Spartan Race UK Peterborough Weekend

Last year was the first year that Spartan Race UK used the gorgeous Elton Hall as a Spartan Venue, and it it was one of the main turning points for the company in the UK; it also very quickly became a favourite among the UK racers, This year’s Sprint & Super cemented that.


This was a long week for me, but as always with a looming Spartan Race, I was looking forward to a brutal exciting weekend. We weren’t disappointed.

Finishing work at 5am, quick walk to the train station and it began. 4.5 hours later and a lift from the train station by a dear friend, I arrived at the venue.  If you’ve never been to Elton Hall, you need to visit. Spartan UK has a habit of picking iconic, beautiful venues and Elton Hall is near the top of that list.

Saturday was a bit of a washout when it came to the weather, lovely and sunny in the morning and then the rains came.

After spending most of the morning volunteering on the finish line. We lined up for the final wave,  and I was glad we skipped the warm up. Usually I’d enjoy the group burpees in the start corral, but at this stage we just really wanted to get out on the course.

While they change the format, Spartan usually use the same type of obstacles per race. Peterborough was no different. The first kilometre was a nice mixture of 4ft walls, inverted walls & OUT’s. (Over, Under, Through for those who don’t know). Running through the forested area provided a nice break from the rain and for me, it always adds to the beauty of a run.

We soon came across the rope climb (or in my case the start of my burpees). Another run through some forest and we came across the barbwire crawl. In all my Spartan Races I have to say that this barbwire crawl was second only to the French Beast last year. It wasn’t long but the twists, turns and mud pools made it fun. I’ll admit we may have spent more time than needed playing around in the mud.


(Side note – it was here that the Sprint & Super course separated, but more on that later.)

Continuing on we had the atlas stones, Z-walls, and the block drag.  A bit more running through a forest and finally the finish line was in sight. A couple of 6 ft walls, made slightly more difficult by the rain and mud, Herc Hoist, 8ft walls and the sprint to the fire jump.

I’ll admit by the time we got to the finish line for the sprint I was looking forward to a shower, food, and sleep. The super was coming and I had a time limit to run it in.


So, after a cheeky Nandos with friends, curling up on a surprisingly comfy air bed, my wonderful band of misfit friends & I arose to tackle the Super. Now I mention that I had a self imposed time limit to complete the run. Well, I had a train booked back to Edinburgh at 1300 as I had work at 1800. My time limit worry wasn’t just for myself though. I was running with a friend who is somewhat new to our wonderful world of OCR.

Back on site and back in the start corral for the Elite wave. Now, I’m by no means elite. I run purely for me and the joy it brings, but sometimes the extra 20 mins can be handy.  Once more into the fray, and once again we spent more time than needed in that barb wire crawl. The course change from the Sprint to the Super led us through a gate and into a darkened forest.  I may run too many Spartan races (is there such a thing?). The forested area had a nice hilly chicane where my first thought was that it would have made a great area for a sandbag carry.

I may run too many Spartan races (is there such a thing?). The forested area had a nice hilly chicane where my first thought was that it would have made a great area for a sandbag carry.  The forest opened up and led us to a rather lovely reservoir to wade around. I wasn’t expecting that to be as killer on the calves as it was. Nice to wash the mud off though. A rather slippery cargo slip a frame followed by the the Z-wall rope traverse (Burpee time again).

Back on course, we’re once again hit with some firm favourites, another barb wire crawl, multi rig, Bucket brigade, log drag and a lovely vertical cargo net climb. Side note – I really do need to learn the flip technique at the top of these. Onto the log carry and the finish line is in sight again just across a field so we know we’re near the finish again, or at least close to rejoining the sprint.

More trail leads us around towards the A-Frame and spear through. I’m actually quite happy that I nailed my spear throw in the super, not so much in the Sprint though.
On a note one of the Spartan did well within this course was that the kids course ran alongside parts. Both the kids and the big kids started from the same start line which I think really brought it together as a family event.


Back down to the walls, hoist, and onto the finish.

Spartan Race is one of the companies within in the UK that folks like to complain about, but ever since Peterborough last year, I think they have fewer legimite reasons for those complaints.

I’m aware that I’m biased. My first ever OCR was a Spartan, but they have come a long way since then (2014 Edinburgh sprint!) I know that race back then couldn’t hold a candle to the courses they build and put together now.

Overall, Spartan Peterborough was a huge success. With the support of the Volunteers and Spartan staff it was a day to remember for all involved.

On that note, I can only look forward to the Sprint & Beast in Windsor with excitement. Shall I be seeing you there?

Spartan Race Canada: Red Deer Weekend Review

Red Deer title-01

“We have to keep making things harder”, said Dean Stanton, Director of Spartan Race Western Canada. He was looking at me with a grin. I was shivering in a thin down jacket, wet feet and a bag full of wet clothes that were seeping through my backpack. I guess it would be amusing; after all I was talking to the man responsible for my condition, after having just completed the Red Deer Sprint at Heritage Ranch, Red Deer, Alberta Canada. The irony of the situation wasn’t lost on Dean.

