Richard Pringle, Operations Director of Spartan Race, talks about the 2014 Series

by Dave Sherman Photos: Epic Action Imagery

The Trek and Run team did their first Spartan Obstacle Event last year and loved it. This year we’re back for more, starting on Saturday 30th August at their South London Spartan Sprint event and culminating at the mighty challenge of the Spartan Beast at the same venue on 11th October.

In between those dates our ladies team will be taking on the event at Cambridge, whilst our streamlined team will also enjoy the Spartan Super on Sunday 31st August.

To find out the sort of thing you’re in for, if you’re thinking of taking part alongside us, check this film out we made last year…

…and to learn more, have a read of this chat we had with Richard Pringle, Operations Director of the Spartan Race series.

richard pringle

Good afternoon Richard and thank-you for taking the time to talk to us – I imagine you must be quite busy with less than a week until the first Spartan Race UK event takes place!

Yeah, pretty busy now, it’s all systems go.  We’re onsite doing the preparation at Pippingford at the moment so we’re in the early stages of the build and creating the obstacles at the moment so all go!

Great stuff – we can’t wait to join you on day 1!  So I’d like to start off by speaking about you.  I was amazed to learn how despite being diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis (a degenerative spinal condition) in 2006 you’ve refused to let your condition stop you enjoying the activities you clearly love, with an impressive Half Marathon time earlier this year of 89m28s and qualification for the World Obstacle Course Racing Championships this October!  Can you offer advice to anyone with similar medical conditions who might feel some of their goals are now out of reach?

What I would say is that a lot of people have got medical conditions and things they deal with that often other people don’t know about.  What I think is the most important thing, and I’d say this to anyone, is that we are all capable of doing something, and we are all capable of achieving great things in our lives.  My achievement is different from somebody else’s – for me my goal for the Half Marathon for instance was to get under 1 hour 30 minutes and I did that.  To some other people that may not seem so fast, but for me that was a massive achievement and a big goal of mine because of my condition.  We’ve all got different capabilities and everyone has different barriers, but I think what’s important to know and to recognise is that we are all capable of achieving things in our lives – that may be 1 hour 10 minutes for some people or getting under 2 hours for a half marathon is a goal, but that’s still a perfectly realistic and fantastic goal if you were to achieve that.  So my advice is to never give up, and realise we are all capable of achieving good things.

I was also impressed to see you completed the 2013 Spartan Beast in an exceptional time of 2 hours 18 minutes finishing 16th out of 1866 competitors (team Trek and Run finished the same event in 3 hours 24 minutes – we obviously enjoyed splashing in the muddy pools a bit too much!)

So last year was a tough event and you’d obviously remember the bad weather and the horrendous standing on the start line in the freezing cold, and that one was a massive challenge for me as well.  I was actually doing that in aid of a charity which is the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society so I had quite a motivation to get round and do well. That was a big challenge for me last year and it was a fantastic thing to get round in a reasonable time, even though as I’m sure you remember it was pretty tough in stages with the cold and the wet, and so it was a real good memory of mine.  I’ve got a photo of me finishing and crossing the line at the Spartan Beast last year and that’s on my wall now – a good memory for me that one, and I really trained hard for that one so I was really pleased to get a top 20 finish.

richard pringle fire

Do you plan to take part in the Beast again this year or are you looking to take your challenges to another level – maybe the Spartan Ultra Beast (26.2 mile Marathon distance obstacle course)?

Now I’ve got my eye on Spartan Ultra, and I’ve got my eye on actually doing a Death Race!  So yeah, it’s going to be in writing now, but I’ve heard rumours there’s going to be a Death Race again next year now, and I haven’t told me wife yet but I’ve actually got my eye on possibly going for that.  Spartan Beast this year may be difficult given my new role as the Operations Director.  I know I’m not going to be able to compete in the Elite wave as I’m kinda working the races now, but I’ll try and get round in one of the later waves and have a go round.  I actually still wanna get my Trifecta this year, but it just means I’ll have to run some of the later waves in the day I think, rather than try to compete at the front with the elite guys.

You’ve also built up a great company with RP Combat Conditioning (Richard’s personal training company based in Sussex) – will you be sad to leave that company behind you as you take on your new role as Spartan UK’s Operations Director?

