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What do you get when you put 3000 Spartans into a stadium?

by Paul Hayward
Thursday 21st May 2015
Tags  Spartan Race UK   |   Allianz Park London Sprint   |   Stadium sprint   |   Paul Hayward   |   OCR

Race report: Obstacle racing columnist Paul Hayward reports from Spartan Race UK's stadium sprint at Allianz Park London - May 16, 2015

Spartan Race UK's stadium sprint at Allianz Park London - May 16, 2015

The tale of 300 Spartans, lead by Leonidas at 'the hot gates' of Thermopylae, is well known in folklore, but last weekend Spartan Race UK's race director Richard Pringle attempted to make history by introducing a stadium sprint to 3000 competitors, or Spartans, in the United Kingdom.

Regular readers, or those that have seen our interview with Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena (HERE), will know that Spartan Race USA hold stadium sprints regularly. These sprints are known for combining a short distance of 5k with multiple obstacles that usually involves heavy carries up and down stairs in lieu of hills.

OCR fans in the United Kingdom have always looked across the pond with some jealousy, but May 16, 2015 marked the date when we were treated to our first real taste of this form of obstacle course race. Set in central London at the Allianz Stadium, the home of Saracens rugby club, the atmosphere was highly charged as Spartans from all over the country converged on the start line on the running track that surrounds the rugby pitch.

We were going to be treated to huge walls, A frames, a spear throw and an “S shaped” climb. In addition the  finish line was draped in a blue carpet and supported by huge tv screens. If anything this suggested, in addition to the screams of “arooo” ringing out in the stadium, that Richard and the team at Spartan Race United Kingdom clearly meant business.

Spartan Race UK's stadium sprint at Allianz Park London - May 16, 2015

My fellow Spartans and I were sent into the adjoining fields to begin our race where we were quickly introduced to a quick succession of wooden hurdles, cargo net crawls and small walls, before making it to a bucket carry, a traditional energy sapping obstacle, over, across and through a small building.

The decision to have a number of obstacles within a short vicinity of each other ensured that your rhythm was suitably broken and breathing became an issue. After a further succession of walls, short monkey bars and crawls divided by short runs, the route opened up into a training field, where the rope climb, weighted lift and huge A frame all stood.

Spartan Race have, on numerous occasions, stated their desire for their races to be considered an Olympic sport and in order to do this continuity is needed. However the decision to include these large obstacles together in quick succession could be considered brutal as Spartans were forced to use all of their body strength to hoist the weight to the top of the pillar, then use, what little they had left, almost immediately again to climb a rope.

My arms were burning and I struggled, as did many others, with two demanding obstacles in a row. In addition my breathing was broken and I wondered if this was the format for the remaining 2.5k! 

Fortunately on breaking free from the rope climb and into a forest, a trail run opened up and allowed me and my fellow Spartans to regain some composure, before making it back to the Allianz stadium. Before entering the stadium we were required to navigate the verges surrounding the stadium, giving a momentary glimpse of elevation, before running back into the stadium and hitting a huge wall, literally.

Spartan Race UK's stadium sprint at Allianz Park London - May 16, 2015

In a play to current OCR trends, a 9 foot wall blocked our path and required us to use our strength and will to surmount it and begin the journey to the finish line. Fortunately the wall contained some helpful ledges for those that did not fancy their chances unaided.

On dropping to the ground and turning around we were instantly met with a smiling volunteer pointing to a sandbag and asking us to run up, down and through the seating area of the Allianz Stadium. Whilst the steps did not look that intimidating, the sandbags had been filled to the brim and ensured that your calves were burning from the fourth step onwards.

I had been warned by Joe De Sena that I should expect this and it had the effect of destroying my new found momentum. As the steps wore on, my calves screamed more loudly and the obstacele had the desired effect of slowing down the majority of Spartans. 

After scaling the stairs only the spear throw, a wall climb and the A Frame were left. Although the spear throw is criticised by some as a token obstacle, almost half of the field were unable to get the spear to connect with the target and had to do burpees. Fortunately the gods of Sparta were on my side and I actually connected for once!

Spartan Race UK's stadium sprint at Allianz Park London - May 16, 2015

On charging down the blue carpet to the finish, with the sun beating and the music deafening the crowds and competitors alike, I felt elated and I was beaming. Although there had been a distinct lack of water, hills and mud (yes mud) that you would expect to find at an Obstacle Course Race, Spartans had been treated to a short, sharp 5k sprint and the race had been exactly that - a sprint to the finish through some of Spartan Race’s best obstacles, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.

By creating a short, flat course Richard and the team at Spartan Race UK had given more experienced racers the opportunity to push and test themselves at a faster pace over the same obstacles that they would find at other Spartan Races whilst providing the beginners with a good introduction to Obstacle Course Racing in a fantastic location.

Obstacle Course Racing has become so popular that you can race almost every week across the country, from stately homes to farms, and the decision to hold an urban race outside of Spartan Race’s traditional format should be welcomed. When Spartan Race UK return to the countryside next month in Wales for another Sprint (5k) and the Super Sprint (10k) the promise of mud, hills and water will return.

For now Spartan Race UK provided a race that pushes the boundaries of traditional Obstacle Course Racing, and this innovation is most welcome.  

More information on Spartan Race UK and their fully diary of races can be found here: spartanraceuk.uk

Spartan Race UK's stadium sprint at Allianz Park London - May 16, 2015


About The Author

Paul Hayward

I am 33 years old and spend the majority of my life within an office environment. Whilst I played football, I never really took an interest in sport let alone athletics. In 2011 I joined a gym as I was slightly concerned about my weight. However I was, like an awful lot of my colleagues, coasting and I considered spinning three times a week a workout.
This changed when I took up a circuits class and found myself entering Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest London in November 2011. I was assured by my friends that this was a good idea and would be a “challenge”.
I had never entered any form of competitive event before and training for this run changed me. I listened to my personal trainer, who assured me that if I quit drink I could be dangerous, and sorted out my diet, stopped drinking so much and focussed my training. I completed the race in just over an hour and I was instantly bitten by the racing bug, I loved the challenge the event offered. 
Nearly two years on I have completed a half marathon in 1hour 49 minutes, came 6th in the Rat Race Horseplay 5k event and usually come within the top 30% at Obstacle Course races. I am also a part time triathlete and I am lucky to find myself in a running club where we have a great coach and the focus is on members. If I am honest - I came to running through these events and I am not alone.
My aim through Run 247 is to promote, discuss and publicise Obstacle Course racing. It is becoming huge and over the coming months we will cover all of the major races and the new competitors entering the scene. 

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