Spartan Race – Singapore Beast Review 2016

spartan-singapore-start-line

It has been a busy twelve months in Asia for Spartan, with the debut of the Sprint distance being held only a year ago in Malaysia and expanding to see races organized in China, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

This time around the Singapore Beast race saw it go offshore to Bintan, an Indonesian Island which is a ferry ride away from the mainland, with most of the 3,000 participants opting to stay over for a weekend getaway.

The marketing for the race promised a much harder course than previous Asian ones with tougher obstacles, water crossings, a lot of mud, beach runs and varied terrain.  And it certainly delivered that!  Even Joe De Sana, Spartan Race Founder, who completed the race, said it was one of the best courses he had seen.

As the horn sounded to mark the start of the elite race, we were met with an aggressive 2km soft sand run to really get the legs warmed up, with the only break in running being the A-Frame cargo net set up on the beach.  Next it was off the sand and onto giant boulders and into rock pools that seemed never ending with no shoes being able to hold steady against slippery rocks and waves crashing in.  And just as you thought there may be some relief, there was a steep hill climb into the jungle straight out of the water.

spartan-singapore-water-crossing-3

The rolling terrain was certainly varied as you went from beach, to jungle, to what seemed like a clay desert and then through mud and back into water.

Over a few hurdles and walls and before I knew it I was at the memory wall (it seems every race in Asia includes this as an obstacle).  This time I vowed not to forget it repeating it to myself for 21 kilometres… LIMA 383 2898!

The bucket brigade appeared next and after the brutal one in Tahoe uphill I figured this would be easy in comparison, which it was.  Onwards to a series of mud pools and then a short sandbag carry into the jungle and the inverted wall.  It was about this point when the cracks started appearing for everyone.  The first 6km felt like 16km due to the 90 degree 100% humidity weather and no one looked like they were having fun.

spartan-singapore-sand-bag

Heading back into the village, and almost at the half way mark, saw a tough series of obstacles one after the other.  A tractor pull, spear throw, multi-rig, z-wall, atlas ball carry and monkey bars resulted in everyone doing at least one set of burpees.  And if that wasn’t enough, there was a river swim to get to the next part of the course.  The water was a welcomed cool down, but the leg cramps that followed were not.  I passed more than ten guys laying on the ground in pain not being able to walk.

spartan-singapore-multirig

It was back to a long stretch of running on the varying terrain being interspersed with more walls, tyre flips, tyre drags, the Phoenician pass (with buses driving under it), and a lot of water crossings.  The tyrolean traverse was the longest one I have ever seen in a race, I took burpees as I cramped too much, which turns out was a much better option as the guy next to me fell flat on his back and hurt himself.

Thank heavens I was now two thirds down and was hoping the rest of the race would be kinder.  The log hop was next and a new addition which proved to be fun.  Followed by another long hot run and then the million-dollar question was asked… “what is your memory code?”  BOOM!  I answered correctly and off down the beach I ran.

A balance beam set up in the ocean was next and then the vertical cargo, a very long and rocky barbed wire crawl and the stairway to Sparta. I knew it was only about 2 kilometres and I would be done.

spartan-singapore-stairway

A run back towards the village with some rolling mud and a dunk wall thrown in for good measure before hitting the Hercules hoist and a sand barbed wire crawl on the beach.  A sprint down the beach and I knew what was next – the rope climb set up in the ocean.  Not so easily done with waves crashing into your face trying to get a decent grip, but I held on for dear life and rang the bell before letting go to fall into the water (thank heavens it was high tide!)

singapore-spartan-rope-climb

Over the slip wall and a jump across the fire and I was done!  A respectable third place in the elite women and first in the masters.  The coconut handed to us on finishing never tasted so good.

The race was by far the best organised one I have participated in in Asia.  The volunteers were amazing, plenty of water stations and they policed the burpee count toa degree (something that has been sadly lacking before).  But as with any obstacle race I saw a few people stretched off due to broken limbs and heat exhaustion, and sadly there was a death in the race due to a heart attack.  A reminder to always offer help to anyone on the course that may need it, which is the real essence of the obstacle race community.

Photo credits: Sadali Ami & Spartan Race Singapore

Adrenaline Rush – London: 2016 Race Review

This year I was invited to Adrenaline Rush in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. The event was publicized brilliantly with a lot of online hype before the race, and even Macmillan’s own Snapchat filter at the event village.