What’s important to know is that RP Combat Conditioning is still going on, and I’ve got a fantastic team behind me that look after that.  All the classes are still going on as normal and they’re absolutely packed and we’re still taking big teams to obstacle course races as normal, and I’m just lucky to have a really good team that I set up about a year ago, and they’re taking the business forward for me at the moment so I’m in a good position.  I haven’t got to worry too much about that as it’s being well looked after by the manager Adam [Shaw] and the team around him.

So on to your involvement with Spartan UK.  I understand one of your new duties involves course design for the Spartan UK races… do you have any surprises up your sleeve for 2014?

There’s a few surprises yeah definitely.  I think my experiences as a racer will hopefully come out in the Spartan season this year.  I’ve got a good feel for the flow if the race, and there’s a few curve balls gonna be in there.  I’ll give a ouple of hints… get ready to carry some stuff!  There’s gonna be some serious carries in this one and it’s gonna separate the men from the boys a bit, but it’s gonna be good.  The course is looking really good – we’re really excited today as we’ve started mapping out some of the course and it’s gonna be an exciting race definitely.

And what about old favourites such as the fire jump and 20ft vertical rope climb?

Yep – all of the famous, or should I say infamous, ones are gonna be there, and there’s going to be a real festival feel to the event this year.  Thinking of Pippingford at the moment all the big feature obstacles like the Herculean Hoist, rope climb, they’re all gonna be quite visible for spectators as well, so there’s gonna be a real atmosphere around those this year.  People are gonna be able to bring their families around and watch the event and watch all of the big obstacles and watch their loved ones tackle them, and it’s gonna be a real social feel to this season hopefully and that’s something I’m looking to instil in the Spartan Races this year.

hurdler

On a similar note, with yourself and Dan Tuffnell taking over the reins this year at Spartan UK, what major changes should people who have taken part in past Spartan UK events expect this year?

I think this year it’s important that we’re not trying to re-invent the wheel, so what we’re trying to do is create a good, solid, enjoyable race and somewhere that you can bring your whole family.  That’s something that’s really important to me and to Dan – that we really feel we want Spartan to be a big family affair.  The kids’ races are literally mini Spartan Races and what I mean by that is for the kids we’ve got proper obstacles, just miniature scale to what we’ve got, and they use the same kind of set-up.  They’ve got a mini herculean hoist, mini rope climb, mini walls, they’ve got basically all the stuff that we’ve got in the adult race, just on a smaller scale.  And we’re gonna have like I’ve said a kind of festival feel to the whole atmosphere, so you’re not gonna have to make a choice about bringing family.  What I found was when I was racing before is, I’ve got a young boy and my wife at home and some of the races weren’t suitable for me to take them with me, so I kind of had to make that choice of do I leave my wife and kid at home and go and race, or do I miss the race and stay with them at the weekend, and what I said to Dan when I came on board was I want people to not have to make that decision.  What I want is a family feel so I feel comfortable bringing my family along to a Spartan Race, and that’s what we’ve really looked to do this season with our races.

We’ve had some great feedback from Steve, one of our journalists who recently attended your Spartan training camps in Cambridge.  Will these be a regular fixture of the Spartan UK calendar?

Absolutely.  I’ve got 2 roles with Spartan – one of them is Operations Director, the kind of course design race director role, and the other is Head Coach of Spartan in the UK and one of the things I’m looking to do is a UK tour next year of Spartan training camps.  To start them earlier on in the year and basically have more training camps in more areas of the UK as well, to really give people a feel of what we do as Spartan and different ways of training.

Images from the 2012 UK Spartan Races by Epic Action Imagery

And speaking of training, can you offer any specific training advice to people choosing just to tackle the 13.1 mile Beast event (compared to the 3 mile Sprint and 6 mile Super)?

