Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Challenge Unlike Any Other

Roaring cheers from the crowd fall on deaf ears as racers battle their way to the finish line. Mud is caked all over their bodies, weighing down on exhausted muscles. The goal is in sight, and nothing else matters more than completing one of the toughest challenges they have ever faced. At the end, they will find triumph, glory and pride. This is the Reebok Spartan Race.

But don't take my word for it (seriously, don't, cause I've never done it), why not check it out for yourself.

 But before sign up for the race based off this inspiring video, let me give you some background on what you're going to face.

The brainchild of seven "insane" ultra athletes and a Royal Marine, the Spartan Race is the world's leading obstacle race series, with events held all over the world. Each event is different, based on skill levels and styles of racing; so no matter what kind of athletic ability you have or the experience you're looking for, Spartan Race has something for everyone.

If you're relatively active, maybe run consistently a few times a week, and compete in standard 5k runs (like me), then the Spartan Sprint is probably your best bet. A three-mile run with 15+ obstacles, and the organizers of the event guarantee that 99.9% of all people who attempt it will finish (and that's backed up in writing on their website). But just because it's a shorter race doesn't mean it is a walk in the park. It is comprised of mud pits, trail racing, and extreme physical challenges, designed to push people to their limits and out of their comfort zones (and create some uncomfortable and humorous moments). Since this is the most "accessible" race, and considered to be entry level, I think this is the one I would compete in.

For those who are up for more of a challenge, the intermediate level Super Spartan is the next step up from the Sprint. This is an 8+ mile battlefield with 20+ obstacles that really test mental resolve, endurance, and physical strength. There are many trials to test a warrior's abilities, and those who do complete it will be able to enjoy live music and a catered meal (because we all know that post-race beer is the only reason we do this to our bodies). The Super Spartan might be too much for me, unless I could run it with a team, which is an option, but that may not be considered to be the Spartan way (so I'll probably just stick with the Sprint.)

The next level up is the Spartan Beast. If the name doesn't scare you, the description certainly will. Said to be a race from hell, this 12+ mile course includes 25+ obstacles that eclipse all other mud runs. This race is meant to shove participants way out of their comfort zones, challenging those elite athletes who think they can handle anything. This beast will begin with many contestants, but few may make it to the end. The Spartan Beast is the epitome of intensity...until, of course, you experience The Death Race.

The highest levels of extreme are reached during this +-48 hour adventure race that has no set mileage. Basically, those brave souls who decide to take this on will be released into the wild unknown, and many will not make it to the end. As the website states, "our physical challenges will make giving birth look like a walk in the park." As someone who has never given birth, I'll have to take their word for it (but I'm guessing some mothers might disagree). On a serious note, though, this is an intense race with unexpected obstacles and demanding terrain. If you are in the best physical shape of your life ( or you have lived a full life to date, as the website states), then, by all means, consider taking part in this race. Anyone else, I suggest the Spartan Beast as an ambitious alternative.

The Spartan Race has a goal to get people moving, get them excited about physical activity and change. The events are there to challenge modern standards of fitness, requiring participants to get in touch with the primal instincts of their ancestors who battled the natural elements on their own everyday (without the help of technology or fancy tools). The organizers of this race want people to get out from the behind the comfort of their computers or televisions, and get back to nature, get dirty, and have some fun. And at the end of it all, even if you don't come in first, there will still be that sense of accomplishment...

...knowing that you gave everything you had to complete that race, from the very beginning, and came out victorious at the end...

So how do you register for a Spartan race? Well, there are hundreds of competitions all over the U.S., as well as in Canada, the U.K., Australia, Mexico and even Eastern European countries, such as the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Poland. The Reebok Spartan Race is also ramping up its selection of ballpark sprint races, after incredible success with events at Fenway and Citi Field NY. They have created special sprints at Miller Park in Milwaukee on Sept. 7 (which I hope to attend), Citizens Bank Park in Philly on Sept. 28, and Fenway Park again on Nov. 16. Interested parties can visit the Spartan Race website and check out event locations and dates. The 2013 season has already kicked off with numerous events around the globe, but there are plenty more opportunities to get into the action.

For those who are really serious about competing in a Spartan event (and who live in the continental U.S.) I have a little proposition for you. I have an entry code for free registration for any race in the U.S., and I would be willing to share it with the person who can provide me with the best ending to this sentence: "I want to run a Spartan race, because..." Keep responses to less than 50 words, please, and include your first name and first initial of your last name.

Please submit your answers in the comment section below before May 24, and I will select the top three responses. Those will then be posted on my blog on Memorial Day, and readers can vote for their favorite until May 31.

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