Having caught the train into Stratford, there was a walk around the Olympic Park to the event village where music was playing, and you could see a mass of obstacles… And every single one looked amazing. Registration and bag drop were quick and Macmillan staff had green war-paint for all runners, before lining up at the start line and setting off in waves every five minutes.

The race began with a lot of running, but being at such an amazing venue kept even the running fun. The course was complicated, with marshals at every single turn making sure everyone knew which way to go, and also giving the best support I’ve ever seen at a race. Before long, the number of obstacles started to pick up and as you began to hear the music from the event village, it was obstacle after obstacle. Although I’d never come across this in a race before, it was a nice change to get the running out of the way at the start of the course and then have an overload of obstacles towards the end.

Adrenaline Rush London - Slant wall

With everything from warped walls to the ‘big balls’ obstacle from Total Wipeout, Adrenaline Rush had a variety of exciting challenges. Inflatable obstacles added a fun factor and bubbly water slides had everybody sliding around, adding difficulty to the final obstacles. There was a water break before doing a second lap of the course, and it was time to get the running done and get back to those obstacles again.

Adrenaline Rush London - Inflatable

Adrenaline Rush London - Olympic Park

Lap two was just as fun as the first time round, with obstacles to test everybody. Balancing beams, cargo net crawls and rope swings broke up the running and marshals even remembered me the second time I passed them! Spacing participants out in waves of every five or so minutes also meant there was no waiting for obstacles, which is always a plus!

Adrenaline Rush London - Swinging

Back at the event village, there was one final obstacle added onto the first lap… The leap of faith. Climbing up to a 5m high platform before jumping onto a stuntman’s airbag, then a run to the finish where motion activated cameras took photos. This was another nice touch I’d not previously seen, making sure everybody got a picture crossing the finish line.

For a fun race with plenty of challenges and a lot of different obstacles, ranging from monkey bars to leaping off 5m high platforms, Adrenaline Rush is one brilliant day out, and I’d recommend it to absolutely anybody.

Adrenaline Rush London - Jump

Will I be back next year? Definitely, and I can’t wait to see what Adrenaline Rush brings in 2017!

Spartan Race UK – London Olympic Park Sprint – 9th April 2016

My name is Holly Worthington. I’m an obstacle course fanatic from England, and race season has officially just begun here on the other side of the pond. My first race of the season was the 7km Spartan Sprint, based around the London 2012 Olympic Park… You don’t get much better than that! Having never previously been the biggest fan of ‘tarmac’ OCRs (mainly because of the lack of mud and challenging terrain), I have to say that I was massively surprised.

The iconic Olympic venue is brilliantly signposted, easily accessible from Stratford station, and for the first time in my OCR career… it had proper, clean toilets. Once I was over the shock of such clean toilets, we headed over to the base area which was brilliantly organised. Within 5 minutes, we had waivers signed and were registered with our timing chips, headbands, wave times and most importantly that free beer wristband for the finish line!  The atmosphere was incredible, with a very convincing Spartan getting the crowds warmed up and the sound of “AROO!” coming from every direction.

The race was full-on from the very beginning, using benches as giant steps, and following a winding path alongside the canal to keep the route interesting. Those beloved Spartan walls were in groups of two or three and were definitely close together!

Spartan Race UK Olympic Park

Using obstacles that were already there, including dodging water fountains set into the ground, the course was already off to a great start. Quickly, the obstacles got more difficult. From climbing walls, which went around corners making it impossible to see where to place feet, going both over and under cargo nets, and swinging from monkey bars spaced at different distances, the upper body was definitely tested.

Two barbed wire crawls were the next obstacles. They were just long enough to make it impossible to roll without being sick, but too long to crawl comfortably. Here we saw our first injury of the day, but medics were on site immediately with a quick response ambulance. Although there wasn’t mud on most of the course, we definitely got our fair share of it on this obstacle.

Spartan Race UK Barbed Wire

Although there was a lot of upper body challenges on this course, Spartan Race did a great job to keep it varied. This including filling a bucket with stones before carrying it around a course, dragging a tyre up a hill and the famous sandbag carry; this time up a hill and past the Olympic Rings. One thing that was very noticeable was the number of incredible volunteers who kept every participant motivated throughout the entire race. Science in Sport provided gel sachets along the route as well as having one water stop around the half way point.

No Spartan Race would be complete without the dreaded rope climb to reach the bell, and the spear throw. Having narrowly missed the spear throw, I completed my first, (and somehow, only!) 30 burpees of the day. No matter how many OCRs I take part in, I have not once managed to successfully complete this spear throw, bringing me to the conclusion that they are definitely broken spears.