To train specifically for Spartan Beast you need to try to replicate the environment you’re going to be in when you’re racing.  What I mean by that is, when you’re racing the Spartan Beast is literally a different animal.  You’re going to be out in the elements for longer so your training needs to represent that.  Things I recommend for my guys when they’ve been training for the longer distance Spartan Beast is to expose your body to water in the cold environments.  We live by the sea here so we’d recommend for the guys to go down, get into the sea, get wet, get a little bit cold and then start the training session after that.  I hear an awful lot on other forums about water acclimatisation and getting used to the water, but I don’t ever think it’s, from my experience as a racer and from feedback, where you get in water it’s gonna be cold and have a certain physiological effect on the body.  What you’re doing by that kind of training is preparing yourself mentally for the race, and you’re gonna know what it feels like to be cold and out in the elements for a long time and that’s what you’re looking at doing with the Spartan Beast.  Spartan Beast training is different from a Sprint and to a certain extent a Super, and it’s because it’s tough, you’ve got the distance, but your body is gonna be exposed to the elements for a lot longer.  If you replicate that in your training – get out, find some water, get wet, get muddy, carry on training for an hour and a half, 2 hours, 2 and a half hours and build up that time, you’ll find when you actually go run the race, mentally you’re gonna feel prepared for it and I think that’s really important so there’s no surprises and no shocks.  One other thing I just want to say in preparation for Spartan Beast is that again you’re out on the course for longer so that brings in a different angle and that’s a nutrition strategy.  So you need to look at what nutrition you’re gonna need out on the course, are you gonna take a hydration bladder, are you gonna take gels for glucose or carbohydrate or any snacks, coz you’re gonna run out of energy and you need to replenish that, and that’s something you can practice when you’re out training too.

Trek and Run will be entering an all-female team in the Cambridge Spartan Sprint event on September 7th.  With 45% of Spartan Race’s entrants made up of females, do you have any specific training advice for ladies?

I think one thing for the ladies if they’re gonna enter in a female team is to train together and really build up that team bond.  One of the things that is fantastic about Spartan Race is that women can compete and they can be as effective at getting round the obstacles as the men, but one of the best things about Spartan Race as well is the real social feel to the whole event, so if they’re going to be entering a women’s team build up that team spirit and get out training together is the first tip, and the second one would be to practice some upper body strength exercises so they can do the rope climb and the monkey bars.  Any kind of upper body strength exercises like a farmers walk where you’re walking carrying heavy weights, hanging off of pull-up bars and working your grip strength, and even practicing on rope climbs and practicing the techniques – all things like that are gonna help ladies specifically get round the course effectively.  As an instructor myself I enter big teams of 30 ladies in a race and the feedback I get is basically that they worry about the upper body strength element of a race but that is something that can be practiced when you’re out training.

fire racer

Finally, do you have any advice for anyone looking to make the plunge into obstacle racing and make Spartan Race their first obstacle race experience?

Yeah my advice is do it!  It’s not an unobtainable goal.  Spartan Race, and especially a Spartan Sprint, is something that anyone can do and you’ve only gotta look at the range of ages, sizes, male or female crossing the line to know that it’s something anyone can do.  You don’t have to be an elite racer and it doesn’t matter if you take 2 or 3 hours – you can even walk round the course.  To anyone who asks ‘do you think I can do it’ I’d say yes straight away.  You just need to show a little bit of motivation, you do need to train for it, and when you cross the finish line it’s the best feeling ever.

Thank you so much for your time Richard and thank-you for all your time and the great advice you’ve offered, and I wish you every success in your new role with Spartan Race UK!

To thank Richard for his time Trek and Run have made a donation to the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society – to find out more about the charity visit http://www.nass.co.uk 

 

Many thanks to Epic Action Imagery for the event photographs.

To discover more about the Spartan Race Series, go to http://www.uk.spartanrace.com/events for more details.

Saturday 30 August: South London Spartan Sprint (5+kms, 15 obstacles), at Pippingford Park, Nutley, East Sussex

Sunday 31 August: South London Spartan Super (13+kms, 21 obstacles), also at Pippingford, East Sussex

Sunday 7 September: Cambridge Spartan Sprint (5+kms, 15 obstacles), at Milton Country Park Milton, Cambs

Sunday 21 September: Edinburgh Spartan Sprint (5+kms, 15 obstacles) at Winton House, Pencaitland, East Lothian

Sunday 28 September: Yorkshire Spartan Sprint (5+kms, 15 obstacles) at Ripon, Ellington Banks, Kirby Road, Yorkshire

Saturday 11 October: South London Spartan Beast (20+kms, 26 obstacles), also at Pippingford, East Sussex

slip ramp 2012

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