Spartan Stadium Sprint at Allianz Park, London – 16th May 2015

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Trek and Run were supported during this event by;

Salba Chia 

and

Tom Tom

Photos by Christine Sherman, Kaci Sherman and Epic Action Photography

Part 1 by Dave Sherman

In 2013 and 2014 I‘d tackled Spartan Race’s Sprint, Super and Beast events at Pippingford Park and had loved the experience every time and the events had made use of the area’s naturally tough terrain and each one had pushed me to my limit. For 2015 Spartan Race were offering a new challenge in the form of Spartan’s first ever UK Stadium event, but besides the event location, Allianz Park in North West London, the challenges we’d be facing had been kept tightly under wraps and even during my interview with Joe De Sena I’d only been able to obtain a one word of warning from him – ‘stairs’. This was going to be interesting…

As we arrived onsite and headed towards the stadium I was pleased to see the type of well organised event village we’ve come to expect at Spartan events. The registration area had rows of volunteers happy to greet you and have a chat while they searched for you on their system and handed you your race number headband, trainer timing chip and wristband after you’d signed your disclaimer form and shown ID to prove who you were. Our junior participant Kaci’s registration was just as quick and again the volunteers had a nice chat with her (Have you done a Spartan before? What obstacles are you looking forward to?) and the whole attitude was really genuine and relaxed – a great start to the event for all of us!

Once through registration we had a look around the village and although a few of the previous year’s sponsors were no longer here, some new faces were offering pre and post-race freebies including bottles of Lucozade, cartons of coconut water and some strange pills embossed with the Spartan logo which we’d initially thought were special OCR tablets, but they turned out to be mini dehydrated towels which expanded out once you’d added water – thankfully I hadn’t tried swallowing one!

I’d decided to be Chia powered for this race so I made up a bottle of Chia Fresca by adding Salba Smart chia seeds to a bottle of water and shared it amongst our team – I know it looks like a bottle of tadpoles but trust me, it’s a great way to get high quality nutrition into your body quickly, it’s refreshing, and besides the strange texture, if you add a bit of lime into the mix then it tastes pretty good!

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As 10:30 approached we headed to the start-line to get warmed up. Now as a runner I LOVE the sight of a running track so seeing the race start on the rugby pitch’s perimeter running track gave me a huge grin! It was also interesting to note the final few obstacles which we could see from the start had been laid out on the running track rather than on the grass itself, but more on those later…

Our wave was due to leave at 10:30 but instead runners were being let out in smaller batches (I assume to avoid congestion on the course) and in front of us we could hear the race announcer working his way through the Spartan warm-up speech followed by ‘WHO AM I? I AM A SPARTAN!!’ however someone had decided his microphone should be rigged up to the stadium speakers so his words were lost out in the stands and it was very hard to hear what he was saying! Eventually it was our turn to confirm our Spartan credentials, and then we were off!

The run sections of the course were mostly flat and across fields and they tended to break up the first few obstacles quite well which included barbed wire (which were high enough to crawl through, but it’s much more fun to roll!)…

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…wooden hurdles, a cargo net and of course a couple of Race Director Richard Pringle’s favourite obstacles – the carries! Thankfully these were only a tyre and a bucket filled with water at this point, starting us off gently, but it was interesting to note there wasn’t many hills or even much mud during the carry or run sections – even the barbed wire crawl had involved dry dirt which was worlds away from the mud-baths we’d experienced at Pippingford Park the previous year!

Once through this initial warm-up section the big obstacles started coming thick and fast. First was the Monkey Bars – usually my arch-nemesis during obstacle races, but because there hadn’t been any mud and water the bars were nice and dry so for the first time in my life, I actually made it across!! This was closely followed by an A-frame – up and over nice and easy but I still hadn’t the guts to flip over at the top the way Richard had shown me the previous year at the Spartan Urban training event in London’s Covent Garden – then after the famous Atlas stone carry (thankfully without burpees this time) it was time for the Herculean Hoist…

This was bigger than last year with the aim to use a rope pulley to lift a concrete block 25ft in the air, but again the Urban event had taught the correct technique to beat this obstacle (I really do recommend going along to one if there’s ever one taking place near you!) so I passed this one with ease even receiving the compliment ‘Great technique!’ as I completed it. When I turned round I discovered Richard Pringle himself had delivered the compliment so I responded with ‘I should hope so – you taught it to me!’

