Spartan Race Training Camp – Part 2
If you’ve read Part 1 to this post, then you’ll know that just getting to the start of Spartan Race Training Camp was a bit of an adventure, but what happened during the course of 4 hours in Pippingford Park in the company of 8 or so other obstacle nutters, deserves a post of its own!
Having spent 6 years in the regular army, including officer training at Sandhurst, I figured I had a good grasp on how obstacle courses work. And since leaving the Army 5 years ago, I’ve reached the peak of my physical fitness, having just returned in April from completing the Marathon des Sables, where I came 15th and the following weekend running 2.51 at the London Marathon. Add to this that my girlfriend Zayne has been serving in the Army Reserves for 10 years, I would not normally have thought we’d need to do an obstacle course training camp. So, why on earth were we there?
Why am I at the Spartan Race Training Camp?
A good question you might ask! I’ll explain. Having done a number of obstacle races (or similar) in the past: Tough Guy, Tough Mudder, Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest, London Rat Race, the Grim Challenge, HellRunner, Turbo X – to name but a few, I quickly realised that in order to do really well, I would need to focus on training for those types of events. And although I managed to climb on to the podium of one or two, there would appear to be an art to jumping through cars, climbing walls and wading through bogs.
The last time I visited Pippinford Park was for the Zombie Evacuation Run in 2012. Although only 5k, I quickly got a decent appreciation for how lovely Pippingford is, but also how hard it can be to run across.
Upon meeting Michael Cohen, the UKs first and only qualified Spartan Race instructor, and the rest of the hardy soles who’d signed up for the inaugural ‘Advanced’ Spartan Race Training Camp, we were also introduced to a 6ft telegraph pole that would ‘become our best friend’. There was a certain degree of ‘that pole looks lighter’ done by us all, as we selected our ‘friend’.
Running with a pole on your shoulder isn’t as hard as you’d think. However, it ain’t that comfortable as we were being advised to swap shoulders regularly, to avoid getting tired or sore shoulders.
Being new to the Spartan game, I almost cringed when Michael asked us to repeat back some of the Spartan race mantras, in particular the ‘Aroo’ chant, as seen in the film 300. Americans are so much better at the this than us reserved Brits!
We set off at a fairly brisk pace, feeling somewhat ridiculous with the pole on our shoulders. We then proceeded to run up and down a small bank. I think this was designed to simply get tired – which it did remarkably well.
Michael then pointed us in the direction of a small concrete tunnel. ‘Off you go!’ he said with a merry voice. Pushing our poles in front of us, we clambered our way through only to then repeat the process 3 or 4 times. With my knees feeling like they’d had a cheese grater caressing them, I started to ponder upon what possessed me to be here on a Sunday morning.
‘How many of you have sore knees?’ Michael asked us. We all raised our hands. Apparently, this was to be expected, and if we were to follow his advice on how to crawl, we would be able to avoid having knees resembling minced meat!
We proceeded to run about the place, practicing forward roles, crawling backwards on our hands and feet, jumping over 6ft walls, doing press ups as a means of crawling, scrambling up and down a hill with our hands, you name it, we did it!
I’m not sure what I had been expecting when I was first asked to participate, but this certainly wasn’t it. However, much to my surprise, I was enjoying myself. And so was Zayne.
The sting in the tail however, was when we proceeded to walk through a freezing pond. This was very much a ‘mind over matter’ exercise – but by the time we got out, I couldn’t feel a thing. We were grateful that we had to run back the meeting point at the start, but because we had to stay together as a team, we weren’t going as fast as my little legs would have liked us to go. Plus, it was a bit like running on stumps.
As Zayne and I huddled in our car, sticking the heated seats on max, we couldn’t stop grinning – through chattering teeth. However much we our legs and shoulders were bruised, however wet and cold we might have been – those 4 hours were jolly good fun. And we both felt ready for the challenge of a Spartan Race.