Trek and Run were supported during this event by;
Words by Vijay Algoo
Photos by Bobbie Noakes and Epic Action Imagery
The Spartan South Super took place on Sunday 19th September at Ashburnham Place, a proper English country house within East Sussex in a town called Battle. Yep, a â€œSpartanâ€ race in a town called â€œBattleâ€, you couldnâ€™t make it up!
As we approached the venue we could see participants carrying logs and as we turned into the main entrance of Ashburnham Place we actually drove under an obstacle bridging the road! As we approached the country house more obstacles came into view alongside the road as well as the events village to our right and this was a great way to get you excited for the race – similar to how youâ€™d see a rollercoaster in the distance on your way to a theme park, or the first time you spot the sea on a trip to the seaside…
Once parked we headed to registration which we passed through very quickly, receiving our timing chip, coloured wristband indicating our wave, and of course that all important Spartan Headband with our race number.
At the time of our wave our group leaped (and flopped) over the 4ft wall leading into the holding pen at the start line, which to enter you have to climb, the first of many obstacles, and after a warm up and motivational Spartan speech we were off onto the course!
Now the course is advertised online as 13+km, however on the day Iâ€™ve heard it was more like 17k with 20+ obstacles! The course contained loads of mud, swimming across rivers, wading through nipple high freezing cold water, lots of carries including sand bags, logs and buckets of gravel, and of course plenty of purpose built obstacles.
The obstacles were varied with plenty of fun (yet tiring) challenges including wall from easy 4 footers right up to 10ft ones that take a bit of extra effort to get over. Old OCR favourites including monkey bars and large A-frames were there, and of course Spartan staples such as the Herculean Hoist, Rope Climb, Atlas Stone Carry and not one but 2 Spear Throws!
To get a better feel for the event here are what our team members thought of their experience at the Spartan Superâ€¦.
What was your favourite/best part of the race?
Vijay: I’ve said before that I like anything unique about a race and 2 things that stand out for the Spartan is the Spear Throw and Atlas Stone. And since I nailed both my spear throws this time, it has to be the highlight for me.
Stuart: The final stretch. Hitting the target with spear for the 2nd time in the race then onto the Atlas stones, over the 10 foot wall in one and over the fire to finish. Great way to finish a race.
Steve: The swim! Obstacle races are too often scared to have a swimming element as theyâ€™re just too scared over health and safety. Even one previous obstacle course, that took place on the river Thames, only had a tiny swimming element that was to be completed wearing a lifejacket and leaving you feeling like some kind of child with mothers milk still wet on your face. Spartan, however, havenâ€™t shied away from the difficulty of organising such obstacles and served up a really successful lake swim, which I had been longing for in an obstacle race.
Dave: Considering how much Iâ€™d hated the abundance of barbed wire at the Cambridge Sprint, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the same obstacle at this event! This time it involved crawling through thick oozing mud and on a slope creating a very different challenge â€“ itâ€™s amazing how a different set-up can completely change an obstacle experience!
Where there any parts you didnâ€™t enjoy so much?
Vijay: There was a lot of carries in this event and the bucket carry filled with stones was over a horrible bit of course with muddy slopes to climb. I really struggled with this so I would say it was far from a favourite bit for me.
Stuart: Queuing for over 40 minutes halfway through the race for one obstacle (the road-crossing structure mentioned earlier). The body got cold and injuries came from having to warm up again.
Steve: Well the overall muddiness of the race was a factor that I just hadnâ€™t expected. Donâ€™t get me wrong, I love mud! But this course had so much, and it was so deep and thick after the legions of runners that had slogged their way through it over the past 2 days of races that it really became quite tedious. At one point it was so deep and thick that I had to use my hands and dig my trail shoes out of it after each step. Really turned the mud element into a spoiler.
Dave: Towards the start of the race we joined a queue in a waist high freezing stream and then, after a long wait, eventually started slowly wading through. This was due to the sheer volume of people who I assume struggled to exit the muddy slopes further up, however a longer run at the start wouldâ€™ve helped spread the field, or Marshallâ€™s during this section couldâ€™ve encouraged people to keep moving.
How do you think they could improve any of the course or obstacles?
Vijay: On one of the log carries when I finished the loop to drop off the log there was a big queue of people waiting for logs. This wasn’t the case when I got mine so I’m not sure if this was only temporary, but maybe more logs or less people would have helped
Stuart: The layout of the course. Heading straight into a stream in single file caused a tail back and seemed to set the tone of the day. To many queues which is unusual for a Spartan Race.
Steve: As Iâ€™ve already said, the swim was a big plus for me, yet the position of the monkey bars just wasnâ€™t thought through at all. You came out of the lake dripping wet and were straight onto a steel climbing frame. Not only was it far too wet to be remotely usable, I even saw one poor chap take a slip so bad it knocked the wind right out of him and nearly ended his race. Also, the queues were just ridiculous. We probably spent around a full hour just waiting in queues, so whether that was due to slow runners, poor layout or simply overbooking the event remains to be seen.
Dave: More thought into the course layout would definitely improve the experience. For example, the monkey bars followed the lake swim making them too slippery to complete, plus the Herculean Hoist followed a muddy section so the ropes were covered in mud so they slipped straight through your hands. I know the Superâ€™s supposed to be tough, but the obstacle need to at least be achievable!
What would you say about the race to anyone that was thinking of doing it next year?
Vijay: I would say train hard and be ready for your body to take a beating! This was not easy and took a long time so it’s an idea to be prepared for this race
Stuart: Be prepared for the unexpected. I have done two Spartan Supers now, one in an hour and 40 minutes and the other in 3 hours and 40 minutes. The course is never the same.
Steve: Do it. Simple as that. I love Spartan races and their organisation is, for the most part, exceptional. While yes it was busy, yes obstacles were practically undoable by the time our wave came around, and yes the mud did suck, the overall great experience of the race was still there. Just make sure you have an open mind and know that every race is going to be different, you just have to be ready for what it throws at you.
Dave: Be warned the Super isnâ€™t just a step up from the Sprintâ€¦ itâ€™s more like a leap from â€˜something anyone could doâ€™ to â€˜something which really will push you to your limits!â€™ If you donâ€™t put in the effort to train for this type of event, youâ€™re going to sufferâ€¦
What was the funniest moment of the race for you?
Vijay: There’s often a lot of funny moments in events like this with people falling all over the place in the mud. But the funniest was a guy that was following me through the freezing cold water. He was a bit shorter than me and it started getting deeper and deeper until for about 10 seconds he just disappeared under the water level. But he refused to get out or start swimming and just carried on with it. He seemed to be taking it pretty serious but I was in hysterics!
Stuart: I always find it amusing to see people try and run a mud run in road shoes or pumps as they slip over everywhere.
Steve: The funniest part of the race for me was seeing our skipper (Dave) lose his footing and go down in the woods. We thought heâ€™d be fine so left him to only have some other runners call us with â€œyour mate isnâ€™t getting upâ€. Classic!
Dave: Iâ€™m sure seeing me go flying when I slipped on a muddy patch was probably quite amusing for others, but my funniest part was during the gravel bucket carry when we were faced with a steep muddy slope to climbâ€¦ The best technique was to use your bucket as a weight to help climb and this caught out people with hardly any gravel in their buckets â€“ cheating sods!