasn’t nearly as tired at the end as I’d expected. Not to mention, the Spartan challenges the body and mind in different ways than simply running.

That’s me, rolling over the rocks

False. Competitors rolled and crawled through mud down a hill under barbed wire near the end of the race for fifty yards.

True. It felt like 100 yards and it was a bed of rocks by the time I got there. I am not sure this obstacle is well suited for thin people, as I had many bruises and scars to show for all that rolling (not to mention I was so dizzy I could barely stand up!)

False. A (near) 50-year old lady can’t master a Spartan Beast.

True. I finished first in my age group, beating out 60+ women over 40. And in addition to the thank yous, I put in a lot of work myself. I did a lot of silly runs around town, dropping down to do burpees every ½ mile to a mile (I’m sure people thought I was crazy). Those burpee runs paid dividends on race day, big time. I hung from bars in parks amidst kids and their families (more stares!), but I nailed the 12-monkey bar obstacle fairly effortlessly with scream of glee at the end.  I ran alongside a 20-year old lacrosse player near the bottom one of the steep hikes when everyone else was walking. I kicked this challenge in the butt – when at the onset, I would have been happy just to finish (without injury).

True. I finished the race with a smile on my face. It was fun to be a kid again, even if it was just for the day. I highly recommend this race series to anyone who would like to experience the same.

Jumping over fire near the end.

Melinda Hinson