The Spartan Beast – Sept 2015

Trek and Run were supported during this event by;

Salba Chia 

Columbia Sportswear

&

Helly Hansen

Fire jump

Words by Steve Kimberley

Photos by Dave Sherman and Epic Action Imagery

So this was it. The culmination of the last few weeks of blood and sweat was to take place on that sunny September morning, as early mists faded into an autumn glow and the OCR runners of the Spartan tribe donned their mud-tested trail shoes and headbands for one last AROO of 2015.

Now with the two pieces of the 2015 Spartan trifecta medal to my name, both of which fit together so perfectly that they just seemed to be laughing at me and sending my OCD into overdrive, there was nothing that was going to keep me from this course. In fact, whilst the team were planning our route to the race, I had this vision come to me from the depths of my unconscious in the form of myself hitchhiking in my race gear on the hard shoulder of the M25, holding a cardboard sign with ‘SPARTA’ crudely written in marker pen, and shouting “AROO” at every passing car.

The race itself was taking place at Ashburnham place in the leafy town of Battle in East Sussex, the same venue for the Spartan Sprint and Super, which had taken place the previous weekend.

Surprisingly, this was the only Spartan Beast race of 2015 to take place in the UK, which may explain why over six thousand participants from every corner of the British Isles had trekked due south to complete their trifectas and conquer the Beast. On top of the previous weekend’s Super race, the Beast would feature extra distance (at a minimum of 12 miles for the course) and extra obstacles, some of which would be a total surprise for us.

In order to allow for the extra few miles and obstacles, organisers had taken the race out deeper into the venue. This took us out into the extensive and picturesque grounds of Ashburnham place, with stunning views of the surrounding English countryside, and also deeper into the woods where we found mud, bogs and freezing water crossings, as if we were running through the setting of a Walter Scott novel.

Along with the usual obstacles from the Spartan races of old, the organisers had cooked up a few extra treats to make this an exceptionally tough Beast to conquer. The dual spear throw from the Super race was still present, along with the 350m-lake swim, this time with optional life jackets for those not so strong at swimming. Another water-based obstacle featured a row of 100m ropes hung across a lake, which were to be crossed by hanging upside down from the rope and shimmying (at times partially submerged in the icy lake) until you’d rung a bell at the adjacent end of the lake.

Probably my favourite obstacle, and by far the most creative, was the monkey bars from previous Spartan races had been altered to feature bars, leading into suspension rings, followed by a set of ropes, and finally another set of lowered suspension rings to be stepped in. This obstacle seemed to catch out many runners who were unable to adapt to the quickly changing techniques required for these four different disciplines.

So how did Team Trek and Run find the Beast? 

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What was your high point on the Spartan Beast?

Steve: The whole race was a high point for me. After finding the Super so draining and disappointing in terms of usability, the Beast was like a totally different race. The layout and order of the obstacles was just perfect, as it allowed each obstacle to provide its test of endurance and athleticism without the depressing notion that you slipped off the monkey bars because you’d just swam across the lake. Also seeing Stu throw his spear whilst standing on the rope tied to it was pretty awesome!

Dave: The top of the rope climb is always a high point (you’re 25ft up in the air – can’t get higher than that during a Spartan Race!) but to be honest the whole course layout was absolutely excellent and leaps beyond the race we’d experienced the previous week at the Super.

Stu: The rope water crossing, this was by far my favourite obstacle even though I have ended up with a friction burn. Also the lack of queues was a massive bonus.

Vijay: I really enjoyed the last mile or so of the course. I was in a bit of pain at this point with all the obstacles including 2 of my obstacles the Atlas stone and one of the spear throws. That and the Rope climb, as this was the first time I managed to reach the top of the rope! Even if I did it completely wrong and with no technique

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Since it was taking place at the same venue as the Super, what did team Spartan do to make sure the Beast lived up to its name?

Steve: The course was really opened up, with a lot more trail running in the woods and cross country trekking across the vast gardens of the venue. Even just running the route, without the added trials of the 3-dozen obstacles that littered our paths, would have been a tough race to run. With the obstacles on top, the Beast took longer to complete than any marathon I’ve ever run.

