Sunday, 24 April 2016

Czech Republic – Spartans! Assemble!

April 23

Hello everyone!

This weekend I took part in a running race. Nothing unusual there, I know. This one, however, was a little bit different.

A recent phenomenon amongst generation Y, those that need instant gratification and need constant stimulation, has been the notion that mere running is insufficient as an activity. Obstacles need to be introduced. Risk needs to be a factor.


We had entered a race called the ‘Spartan Sprint’: a 5km jaunt around a park in central Prague interspersed with a range of obstacles.

An example of one of the many walls which needed to be vaulted

It was like an episode of Gladiators, with the main difference being that contestants on the TV show had at least an iota of upper body strength. Unlike me…

A man who seems to have back muscles (unlike me) attempting the traverse wall

The event was surprisingly popular, with over 15,000 numbers distributed to ‘runners’ of varying muscle mass. Obviously it is difficult for all of those people to do obstacles at the same time; start times are thus staggered to allow people to continue moving. We started at 11:30am on a fresh Saturday morning. At least it wasn’t snowing, as it was earlier in the week.

Clive Owen would be running scared of us wannabe Spartans

It started easily enough, with a gentle running route occasionally being blocked off by wooden walls to vault over.

Most needed a run-up and then to run up the wall a bit before popping over

Soon enough, the first of the 11 major challenges was upon us. The major challenges have the added burden of the competitor needing to complete 30 burpees if they fail one. Luckily, the first couple of obstacles involved balance so were negotiated with relative ease.

Major challenge 1: don't fall when getting across!

As you can see from the pole towards the end, not all of them are straight!

Major challenge 2: ascending and descending a large cargo net

This turned out to be the high point of my race. It all started going wrong – and the burpees started totting up at a frightening rate – when attempting the notorious spear throw. I actually hit the head of the target, which I thought should have earned me a free pass. Not according to Spartan rules, however.

The spear has to stick in the body for you to avoid the burpees

Another couple of high walls led to the wall traverse – horizontal rock climbing. When thousands of people have already attempted this, the knobs are a bit slippery from sweat. That’s my excuse for lasting approximately 3 seconds and I’m sticking to it.

The traverse wall included two corners - I didn't get near them

Spartan fitness isn’t all about brawn and big muscles, apparently. Whilst jogging around at the start – before all of the burpees – we were invited to look at a board with a variety of codes written upon it. Halfway round the obstacle course, we ran into a blockade of large men who demanded the code in order for us to proceed on a burpee-free journey. I mumbled mine so that he didn’t hear me well enough to realise I’d gotten my code wrong.

The lactic acid builds up very quickly if you have to do too many burpees

More success followed with belaying a heavy sack and rolling along a muddy path. Staying low on the mud was essential due to the barbed wire hovering millimetres above our heads.

Rolling in the Stromovka mud

The headbands are used for photo purposes - a number on the shirt wouldn't survive the mud!

Rising from under the wire traps about a kilo heavier due to the mud, we then had to dunk ourselves underwater in order to get to the next challenge: rope-climbing. With a pool of water below, naturally. Again, I could argue that the rope was too muddy and slippery to possibly climb up. Having struggled to climb ropes all my life, that would be a futile excuse. Those heavier, wetter burpees were tough.

An example of our penultimate challenge: the rope climb

One final challenge remained. Think ‘hang tough’ from Gladiators. I managed to do the first section, climbing along a pole, but the rings defeated me. 30 more burpees, then one final jump over a fire to reach the finish line.

It wouldn't take a great leap of imagination to imagine Saracen or Rhino wrapping their legs around this man to drag him down

Our leap over the fire to the finish line

Medal earnt. Arm muscles sore. Do I feel like a Spartan? Not in the slightest but I have a medal to prove that I am!

Love you all