A Day at the Ball Park – Spartan Stadium Series AT&T Park Sprint Review

Take Me Out to the Ball Park


Home of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park is situated in downtown San Francisco right on the San Francisco Bay with a beautiful view overlooking the water. This view was highlighted from the top of the rope climb; located in the stands above right field which overlooks McCovey Cove. Fun fact: home runs hit into “The Cove” are known, unsurprisingly, as “splash hits.”


This was my first Spartan Stadium Race, but I had done my research beforehand as well as watched the Spartan live stream that morning. I felt prepared and honestly, most of the reviews that I had read of the Spartan Stadium Race Series indicated that they were the easiest of all Spartan race types.

This was an interesting race for me. It was the first race where going as fast as I could wasn’t my goal. My ultimate goal was to help a first time Spartan, and good friend, not only complete the course but actually enjoy himself. Running with my friend allowed me to really take in the venue and focus on how this race was laid out. This gave me a unique perspective on the course design.

Batting OrderAT&T-Stadium-Sprint-Obstacle-List

From my perspective, I thought it was a fast and furious course with few potential hang-ups. Once the Spearman was completed it was essentially a time trial for the rest of the course.

From the other perspective, and the focus of this article, I saw a course designed to exhaust untrained/new racers. Having the Spearman (the most failed obstacle) as the 2nd obstacle on the course, it was almost guaranteed that anyone who was not prepared for this race was going to be pumping out 30 burpees early on. Shortly after the Spearman, there were multiple low crawls up an incline and then the Z-Wall. For someone unpracticed in grip strength and balance, the Z-Wall can be a difficult obstacle. For these people, they are looking at 60 potential burpees within the first 5 obstacles.

The Z-Wall was followed by more stairs and then 20 slam balls before you could move on. While the slam balls aren’t difficult from a technique perspective, it really ramps up the heart rate. Moving on from the slam balls there were more low crawls followed by low crawls, and once again… Low crawls. It seriously felt as if we were going to low crawl from the very bottom of the stadium to the top (and we may have). Once we made it through all the low crawls we just had to clear the 8-foot wall before the sandbag carry.

Foul Ball 

In my opinion, the sandbag carry, which was really a Spartan pancake, was by far the most difficult obstacle in this race. Not because of weight or distance or any actual factor relating to the obstacle, but because of the DISGUSTING stench of the sandbags. These things smelt rancid. Even as I approached the sandbag carry I could smell them from a good ten yards away. At first, I thought I had come upon a group of Spartans that did not believe in personal hygiene, but I could not have been more wrong. The carry was only a short route and yet nobody wanted those things anywhere close to their body. That scent attached itself to any body part or piece of clothing that it came in contact with. I do not know what Spartan did to make them smell so terrible, but there were people at the end of this struggle that were on the verge of vomiting.

Once everyone’s stomach settled from the smell of the sandbags, we did some more stairs and approached the box jump obstacle. This was another obstacle that wasn’t necessarily difficult in terms of strategy, but rather conditioning. My one issue with this obstacle was the lack of coordination between volunteers. Some volunteers would tell Spartans to stand straight up after jumping on the box while other volunteers just let people do it however they wanted.

Seventh Inning Stretch 

Up and down some more stairs (it’s a Stadium Sprint – shocker, right?) and there was the rope climb. Really the only reason to discuss this obstacle was the view. I finished my rope climb quickly, but my friend was unable to make it to the top and had to do his burpees. Being the good friend that I am, I enjoyed the view while he did all his burpees. I actually did offer to do some for him, but he wanted to do it all on his own no matter how long it took, which definitely earned him added respect from me.


After a couple of staple Spartan obstacles – the Atlas carry and Herc hoist – there was a brand new obstacle: the assault bike. This was another take your heart rate through the roof type of obstacle. Burn 10 calories and then move on. Simple enough, but being so close to the end of the course, a lot of people were already exhausted. Right around the corner from the assault bike was the jump rope. 20 revolutions to advance. The only caveat being that you had to have an exercise band wrapped around your ankles. This was more of a nuisance than any real added difficulty.