Straight after was the infamous Spartan rope climb and unfortunately I let myself down here as in the past I’m managed the rope climb by using a certain technique and I even managed to get halfway up the rope, but my arms were feeling seriously tired from the previous 3 obstacles so instead of reaching the top I wimped out and opted for the penalty burpees instead. I could moan here about how the obstacles should’ve been further apart, but being honest I think spreading them further would’ve taken away the challenge, so I actually think having them so close was a great idea and offered a sudden element of toughness in what had been an otherwise easy course so far!

After a final run involving a few hills and thick grass we headed back towards Allianz Park and actually entered the stadium under one of the stands. I remembered from a previous visit how this stand contained an 80m length of running track which had been used as a warm-up track during the 2012 Olympics, so of course I had to sprint along it! This wasn’t such a great idea considering we still had all of the stadium obstacles to tackle which I’d seen earlier, but as we erupted out of the stand and into the sunshine thankfully there was a bit of a queue at the next obstacle, an 8ft wall, offering me a chance to get my breath back.

Once we were up and over the wall it was sandbag time, however this wasn’t going to be your typical sandbag carry… as we grabbed our bags, a hessian sack filled with sand for the lads and a smaller fabric sandbag for the ladies, we headed up into the stadium stands and then it was up the stairs, down the stairs, through an aisle of seating, then repeat another 3 or 4 times – definitively tougher than your standard OCR carry and a really innovative use of the stadium to add that additional level of challenge! Admittedly this bit was quite congested as people were choosing to walk up the stairs rather than run, but before long we were through this part, out of the stands and onto the pitch-side running track ready for the final few challenges.

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As well as my previously mentioned love of running tracks, this part was definitely my favourite section of the course – not because the finish line was in site (although of course that’s always a bonus!) but because the obstacles had been laid out on the track one after another, so it was challenge after challenge after challenge right up to the finish line – the OCR equivalent of a sprint finish!

First up was the javelin throw and for the first time ever I sunk it straight into the middle! Then it was the traverse wall, except this one literally had a twist… by using 3 sections of wall in a loose Z shape, an additional challenge was presented where you also had to tackle a 90 degree and 180 degree angle! Then it was through a couple of over and under walls, over one final A-frame (this one just had horizontal metal bars on one side and a cargo net on the other), then we were free for our final sprint through the finish line. Spartan Stadium Race @ Allianz Park, DONE!

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As we passed through the finish we were handed various goodies including our Spartan finishers t-shirts (various sizes available, but this year they’re fitted so unless you like a tight fit, I’d recommend a size larger than your usual) and of course the all-important medal, but this time with the addition of a nice big Trifecta wedge. Attaching the wedge to the medal in this way is an interesting idea as I spoke to some of my fellow Spartans after the event and quite a few said they hadn’t planned to complete the Trifecta this year, but having that wedge has made them really want the other 2 wedge sections, so come September I reckon the London Beast event could be a lot busier than in previous years!

In conclusion I have to say that the course wasn’t as challenging as I’d expected and given my previous Spartan experiences I was surprised not to finish the event head-to-toe covered in mud and feeling physically drained, however on the flip side this meant we’d been able to push ourselves and finish in a great time of 48m50s. This was still over 20 minutes behind race winner Conor Hancock’s 27m36s, but still we were almost 20 minutes faster than our 2014 time so I‘d say this course is ideal for anyone new to Spartan events as it offers a good chance to get a taster of the type of obstacles you’re likely to experience on the tougher courses, or if you’re a Spartan veteran it’s a great chance to really go for it, smash your previous times and get your first Trifecta wedge ready for the Super and Beast later in the year. We’ll be back and I can’t wait to see what new surprises Richard and the team have in store for us when we head to the new London South venue @ Ashburnham Place. Aroo Aroo!!

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Part 2 by Stuart Obbard

Today, 16th May 2015, saw Spartan Race’s bring their first Stadium Race to the UK. I was very excited by this as I’ve seen videos of these stadium races in iconic stadiums in the USA and wished I could participate in one out there. Now this was my chance.

The location was at Allianz Park, home of the Saracens Rugby team, this may not be the iconic stadium people may have hoped for but I was excited as I know Saracens are a big club and the stadium is very new. I did as much research as I could to prepare for this race and try to figure out what to expect. As anyone who has raced a Spartan race knows, they try and not give anything away before the day as they like all their competitors to expect the unexpected. However one important thing the website did lack was information about parking, there was no mention anywhere.

I took the gamble of driving up to the stadium as I did expect there was going to be plenty of space and to get parked took no time at all, it was well organized and best of all it was free. Myself and the rest of the team walked to the race village, on the way we saw some of the course and also the course for the kids race which ran alongside the main race, which I thought was very cool.

