The Spartan Beast obstacle race is the grand finale of the UK Spartan season. Spartan have already held many ‘Sprint’ (5km+) and ‘Super’ (10km+) events across the country earlier in the year, but were returning to Pippingford Park to hold the ‘Beast’ (25km+) also labelled The Spartan UK Championships.
The build-up to this OCR was the biggest I have ever seen; many believed this to be the first time top obstacle course racers were going head to head at the same event (an occasion I can see happening more often in the future). Thomas Blanc had won all other UK Spartan races this year, I have had a relatively successful year competing in non-Spartan events as well as being last year’s Beast winner, and many other top racers were already known to be attending (including Ross MacDonald and Sam Cherry) and the promise of a £10,000 purse would tempt many more.
I had an interesting build up to this race. 2 weeks before I ran in the OMM covering 80km in the 2 day adventure race. On my return from Wales I felt fine but a couple of days later I developed a pain in my knee leaving me unable to run or cycle. After a couple of days rest to let it settle down and just 7 days before the Beast I decided to try it out with a bit of orienteering, the rough ground aggravated my knee but thankfully didn’t hinder my performance. With another week of rest I was confident I would be 100% standing on the start line at the Beast…
Pippingford Park is set in a valley giving the organisers the chance to plan a hilly and wet course using the abundant small ponds and rivers on the valley floor. Plenty of rain in the lead up to the race made the going especially wet, whilst completing a small warm up jog I could almost feel my Inov8s being sucked of my feet by the ever worsening mud.
As we waited to start, the rain became torrential and stayed that way for the majority of the race. Once we were off Ross MacDonald and I enjoyed the first 5km catching up, laughing and joking staying relaxed completing the first of the obstacles which included walls, pull-ups, a ladder climb, tyre carry and more. We soon returned to the event village where S**t got real…Both Ross and I missed our first attempt at the spear throw leaving us to complete 30 burpees while Thomas and some others ran on into the lead. With a turn of speed I had caught them in no time with Ross not far behind. However, the four of us then managed to run off in the wrong direction… bollocks. By the time we tracked back to where we had gone wrong, no other racers further down the field had come through so we got down to business with our own mini re-start to the race.
Burpees following the missed spear-throw…
By the time we had covered another 5km and the 4 of us were still neck and neck, I decided now was my time to create a gap and as we left the event village for the final time I managed to pull out a lead up a long hill. Next were many different obstacles involving carrying heavy object which allowed me to build on my lead. Unknown to us we had roughly 10km to go at this point which included many long sections of running over some rough and boggy ground. This proved especially painful for my knee and by the time I returned to the even village it was giving me a fair amount of pain. Thankfully it wasn’t hindering my performance and through the second half I had built up roughly 3 minutes lead…which (as it turns out) I needed.
Atlas stone (35kg)
The final obstacle was a 25ft rope climb, in what I can only describe as the most anti climatic finish of my life as I only managed to get half way up before sliding back down to be told to complete my 30 burpees. Once these were done over the line I went to claim the prize money of £1,501 and another trip to the USA to race next year… not bad for a day’s work! Ross came 2nd following a similar finish to me and a nice chap called Conor finished 3rd putting me and Ross to shame by hauling himself to the top of the rope.
The failed rope climb…
Top 3 – Conor, Me and Ross
I am happy with how the race went but feel I only took the victory because of the quantity of running (my strength) in the second half. This race has highlighted weaknesses in me that I would have to address if I were to compete with the likes of the OCR athletes across the globe.
I am disappointed with not making it to the top of the rope climb… many excuses could be made but ultimately my technique and strength weren’t good enough. I am confident with more training and some practice I would have flown up it but on the day after 20km of running it wasn’t to be. I have decided cross fit may benefit me in this way and will definitely be looking for a gym in London as soon as my knee is better!
My knee is especially sore now and seems to have taken quite a beating, with the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest race in just a week I am unsure if it will be able to take the abuse… only some more rest in the coming days will tell.
Ice-pack on knee…done being a Spartan for today
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