He continued, “Canada is producing some world class competitors so we have to build things that will challenge them – we’ve got people like Faye, the Wieclawek brothers, Josh Stryde, Mikhail and Austin Azar that can perform and excel on the world stage. We have to continually make the obstacles more challenging. They all get better that way.”

It’s true. The quality and design of the Western Canadian Spartan Race series has been excellent this year – pushing everyone to be better. Western seems to have fine tuned the formula of what makes an OCR challenging, by adding simple touches to the arrangement and execution of the race. 

More relevantly for my core temperature, part of the extra challenge is that the Western Canadian series stretches deep into September – where the weather in prairies can flip flop between scorching hot and wintry. There was no snow yet thankfully, but today it was a brisk 10 degrees centigrade with a breeze that brought the temperatures closer to 5 degrees (35 F). Dean was ready for it though. Dean was dressed warmly in a ‘toque’ and a fleece. Dean is smart. Be more like Dean.

I asked him what the overall strategy was for each race.


Dean responded, “For the Super, we wanted to make sure people were running the technical trails. So after the first few obstacles were used to warm competitors up, we threw them into the single-track in the forest to thin out the field. I love that winding forest single-track.  I am not a fan of using fire roads and paving at all during my course design. We make you run on the horse trails and the rough paths the whole way if we can. Then you hit the stacked obstacles.”

ben Spartan Red DeerI didn’t mention the absence of water crossings or weighted carries on the Sprint – something that has been much talked about since the race. Maybe I should have asked about that… but gimme a break. It was cold. Besides, in my opinion, the extra heavy carry loop would have made the course too long. 

“We put a lot of design and thought into our obstacles and we’ve been working on developing different setups for the rig. I love that rig. I get to change this and alter that however I want – people fail the rig a lot, but it was the same thing when we put the monkey bars in…”.red-deer-rig

“People get frustrated and train harder when they fail an obstacle”, I added. “I’ll be back for sure after this. I have to beat it!”, I chattered.

“Right. We stacked the obstacles together in certain areas to challenge grip strength. We just made it harder – people seem to be enjoying the challenge”. He had a broad smile on his face now. The guy clearly enjoys his craft. The notoriety of being responsible for the course that probably claimed the highest number of burpees in a long time is part of a great business strategy. We want to get better. We hunger for that perfect score.  

Indeed – that perfect burpee free score was reserved for only a few, and here is why and how. The Red Deer races both included a ‘stacked’ section of four grip-based obstacles with a mud obstacle thrown in to keep things slick. The sequence was 1. Multirig, 2. Wet and muddy barbed wire crawl (to lube things up a lot), 3. Slip wall, 4. Hercules hoist and then 5. Monkey bars.

The sequence resulted in me doing a solid 120 burpees in the Super, and 60 burpees in the Sprint. Additionally, for the super, the sandbag haul was twice the distance compared to last year. The atlas carry was up and down a short hill, whereas last year it was completely flat. The tire flip was nearly impossible for many, as the weight of the tires being used seemed to have doubled (or maybe I’m just getting weaker – totally possible). For both races, transferred mud meant that the 120lb sandbag hoist became almost impossible unless you picked a rope with enough knots within arms reach. Finally, the rope climb was again rendered mostly impassable for all except those who have vices for hands.


This is all good. This is exactly the kind of challenge I show up for.


As I shook hands with Dean and thanked him for his time, I had to congratulate him on a great series so far. As in my Calgary review, I told him that it is clear and obvious that something has evolved and changed. Dean, and the team at Spartan Race Western Canada are unashamedly putting us through a more punishing, more challenging iteration of the race than they have ever produced before, and I hope it’s a strategy that keeps the race strong and well attended in this venue and others.

Now all attention turns to the peaks of central British Columbia for the final battle of the Western Series. The Sun Peaks Sprint, Beast and Ultrabeast Weekend.



Some quotes from other racers:

FAYE STENNING – 1st Place Elite Female Saturday and Sunday


“I had a terrible race but I LOVED the course. I found a lot of the obstacles way more challenging than the USA races . Like the rig (I failed that both days when reaching for the very last rope before the bell) and the balance beam (they have a log hop in the USA which is way easier). On Saturday the rain made even the easiest obstacles a challenge (like the transverse wall).

The terrain was awesome. I liked the mix of open fast fields and trails which were fun and technical, but not so technical that you couldn’t fly through them.

I think the Sprint should have had at least one heavy carry in it. You can’t have a Spartan Race without throwing something heavy in the mix! This would also help lengthen the race because the guys race was won in 26mins, which in my opinion is too short (that’s basically a stadium race).

Honestly, what I liked most about the race is that it was safe. I’m soooo tired of trying to run fast on extremely technical ankle-breaking terrain. I understand the reasons for making it technical, but you don’t have to make the course SO technical that it’s un-runnable… you can do that by throwing in more heavy shit.”