Then we went to check in, which was quick and in no time at all our chip timers were in place and our headbands were on. We had a look around the impressive race village. There was plenty of toilet facilities, plenty of retailers and plenty of places to warm up or to stand and view the course. I did check one bag into the bag drop, this cost £2 which wasn’t a problem but there was no Spartan bag this time and the process was time consuming. Maybe this is an area to look at as the queues after to collect the bag took an incredible amount of time.

Now we were lined up in the pen ready to get going. I did debate what to wear on my feet before as there was going to be some cross country running and some concrete running. I opted for an old pair of road shoes as it had been pretty dry recently. We were off and running at the front of our wave and we headed straight out of the stadium and into the park area, running around the practice fields. We had a couple of horizontal wooden posts to get over to start with, onto a cargo net crawl, then a 5 foot wall all between plenty of running. We then got to our first carry of the day, a water carry which led us up stairs and over a building and down the stairs on the other side, this was good to work the legs. We then went straight to a tyre carry and then a short run to a barbed wire crawl, the wires were high which helped keep our speed up. The crawl with split up with a leaning wall climb, I was feeling pretty awesome and was happy with the speed I was going around in.

Then came the Monkey bars, those that have read my reviews will understand that these are my nemesis. Well today we got there as a team, I allowed Dave and Leanne to go first so I could egg them on and when they were both smashing this obstacle I jumped up and started going across. I had a wobble about half way but I focused and remembered that I needed to keep the momentum going in my legs as well and before I knew it I was over and had completed it. Boom! I was buzzing as the other two had also competed this.

We were off running and got to a big A-frame, up and over with ease. Then onto a concrete slab carry and a weighted pull. These were done in no time and then came the rope climb, another obstacle I find to be a struggle. I gave it several attempts but I couldn’t get the technique so was forced to do burpees. Once these were completed we were off running again for a decent amount of time cross country through a wooded area and came out by the car park. We then went alongside the kids’ course and then onto some short hills which we had to run up and down. Once again I decided hill sprints was the best option to get through these. We then came back to the stadium and ran under that seating area along an indoor running track.

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Then into the main arena where we were met by the crowds and also a 10 foot wall. This was the first time we came across a queue on the course, I helped a couple of people over before I jumped up, grabbed the top and then swung my leg over, jumped down and realised I had my first injury, a graze to my right hand. An obstacle race isn’t complete without having a cut.

Then it was time for the start of the bleacher climbs, we had a sand bag each to carry up to the top of the stand and then down and across then up and down before a 3rd time of doing this.

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I wanted to run but as there was queues and no room to pass this was difficult. Once we’d dropped the sandbag off, we then had a couple more bleacher runs before running around the outside of the pitch on the running track to the spear throw. YES!! I hit the target so no burpees. After this we ran the wooden traversing wall, nice and technical which I liked, onto an over and under wall before a climb through wall and one final A-frame before a run to the finish. We were given our medal and our 3rd of a medal ready for the Trifecta when we complete The Super and The Beast. The medal is amazing and one that will sit amongst my favourites. We then were given our t-shirt, nice to see that this was designed for the Sprint distance. Around the race village we were given coconut protein drinks, Lucozade and also protein ice cream. Overall I was a little shocked at how quick this race went and how fast it was. I am pleased with my race and our teams efforts as they said 40 minutes would be a quick time and I think we went round in 44 minutes, so very pleased by this. Once again I’ve been impressed by the Spartan team and their race organisation and their race course set up is one of the best. I look forward to racing more of their events and would recommend that you try one of their races when you can.

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Part 3 by Leanne Aston

Three firsts for me today; the third I will cover later. The first two then…

This was my first time running with the Trek and Run boys. Knowing they have taken part in a number of obstacle runs, I was ever so slightly nervous about being able to keep up with them and not holding the team back. Their last sprint had taken them 68 mins and Dave stated this time he wanted sub 60. I am in the gym most days before work but have only completed 2 runs in the last year, the second only last weekend. Whether my gym circuits and numerous daily burpees would help me out today was yet to be seen.

The second first is taking part in the much hyped Spartan series race. I’m not new to obstacle runs; however I have never had the pleasure of calling “Arooooo” at the start of a run until 10:30 on this sunny Saturday morning.

The venue was easy to find, the Spartan helmets easy to spot lining the route to the car park. Parking was free which gets big thumbs up from me. Another bonus, the car park was literally a few metres from the main tented area.

Filling in and signing my waiver without reading, it was only after I read it I saw the list of things I was signing to say I had no comeback on. Serious injury and/or even death!!!! What on earth did they have planned for us on this course? Registration was nice and easy and only took a few minutes. I was then given my headband – number 2788 – which went on straight away.