As the course came to an end, the obstacles became a lot closer with gigantic walls to scale, a ramp with a rope to pull yourself over and the infamous fire jump before crossing the finish line. Before we knew it, we had crossed the finish line and been given our medals. Our timing chips were easily removed as they were wristbands… although we had both embarrassingly tied these to our shoelaces, being unfamiliar with such high-tech timing methods, and we were able to check out our times straight away, finishing in a time of 1:31:24.

The Reebok photo booths were an awesome addition to the base area, getting print-outs as well as emailed copies of the photos to take home as a souvenir. We put on our Spartan Shirts, drank our free beer, and just like that… Part 1 of the trifecta was complete.

Whilst the course may have been lacking mud and water obstacles, it certainly made up for it in atmosphere and set-up. The base area had plenty of food and drink options, clear presenting with all participants knowing where to go, and a hay bale seating area in front of a big screen. There were prize giveaways for the person who would manage the most tyre-flips in 30 seconds, and so much more to see.

Having taken part in the Pennsylvania, USA Spartan Sprint last year, I have to say that merchandise isn’t quite on the same level in the UK yet, but other than that, it was the best organised, most amazing venue I’ve raced at so far.

Photographs were released free of charge a few days later with Epic Action Imagery photographers at the best obstacles for photo opportunities. The kids Spartan Race also looked the best I’ve seen so far, having previously been disappointed by a kids race at the Allianz Park Spartan Race last year, in which the course was disorganised, shorter than advertised, lacking obstacles and there were no shirts left for the children taking part by half way through the day.

All in all, the Olympic Park Spartan Sprint was a great race and an incredible day out. Suitable for all the family with easy accessibility by path and plenty of brilliant facilities, anybody could come along to watch.

Could I always do tarmac OCRs? I would miss the mud too much. But would I do this race again? Any day!

 

Sign up for more Spartan UK races here.

 

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Obstacles In The Olympics – Parkour Opens The Door

Obstacle-related sports made an appearance on the programme of an Olympic event last month, but perhaps not in the way most in the OCR community might have imagined.

Antoine Dupré at YOG

© YIS / IOC Jed Leicester

The Mouvement International du Parkour, Freerunning et l’Art Du Déplacement was invited by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to contribute to the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games, as part of the sports and culture festival that ran alongside the more traditional competitions. As shown with skateboarding and climbing, this has become a pathway to wider Olympic inclusion.

“In the beginning, we were just doing it for ourselves,” said parkour co-founder Charles Perrière. “But what we were doing took on a life of its own. People told us we had to show it to the world, and as teenagers, we wondered what it would be like to take our creation to the Olympics. So being here is a nice little bit of recognition.”

Parkour showcases, demonstrations, and teaching took place indoors and outdoors, with practitioners also performing on stage at the Opening Ceremony. There were no competitions.

The indoor shows featured purpose-built modules from Cube Sports and were followed by classes for the audience, including members of the IOC. The latter were clearly impressed by what they saw. Legendary pole vaulter and IOC Executive Board member said: “It’s what I see the kids enjoying. The world is changing, there is some creativity, some new ideas that people bring to sport: this is always great.”

Supported by Ubisoft, the makers of the vastly popular Assassin’s Creed video game in which parkour movements are a key feature, allowed a positive link to be drawn directly between physical activity and youth culture.

parkour-s

 

© ArtFact / The Mouvement

The outdoor demonstrations and coaching took place in a DIY obstacle park, deliberately built out of construction site waste, pallets and cable drums. The goal was to remind participants (and their parents) that imagination, interest and common sense are all that are required to turn raw space into a place to play.

Parkour Olympics

@ArtFact / The Mouvement

Given the snow and ice, it was helpful to have the right pair of shoes, a common issue with OCR athletes who will recognize The Mouvement’s sponsor, Icebug, from the OCR World Championships. But OCR and parkour share more than just an interest in shoes.  Many OCR participants have turned to their local parkour groups to learn how to overcome obstacles, by treating anything and everything as an obstacle, and there are some shared roots.

Olympics parkour@Mathieu Chabasse / The Mouvement

Parkour stems from the French word parcours: commonly used in the context of parcours du combatant, or obstacle course. And as well as the more recent parkour, the French can be credited with the creation of modern obstacle courses.

At the French army’s physical education school, many of the features of modern obstacle courses and the thinking behind them were developed in the mid 18th century. Rigs featuring ropes, rings and more are the direct descendants of the portique concept created by Francisco Amoros, as demonstrated below in 1835:

AmorosAgres

A true visionary, Amoros wrote in 1832: “People’s greatest degree of skill and strength comes from finding within themselves the ability to overcome obstacles without recourse to additional help, which is not always available.”