Dave: Strangely enough, I didn’t find this event harder than the Super! Yes there were an extra 3 miles and yes there were a number of extra obstacles, but the Super had been such a bastard course and had left me in pieces at the end, however I finished the Beast feeling great! Although of course that may have been because I finished the Beast injury free…

Stu: The Spartan team never give anything away and they like to test the mental strength of the competitors. This started early in the week when a social media post had people panicking and continued on the day when the marshalls were telling people there was various distances left. People react differently and I am sure people dropped out due to the social media post.

Vijay: The scale of it was pretty immense, they must have doubled the area in which the course was laid out and it made the course run a lot smoother than the Super.

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What was your lowest point on the beast?

Steve: The second barbed wire crawl. The first took place barely a mile into the race, and some time around the mid-point of the race, another barbed wire crawl appeared, this one considerably longer and lower than the first, forcing you to literally slide while flat on the floor at some points. Repeating obstacles is always a tad tedious, but as my face was pressed into the mud I was left with the thought this would’ve been one worth not repeating.

Dave: Now I understand 13 miles and 35+ obstacles involves a lot of planning and it can be difficult to come up with that many obstacles, however I was a bit disappointed to see a few repeat obstacles on the course (i.e. there were two spear throws and barbed wire crawls). I’ve taken part in a few Spartan events now and I know they have a huge catalogue of challenges to throw at you!

Stu: The second barbed wire crawl. Would have prefered a different obstacle rather than a repeat of one we did earlier. Still we got down and made our way through it on the Trifecta.

Vijay: My Body on Those Hills! I was feeling pretty broken before the Beast and was in a lot of pain with my knees particularly, so that didn’t help my race. My poor level of fitness was the reason for my low point.

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How will the skills required on the Beast help to prepare you for the coming zombie apocalypse?

Steve: If zombie movies have taught me anything, it’s that you have to be fast and you need stamina (and the ability to not fall over, Dave). I think also that the practice climbing 8 and 10-foot walls will really come in handy while trying to give a hungry hoard of walkers the slip.

Dave: ‘Zombieland’, one of my favourite Zombie movies, lists rules which events like this definitely help to hone; Rule #1 – Cardio. Covering 12+ miles with upto 35 obstacles really is a great cardio workout! Rule #7 – Travel Light. Don’t be that guy struggling to swim through lakes and scale muddy hills in jogging bottoms and road shoes! Lastly, Rule #32 – Enjoy the little things. These events are great fun if you complete them with friends and all help each other while having a laugh – plus it’ll make the zombie apocalypse much more bearable if you can enjoy it!

Stu: This will come down to the slowest people being picked off first so having completed this I know I am not the slowest and any obstacle I have to get over when running away I will be able to tackle fine.

Vijay: I think the Beast has given me the confidence to cross water quickly and climb up and across things effectively which I think will help me evade any slow moving clumsy zombies. Unless they are the “I am Legend” or “World War Z” style zombies, in which case, I’m screwed!

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If you could convince anyone in the world to run the Beast with you, who would you take any why?

Steve: Easy! I’d take Boris Johnson along with me. Not only would he be hilarious, giving everyone a real morale boost by getting stuck on the rope climb or something (you always need a funny member of your team,) but also he’d get the chance to prove that he’s a real warrior. After all, could you really trust someone in a position of power who isn’t capable of conquering any obstacle put in front of them? In fact, all politicians should have to run the beast before they can be considered electable.

Dave: I think it’d be great to run a race like this with Mr Bean. Sure he’d struggle with the obstacles as he’d end up tangled in barbed wire, stuck on top of the 10ft wall, squashed under the atlas stone and impale himself on the spear throw, but he’d be great entertainment throughout the course!

Stu: Laughter is a characteristic you must have when racing an OCR so I would want John Bishop to run with me. I find him funny but he’s also a runner so should be able to work with the team to get us through the obstacles.

Vijay: Easy! Ronda Rousey! Having a hot body to look at is a great way to keep your mind off any pain you experience, and if a zombie “outbreak” should occur mid race, I’m pretty sure Ronda could take care of me

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Spartan’s 2015 season is now finished (and what a year it has been!), however event details are already being released for 2016 and multiple Spartan events take place across the globe throughout the year – visit www.spartanraceuk.uk for more information

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