The Multi Rig was next and turned out to be a tricky obstacle due to the fact that the rings/baseballs were hanging precariously low to the padding. Being 6’2” myself and my friend being 6’3”, this made things more difficult for us and it was crucial to keep our knees up and arms bent in order to complete this obstacle.

Sliding Into Home Plate

There were only a few more obstacles left to finish the race: the A-frame cargo, some military hurdles, a couple walls and then the gladiator. I have only been doing Spartan races for a couple of years now, but I have read that they used to have actually “gladiators” at the end of a race that you had to get past. Unfortunately, now they just have some punching bags hanging from a structure that you need to run through.


Going back to my perspective, I found the course to really be too easy. I completed the race burpee free, and I didn’t feel like there were any true challenges. With that being said, I did enjoy it and would love to do another Spartan Stadium Race. Plus, the medals are really cool.

I did regret not being able to run the course as fast as I could. In hindsight, I could have run it earlier in the day and then run again with my friend. More importantl, though, I was able to introduce another person to Spartan races and he is already talking about signing up for his next race! No matter what time I could have run on my own, I consider this a far better result.


Spartan Race at Citi Field: A Mixed Review

“You will be: timed, ranked, judged”.  This is the motto that has been infamously touted on signs at the entrance to Spartan Race venues in the past; a motto that has held this race series in a class of its own among countless other obstacle course races and mud fun runs that seem to be springing up overnight.    A sign warning all participants that Spartan races are

competitive, not just for the elites, but for every single one of us who steps up to the muddy starting line.  Spartan Races were designed to test the physical and mental toughness of all participants, regardless of age, gender, or fitness level.   At any given time during an event, Spartan Race founder Joe DeSena might be found on the course yelling at participants to move faster and push harder, reminding them that this is a race, and not a hike through the woods.


For the weekend warrior, there are alternative obstacle course races that offer a mud run experience.  An experience that often includes long lines at obstacles, the option to skip over parts that push you outside of your comfort zone, and a party atmosphere.  However, the reputation that precedes the Spartan Race is exactly that, a race, an uncomfortable challenge, and not simply the “experience” that is provided their competitors.

As an avid obstacle course racer, this competitive edge and high standard of racing is what I have come to expect, and love, from the Spartan Race group.  Today I am highly disappointed to report that, for the first time ever, Spartan Race did not meet these expectations.

The 2013 Reebok Spartan Sprint at Citi Field was held on April 13th in New York City, at the home of the Major League baseball team, the New York Mets.  After a successful time trial race at Fenway Park during the fall of 2012, Reebok Spartan Race has created a Stadium Series that will cover four ballparks for the 2013 race season.   As one may imagine, the logistics of an obstacle course race inside of a baseball stadium are vastly different from the muddy, wooded trails that are often synonymous with Spartan racing.  However, despite the lack of terrain, mud, water, and fire, the Spartan race directors still brought a fantastic physical challenge.

The three mile course began in staggered waves, with 15 racers starting every minute or so.  The stadium series takes many of the obstacles Spartan Race is known for, alters many of them for the venue, and adds in many new challenges.  On the course at Citi Field, participants took on the usual over, under, and through walls, rope climb, Herculean hoist, sandbag carry, and spear toss.   Added in were functional training style exercises that had to be completed by repetition and/or time.  Slam ball tosses, heavy jump rope, box jumps, and hand release pushups were among the fitness challenge obstacles.   A 500 meter row on an air rowing machine was to be completed in two minutes or less. In true Spartan-mental-toughness style, racers saw their required distance decrease on the screen as they rowed, with absolutely no reference to time. Once you completed your 500 meters, you were shown one of two messages on the screen: “AROO” with a congratulations indicating you had completed the task, or “BURPEES”, meaning you didn’t make the two minute cutoff, and must do your burpee penalty.

There were changes in some of the more familiar Spartan Race obstacles as well.  The cargo net climb was now made of webbed straps instead of rope.  Earlier in the day, the Traverse Wall was reportedly using removable pegs that the racer must move from hole to hole for their hand grips (by the time we made it to the traverse as the 11:15 am heat, all but one wall had the original block hand grabs).   The traditional monkey bars had been replaced with opposing single hand, smaller, bars that rotate when grabbed.  The degree of tautness varied, but you didn’t know until the bar started spinning in your palm.  Word from Spartan Race staff was that racers and volunteers had renamed this obstacle “burpee bars”, as most people failed this obstacle and had to do their penalty 30 burpees.