Spartan Race 300 To Become A Standalone Event. Plus The Return Of The Gladiators

 

Spartan Race 300 Standalone Event - Sydney Stadium Sprint

Spartan Race Australia has long been a proponent of balancing the needs of competitive obstacle racers, with their desire to inspire and challenge anyone to take part in their events. With this in mind we recently saw the announcement of some major changes to the Spartan 300 event, as well as the re-introduction of the Spartan Race Gladiators.

With changes that will no doubt be met with broad approval from the obstacle racing community I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Spartan Race Australia CEO, Max DeLacy, to learn more about what this all means.

The Spartan 300 has 12 to 15 obstacles designed to test your all round strength, fitness and agility.

The Spartan 300 has traditionally been a series of 12 to 15 ninja warrior style obstacles in the final 300 meters of the Stadium Sprint and Super events. It was originally unveiled at the ANZ Stadium Event in October 2015 and was seen as the ultimate challenge to finish off what had already been a tough but rewarding event.

The idea of the Spartan 300 was to level the playing field and provide an opportunity for the all round obstacle racer to make up some ground and really show off their obstacle racing, rather than pure running, ability. In addition to that the 300 was a timed separately and offered a prize pool of $1,000, $500 and $250 for first, second and third respectively.

As a result this was a highly contested event that appealed to not only to elite obstacle racers, but also those with a background in other competitive endeavours such as crossfit. With competition however, comes the desire to perform at your best and while the initial feedback on the 300 as an “event within an event “was overwhelmingly positive Spartan Race Australia always had a three phase plan to implement and wanted to see that the best of the best rose to the top.

The rope climb is always a fan favourite.

This has led to the decision to run the Spartan 300 as a completely separate event within the wider Stadium Sprint/Super races. This provides the opportunity for all racers to complete the normal race to the best of their ability and then recover before tackling this grueling 300 metre challenge. Running in waves of 4 it will provide a spectacle for other racers and the public to see and also pit the top obstacle racers against one another in a closely fought competition. The first time this will be implemented is at the upcoming Stadium Sprint at Suncorp Stadium on the 29th of February 2016. The elites will be taking the field at the Spartan 300 between 10 and 10:30am with announcements to be made on the day so that there is plenty of time to get over there and see the action as it unfolds.

In addition to the above Max was also pleased to announce the return of the Gladiators to Spartan Race Australia events. In the revised format the Gladiators will now be positioned after the timing mats and be completely optional. Those who do not wish to run the gauntlet can simply pass to the side.

The driving force that allowed for their return was the recognition that Spartan Race Australia has a lower number of events than our American counterparts and as such the organisation of Gladiators for each occasion is much more manageable. Above all Spartan Race want consistency at their events and the decision to re-introduce the Gladiators reflects Spartan Race Australia’s confidence in achieving this.

Spartan Race Gladiators set to return to Australia.

Max outlined that a lot of work had been done behind the scenes to allow for their return and did so because he saw how much some people enjoyed facing off against the Gladiators. As long as there are smiles on both sides as you come into face the Gladiators Max believes it can only be a good experience.

All in all there are some positive changes taking place at Spartan Race and in particular the Spartan 300 has the potential to really become a stand out event in its own right. Have you previously competed at the Spartan Stadium Sprint/Super? If so what was your original impression of the Spartan 300 and do you think this is a move in the right direction?

Has The OCR Bubble Burst Down Under?

Back in 2012, obstacle racing really took off in Australia. Whereas prior to this there were maybe half a dozen races around the country, this exploded to over 60 or so individual events within two years. It was possible to do an event nearly every weekend, moves were afoot to create an obstacle racing association to govern the sport, and even the smaller events were getting thousands along to enjoy the mud.

Heading into 2016, however, things are markedly different. Tough Mudder no longer get their 20,000+ crowds along and have pulled out of some markets and postponed others, although they do still get over 10,000 to their events. Spartan Race average around just 3,000 to their events and have similarly cut out two of our major cities. Warrior Dash departed our shores long ago. Our largest home-grown event, The Stampede, pulled out of two markets and then cancelled events in our two largest cities, and another race series called True Grit cannot pull 2,500 in our largest city despite incorporating a 24 hour enduro format. The concept of a governing body has long since been discarded and is merely an association for 300 or so individuals Australia wide who hope to treat obstacle racing as a serious sport.

