The “Boston” Spartan Race Sprint has been a staple in New England for almost as long as Spartan Race has been around. After last years announcement that Amesbury Sports Park was no longer able to host the event, Spartan was forced to relocate out to Barre, Ma (not quite Boston – but it sounds better than the Barre Sprint). This course has now been utilized, albeit underwhelmingly, by BattleFrog, Warrior Dash and earlier this year it was the site of the first New England Spartan Super.
While Spartan’s sites are still set on prime-time TV ratings and Olympic aspirations, they showed this weekend that they’re still capable of putting on extremely entertaining events, even if it was their shortest distance. “Do less with more” is a cliche we’ve all heard, but to me, that’s exactly what Spartan managed to do.
Walking from the farmhouse to the festival area afforded you a view of the fog-laden countryside you were about to traverse as well as a small taste of what obstacles you were in for. Upon walking into the festival area, it was clear that Spartan had laid this one out much better than the past events here. Wide open spaces, great food and merchants, and a full stocked “Biggest Team Tent” including cases of water, Powerade, and Cliff bars. The 400+ New England Spahtens who were awarded the Biggest Team for both Saturday & Sunday certainly appreciated that.
While the festival area was nice and spread out, Spartan turned around and packed in a solid 25+ obstacles into a short 5-mile race, which truly celebrated the obstacle portion of obstacle course racing. The order was also mixed up a bit, as an added change of pace. Within the first 1.5 miles you had half a dozen obstacles to immediately exhaust you:
Hay Bails – because, you all know as kids when you saw these on farmlands as you drove through the country, you wanted nothing more than to climb atop them and scream “I’M ON TOP OF THE WORLD!” No? That was only me? Oh.
O-U-T Walls – A Spartan staple, but also followed up immediately by a handful of 4-foot walls.
Monkey Bars – They opted to go with straight monkey bars, no varied height of the bars this time around but still challenging, as they were covered in moisture from the night before.
Atlas Stone Carry – This is always a pain in my arse, but usually I’ve got miles or hours to warm up to the idea that I’ll be carrying a huge stone that I might drop on and destroy my toes or the toes of some unlucky racer near me. Not today – this one was right away.
Rope Climb – Again, very early in the race from Spartan’s last New England events but also a welcome change. I like the challenge of the rope climb but also struggle to climb it without knots, as I am usually exhausted by the time I get to it.
The list goes on, with rolling mud, dunk wall, an EXCESSIVELY muddy barbed-wire crawl and log hop, and we hadn’t even reached Mile 2, yet.
Spartan has turned up the difficulty a notch or two in their obstacles as well, adding a Spartan Rig with those god-forsaken tarzan ropes, triple 8 foot walls, and a plate drag/Herc Hoist that would make even the Elite’s grimace. The finish and famed fire jump was only achieved after conquering a fireman’s log carry, slick wall, and final cargo net within the last half mile of the race. For me, it was everything a Sprint should be – packed with obstacles while still allowing room to run when necessary.
Medal. Banana. Race Shirt. Beer – the perfect way to finish.
To me, this is what obstacle course racing is all about. Conquering obstacles alongside your friends, sharing stories over a beer afterwards, then sharing a nice awkward freezing cold shower with a hundred of your new muddy friends!
The inspirational moment of the day, goes to Team Believe, who brought a couple of their wheelchair bound members through the whole course, walking on their hands with the help of a few other members, wheelbarrow style. Even their service dog jumped the fire and got a medal. Dream big, live bigger Team Believe!
Before and after my race, I was amazed at the droves of Spartan Racers who were flooding into Barre for this one, and if they’re like me, they’ll definitely be back again – if this is what we can expect from Spartan going forward.