Lines form at rowing obstacles

Covering three miles without leaving the confines of Citi Field meant only one thing: stairs, and lots of them.   At many points during the race participants were running up and down large access stairways, as well as the actual stadium stairs and rows after rows of seats.    And this, from the very beginning, is where I realized this would not be a race for time.    I had a very hard time passing the crowds of people who chose to walk up the stairs, or even on the flat rows of seating.  Being a race rule follower, I felt it wasn’t appropriate to jump “off course” to try and pass these people.   Numerous times I yelled to runners ahead of me “hey guys, mind if I pass?” to which I almost always received zero response.

And it was fortunate for my internal competitive drive that I resigned the idea of a fast race early on, because as it turns out, everyone I was able to pass would eventually catch up to me in the massive lines we had to stand in at the obstacles.  The lines at the rowing machines were at least 2-3 people deep, resulting in at least a 5 minute or more delay.  I encountered a line of about 8 ladies ahead of me at the rope climb (fortunately, there was a minimal line for the men’s rope, without the knots, so after impatiently waiting a few minutes on the women’s side, volunteers let me ascend a men’s rope instead).   There was a wait for the atlas carry, congestion at the sandbag and water jug carries, and the stairwell for the Hobie Hop.  The worst offender however, was the traverse wall and spear throw.  After rounding a corner in a hallway deep within Citi field, I came to a bottleneck at an exit door to a parking lot.  So much of a crowd, those of us towards the back had no idea what was going on ahead.  The ten to fifteen minute (at minimum) wait for my turn at the traverse wall made me very happy I had my long sleeve shirt still tied around my waist to keep me warm from the unexpected premature cool down.   After finally completing the traverse wall, we waited in another line for at least 5 or more minutes.  Volunteers told us we were welcome to skip the wait and obstacles all together, do the penalty burpees instead, and be on our way.   In my honest opinion, that should never be an option.  Spartan Races are about the obstacles and challenges.  A 5k race with intermittent burpees thrown in is not what any of us signed up for.

I am overcome with mixed emotions coming out of the Reebok Spartan Race at Citi Field.  The course itself was fun, and I imagine without the crowds, would have been very challenging. I thought the organization and execution was excellent, and that the race directors and staff had done a great job at bringing the Spartan Race series to a non-traditional OCR setting.  Packet pickup was easy, the atmosphere was amazing; with live feed from the course on the massive big screens, and great music.  There were plenty of restrooms, a large merchandise table with plenty of the new Reebok Spartan gear, and baseball style food concessions.  And the race specific medals were a nice touch, one I’m happy to have in my collection.

The number one problem, that in my opinion completely ruined my race experience, was the overcrowding on course.   As a fitness professional, my dream is to see everyone on this planet become physically active, and have fun doing so.  As an obstacle course racer, I am happy to see a sport that means so much to me become so wildly popular.  As an athlete who likes to challenge herself, and who has come to expect a certain standard of race quality from Spartan Race, I was highly disappointed.

Looking at the numbers between the Fenway park race and the Citi Field race show a staggering difference.  The Fenway race, which was considered a huge success by numerous racers and staff, had a total of 5,579 finishers spread out over both Saturday and Sunday, according to Spartanrace.com.   The Citi Field race had 10,038 finishers, and the race was only held on Saturday.  That is almost double the number of participants, over the course of one day instead of two.

Being that this is a new venture for the Spartan Race series, and only their second attempt at a ballpark stadium race, I will give them the benefit of the doubt, and hope that the overcrowding situation will not become a regular occurrence.  Otherwise, the only thing I “will know at the finish line” is that this experience felt more like every other generic OCR on the circuit and not the immense challenge I’ve grown to love.

Complete results from this race can be found here.

Heather Gannoe is the woman behind RelentlessForwardCommotion and one of our favorite people. (No, really, we mean it!)

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Photos courtesy of Spartan Race and Amanda Ricciardi.