Having a walk around the tented village there were a few good opportunities for team photographs and members of staff were all helpful and willing. It assisted in capturing that essential pre-race picture. Plenty of toilets available and, unlike at previous races I have attended, I didn’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes to use them.

Finally the time came for our 10:30 wave to gather at the start line. Whilst waiting we got speaking to a bloke who had just finished the run and was going round for a second time. He explained that he was a season pass holder and planned to go around twice at all races but to his disappointment he would be unable to do that at the Beast as Spartan don’t allow this. Maybe something for them to consider in the future. The wave appeared to be broken down into stages with smaller groups being allowed to start. A good idea as it reduces congestion at the obstacles.

Edging our way to the start line it was our turn to shout with passion “I am a Spartan”. The race announcer was doing his best to get the adrenaline pumping through our bodies and give safety announcements, but unfortunately it was very difficult to hear him and I missed most of what he was shouting.

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Battling ourselves to the front of our wave to reduce the wait at the obstacles, our first obstacle is simple – a beam on a tripod to get over; I think this could have been improved by maybe adding a few more beams to leap over. Next is a cargo net crawl, all was going well until the last foot when I managed to get my bra attached to the net. Tip for the girls here; pig tails in the hair work well as in the past when I have had a ponytail this has also got caught continuously. An easily achievable wall scramble completed this section.

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Chance to make up time here with a run around a training field before a water butt carry. These were not heavy but awkward to carry while trying to keep the speed up. My only criticism of this was there was broken glass on the stairs that we were going down. Now, I know I signed a disclaimer; however I believe that this was a danger that could have been avoided. An awkward tyre carry then followed. Round the corner into razor wire. Those with the larger bum were fine as it was set up quite high. Before the next set of razor wire we had a leaning wooden wall to conquer.

Now it’s time to talk about my 3rd first. Monkey Bars. Usually these fill me with dread as my upper body strength always lets me down. The bars didn’t go on for long, maybe only 5 metres at the most, however usually I wouldn’t even give them a go. The idea of 30 burpees didn’t faze me but with words of encouragement from Stuart being shouted at me I thought let’s give it a go. I only went and done it! As did the boys, so after high fives it was time to crack on.

A big frame and concrete carry were to follow and then a weighted pulley lift. All achieved easily, however I could see out of the corner of my eye the challenge I had been dreading. Apparently it’s not a Spartan event without a rope climb. Knowing my abilities I cracked on straight away with my 30 burpees hoping I could finish them by the time the boys were ready to run.

A nice stretch of run without coming across any obstacles, after a nice run it was time for some hill sprints before entering the indoor strip which would have been a perfect location for an obstacle. After a slight wait at the 10foot wall I was up and over with a little assistance from Stuart.

Sandbag carry time up and down the stairs. The question was, do I go for the male’s bag and get covered in sand or opt for the much littler, clean female version. Male’s version of course. Up and over the shoulder it goes and I’m off up the stairs with the lovely Stuart deciding to run in front of me showering me in the sand from his bag….. Any excuse for lightning the load, hey Stuart?

Sandy bag dumped sand in my hair and down the bra it was my chance to run up and down the stairs. Strangely something I was looking forward to doing, however due to people in front of us walking we weren’t able to. Even when asked to move out of the way they didn’t.

Bottom of the stairs, off we sprinted getting in in front of those who had held us up so we were in front of them at the next obstacle, the spear throw. Epic fail by me – down I go for the burpees. With Stuart and Dave telling me to hurry up and cheat. They had successfully managed the challenge. Or so they say!!!!

Up and over some walls and the final obstacle is ahead up and over we go and Dave is waiting for me and Stuart. Finish as a team, he says, with me and my boys either side. Nice little sprint finish and my first Spartan is over.

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My medal is hung around my neck and it feels like a heavy quality medal. I do like a bit of running bling. Bonus being I get two. I have a little wedge for the Trifecta. This of course means straight away I want and need the other two pieces so looks like my Spartan adventure has only just begun. I opted for a small t-shirt which at most events is usually still too big as they tend to be men’s fit. This one is a snug fit but shows off the “guns”. Full advantage was taken of the free Lucozade, coconut water and protein ice cream, whey hey, which was tasty.

I couldn’t wait to find out my time so logged on that evening only to find it hadn’t recorded. Luckily for me we started and finished as a team, and based on the boys’ times we finished in the top quarter. Happy days! We had managed to smash the sub 60.

To sum up this event – well organised, fun, achievable for anyone who is willing to put the effort in. I will definitely be doing another one.

Thanks for reading my first review!

To find out about more about Spartan Race UK or to sign up to one of their 2015 events, visit: http://spartanraceuk.uk/

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