What happened?

On the whole, Australians are a very laid back bunch. Our psyche generally is not inclined towards the hardcore. We enjoy getting out and doing things, but we leave the win-at-all costs mentality to the professional sportspeople. As such, when this new obstacle racing craze took off in 2012, thousands upon thousands of Aussies got out there in the mud, climbed over walls, hung (and fell) from monkey bars and scored some rope burn on the tyrolean traverse. But once this had been done a couple of times and the novelty wore off, the majority ticked them off their bucket list and saved their coin for other pursuits – whether they be fun runs or trail runs or triathlons or even just a Colour Run or stair climb challenge.

This hypothesis was backed up with data not once but twice. Market research conducted through Australia’s premier obstacle racing website Obstacle Racers Australia asked respondents in two separate surveys how seriously they treated their obstacle racing. In both instances, around 80% indicated that they just treated obstacle racing as something fun to do.

In practical terms, this casual approach to obstacle racing is illustrated in the downward trending numbers that Spartan Race has managed to attract to their races over the past three years. Spartan Race is undoubtedly the event series for those that want to go hard, push themselves to the limit, receive penalties for failure and cross the finish line as quick as possible. Whilst Spartan Race events in Australia peaked at the start of 2014 with just under 5000 getting along to one race, numbers have continually declined despite such measures being introduced like a controversial ‘Rookie Pass’ where first-timers could do the course without the burpee penalty – a major departure from the Spartan ethos. Spartan Race did manage to attract just over 4,500 to their first Stadium event in early 2015 which did buck the downward trend but a follow up event later the same year in the same city only managed to get just over 3400 along (a 25% drop in numbers) despite introducing a Ninja Warrior style cluster of obstacles and the first Stadium Super in the world as well as a Stadium Sprint.

spartan race australia

Another factor above and beyond our easygoing attitude is the fact that whereas the USA has a population of 318M spread out relatively evenly, Australia has a mere 23M and despite the fact our island has roughly the same landmass as the continental United States they are clustered around just five major population centres (their closest USA geographical analogue city is indicated in parentheses):

– Sydney 5.39M (Atlanta)
– Melbourne 4.65M (Mobile)
– Brisbane 3.06M (Washington D.C.)
– Perth 2.00M (San Diego)
– Adelaide 1.27M (Dallas)

Races who want to get big crowds obviously put their events in a decently-sized population centre, but whereas Australia has a mere five cities with a population in excess of one million, the USA has over sixty. In addition, each one of these centres is at least a 7 hour drive away from the nearest, meaning that to do an event in another city the average racer is looking at airfares and in most cases accommodation and car hire, something that is a deterrent to all but the most enthusiastic obstacle racer. As such, race directors have saturated the top three of these cities with an overabundance of races which the obstacle racing market simply cannot sustain.

A silver lining?

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Tough Mudder, as mentioned earlier, still manage to draw big crowds of over 10,000 to the events they still hold in our three largest markets and are poised to roll out the female-oriented Mudderella around Australia. Smaller commercial series like Raw Challenge and Mud Muster still manage to turn a decent profit, and the community and charity events in country towns are well supported and raise good coin for their causes.

One indication that the bubble has burst Down Under and that Australians are ready to move on to The Next Big Thing is the instant and massive success of ROC Race which is coming to our shores in 2016. This is the renamed “Wipeout Run” up there, and although it’s still an obstacle race it’s a marked departure from the muddy theme that has been the norm until now. This new style of obstacle race has announced events in Sydney, Melbourne and Southeast Queensland, and all three have either sold out or come close to in a matter of days after tickets went on sale. A second day for Sydney and Melbourne were added very quickly, and both of these events will see around 20,000 people hit the inflatables obstacles and water for a day of giggles.

Rollerblades Forever!

Will obstacle racing go the way of the rollerblade Down Under? Time will tell if it was just a fad that had a few good years and then disappeared completely, or whether it simply declines and consolidates and hangs around on the fringes with fewer events catering to a much smaller market.

This writer’s opinion is that it will be the latter. Apart from those couple of hundred Australia-wide who would like to treat obstacle racing as a serious sport, I still think an economically sustainable number of Aussies – at least in our five biggest cities – will still be up for doing an event occasionally that involves acting like a big kid and having a laugh with mates whilst crawling, climbing, clambering and crashing. These events are definitely going to face a reduction in number, though, and those that do manage to survive will need to evolve, adjust and not just offer the same thing over and over again to a target market that will eventually move on to The Next Big Thing.