Killington, VT – Did Spartan “Tame” the Beast of the East?

“A Killington Beast that’s only 13 miles? INCONCEIVABLE!” – Vizzini (I am convinced he would have said that if The Princess Bride was an OCR)

New Norm™, Jason Barnes has become Spartan’s newest ambassador of pain and misery, but he may have inadvertently sent the OCR community into a complete uproar when he said in a Facebook Live video that the Killing Beast would “only” be 13.5 to 14 miles.

Background on the Beast

Killington, VT is the Home of the Beast. It’s Spartan’s birthplace in every way. It housed their first ever event, and it is the Church in which legions of racers pay mental and physical penance to each year. Killington is and always will be the Beast of the East. So how could Spartan Race dare cut this course back to a measly ~13ish miles?! It’s easy to see why the Internet was in an uproar. Even after the event, it would seem that this year’s Beast was “easier” than past events. Let’s just look at the finishing times:

Spartan Beast – 2015
Elite Finishers:

1 Jesse Bruce 2691 34 M 3:28:05
2 Matthew Kempson 9310 25 M 3:42:46
3 Junyong Pak 8662 37 M 3:46:12

Spartan Beast – 2016
Elite Finishers:

1 Matthew Kempson 2722 26 M 3:32:48
2 Ethan Nedeau 3903 43 M 3:38:28
3 Benjamin Rodkey 4692 27 M 3:39:18

Spartan Beast 2017
Elite Finishers:

1 Francis DiSomma 2819 27 M 3:04:41
2 Brent Trail 5013 30 M 3:08:23
3 rskempson13 2464 28 M 3:09:20

 

A time of 3 hours 4 minutes won the Elite Heat at the Beast on Saturday. Is the Beast becoming passé? Has the #RoadToTahoe taken a detour around Killington, VT? If you go back to 2015 and ready my review of the “Founders Race” held in Killington, you also heard me talk about how scaled back the challenge of Killington was that year.

Man vs. Mountain

No matter the combination of obstacles, or the inclusion of the legendary swim to Tarzan Swing under the bridge, it’s not the distance that puts the “kill” in Killington. It’s the mountain itself. Racers come to Vermont from every corner of the US and beyond to leave their mark, and blood, and sweat, and tears, on that mountain. Even if Spartan has a misstep with obstacles or water supply, there will always be all 4,236 feet of that mountain, and Spartan knows how to use it. Faster finishing times simply meant more elevation crammed into smaller spaces – including a bucket carry that was unrelenting at times.

Olympus at the base of the Death March – Photo Credit: Tony Martinez on Instagram

Summiting The Beast

The Death March at Killington is like no other. It’s over 1 mile of straight up marching where seemingly every step is a foot or more in elevation gain. The sun can bake you as you climb or the winds can chill you as you ascend higher. No matter the weather, you’re in for a challenge. There were two subtle differences this year, that welcomes racers to the “top” of Mount Killington.

First – we were detoured away before hitting the true peak of Killington. A first for Spartan, not utilizing the very summit on its course. Second, a familiar group of New England Spahtens who decided to skip racing, and instead take it upon themselves to welcome each competitor to the top with hugs, candy, cookies, or a simple high-five to brighten their day. Faces changes from misery, to elation. Tears of pain turned to tears of joy. Clif Bars and GUs were traded in for Starburst and Snickers. It was truly a community supporting a community and it was the perfect way to start your descent towards the Finish Line after a long 11+ miles into the course.

The treats awaiting racers atop the mountain

Killington will always be the home of the Beast. While it may no longer be home to Spartan’s World Championship, it is absolutely a staple in most racers calendar each year. It may not attract the star power of the OCR world as it did in years past, but it still continues to deliver an experience that is the perfect balance of pain and pleasure.

Until next year, Killington.

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Josh Chace

Josh Chace has been an obstacle and endurance race enthusiast for the last five years. He is a 2017 Team MudGear Athlete and is a co-host of the New England Spahtens Show podcast.
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