What I Learned From My First Spartan Race

Two and a half weeks ago, I completed my first Spartan Race in Vernon, New Jersey. Traveling up and down a ski mountain, this 4.5 mile race included 22 obstacles.

This might make you think I’m the type of person who regularly competes in races like these, but this was not only just my first Spartan Race, but my first ever race. Deciding spontaneously to compete only 1.5 months before, this ended up being one of the most physically demanding and simultaneously rewarding experiences of my life. Aside from urging you to give yourself a longer window to train than 1.5 months, here are some other tips for if you ever take on this challenge:

Do the “Sprint” if you’re a first timer.

I would say this is basically non-negotiable. The Spartan Race has three versions: Sprint, Super, and Beast. The Sprint is 3-5 miles, with 20-23 obstacles. Seems like a lot, but the Super is 8+ miles with 25+ obstacles, and the Beast is 12+ miles with 30+ obstacles. No matter which race you enter, it will be incredibly challenging. But unless you’ve trained for a long time, I can’t imagine the Super or Beast would even be feasible.

Tell yourself you can do it. 

Don’t let the mental obstacles you create yourself be harder to overcome than the physical ones in front of you. You’ve got this!

TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN. 

As a dancer who regularly exercises, I naively assumed that my fitness would smoothly transfer to Spartan Race fitness. (It didn’t). Although the Sprint is marketed as something everyone can do, after trying it myself, I don’t believe that someone who doesn’t work out regularly would even find it possible. The race involves a ton of cardio and upper body work, but frankly engages the entire body. I’d recommend regular cardio exercises, and weight training, both with your arms and legs, but check out the Spartan website for more specifics.

Wear shoes with traction.

For my race I wore Nike Free Run shoes, which have bottoms that are completely flat. This made it super hard to run in since the race traveled up and down a ski mountain and I didn’t have any traction. Because the race is traveling through thick layers of mud, flat shoes also made it very slippery.

Take advantage of the lockers.

Once you’ve gone through registration, they have small lockers where you can leave items. Lockers are $10, but a useful place to leave phones (which I’d recommend if you want to take any photos on your phone!), wallets, and a towel for after the race clean up. The towel is something I hadn’t thought of prior to the race, and I was definitely jealous of those who had thought of it!

Practice your burpees!

I’m really grateful I started doing these in preparation for my race because if you can’t do an obstacle, you have to do 30 burpees. It’s not closely regulated, and isn’t meant as a punishment, but in order to maintain the integrity of the race, everyone does them. So practice them because you don’t want the first time you’re trying to be when you’re already exhausted from the rest of the race. The Spartan burpee form is a bit different than a standard burpee, so check that out before doing them!

Bring a change of clothes

Leave them on the seats of your car so they’re ready to go when you’re done with the race! You don’t want to be touching everything in your car trying to find them—make it easy for yourself!

Have fun!

There are going to be moments during the race where you ask yourself, Why the heck did I ever sign up for this?, but when you cross that finish line, it’ll all be worth it. Even though it’s incredibly physically demanding, the Spartan Race is an extremely supportive environment—people cheer for one another along the whole way, and help each other out throughout the race. It’s all about doing your best, and receiving that finishing medal is a huge accomplishment.