AUSTIN AZAR – 1st Place Super

austin-azarI usually prefer the mountainous courses, but I really enjoyed Red Deer despite being a flat course. The obstacles seem to get better and more challenging at each Western Canada event, which is nice to see. The only big disappointment for me was to see the bucket carry not in play on Sunday. We ran right by it… for some reason it wasn’t included”



“Negative aspects: They removed all heavy carries from the sprint.

Positive aspects: The difficulty of the obstacles. The uphill atlas carry although it was very short. The uphill-ness of the bucket carry, although again short, they did their best with what they had.

The course markings were on point this year too (last year me josh and Austin went off course because there was flagging ripped down and had to loop around and complete a missed obstacle thereby adding a few minutes to our race). It was easier on the Sunday obstacle wise for sure. But my lungs almost exploded trying to keep pace with those barbarians”

KODY O’BRIEN – 1st place competitive both days


“Well, I’m not the best with words but…On the first day it was a quick start that saw racers out for blood, I found myself focusing on the ground in front of me a lot throughout the first 4-5 kms on the single track. Then it opened up into the field of obstacles which was where I gained momentum. Once I saw the rig and my hands were dry(ish) I knew this was my chance to pull ahead.  From there it was a lot of single track, again focusing on foot placement. Once I got to the top of the stairs I knew I was close to the end. I raced over to the spear and missed resulting in my first burpees of the year!  Finally I got to the rope, but my legs were cramping and the rope was greasy. I couldn’t make it up and finished my race with burpees!

On the second day I knew I had to redeem myself on the obstacles. I completed that race penalty free and finished right in front of my kids!

It was an amazing weekend full of amazing people and memories I won’t soon forget!”

MIKHAIL GERYLO – 1st place Sprint, 2nd place Super


“Super: Great combo obstacle locations to make you race smart such as: herc hoist – monkey bars right after mud. Stair climb hill – spear throw. And barb wire water – rig and slip ramp.

I loved the winding single track through the woods. The weather on the days leading into it made even the slip ramp something you had to concentrate on.

Sprint: there was no room for error. Even if you spent an extra 10 seconds on an obstacle you fell back from the lead! It was a crazy quick course which was nice for my Manitoba legs.

The Sprint really saw who has been working on their top speed and obstacle confidence but really both days could have been totally different with the outcomes. The experiences of battling the entire race was something I’ll never forget with this crew.”

NANCY LORANGER – Competitive Super


“I look forward to the Red Deer Super because the course is fast and less technical than typical Spartan races. I realize this terrain doesn’t appeal to all racers but I find it it refreshing as I can dig deep for speed and my legs don’t get maxed on big climbs/descents…

I was frustrated by the spear throw obstacle.  I believe there were only 5 spears on site….and even though I was racing competitive and had just the elite heat ahead of me, it was a bottleneck…!

Overall…I enjoy the location of the Red Deer Spartan race. Running through a maze of single track trails that shoot you out into open terrain where you can reset your pace, set your sights on a new racer to chase and psych yourself for the obstacle off in the distance.”

MICHELLE FORD – 2nd Place Spartan Super


Since the only chance I get to practice obstacles is usually on race day, on a bit of a whim, I headed to Red Deer to take advantage of the two back-2-back races. I’m not much of an uphill runner, so being able to race on fast, flat(ish) cross-country style terrain played into my strong suites (in other words, I loved the course). Saturday’s Super was an exciting game of leap-frog for the final couple kilometers, where I managed to sneak 2nd place just seconds ahead of Jessica and Ali. Sunday’s Sprint I would have liked to have seen more heavy carries, but still had great fun being chased by Faye, who eventually nailed the spear and passed me with 400m to go. Overall the weekend was a great showcase of the OCR talent coming out of Canada right now, both for men and women and it’s pretty exciting to this sport grow in our country.

Photo Credits: Spartan Race Canada, X-warrior, Rugged Maniac 2016

Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest – Wembley, London

This month’s race was the Rat Race Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest. Based around Wembley, UK, the 10k obstacle course was 100% man-made and 100% tough. Rat Race is known in the UK for their incredible atmosphere, base areas, and impressive obstacles… and that’s exactly what we got.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest Keg Bars

The first thing you saw as you approached the start zone was a tower of shipping containers, three stories high with people climbing up and down them. There were also some enormous obstacles around the finish line, but we’ll get to that later. The registration process was simple and there were no queues. The bag drop was secure, as well as having a separate valuables drop-off point which was free of charge and could only be accessed using your password.

Now for the fun stuff.

Men’s Health really stepped their game up again this year. I’ve done the past 3 years in a row and every time the obstacles have somehow managed to beat the previous year.

Once in the starting area, there was a warm-up video before setting off around London. Obstacles began quickly, with hay bales and hurdles before being soaked by a fireman’s hose, which was much appreciated in 29c heat, as we went on to tackle the stairs of Wembley Way repeatedly while carrying cones and sandbags.

The route back down Wembley way was a lot faster, as we slid down a water slide. Obstacle after obstacle, there were new challenges as we climbed scaffolding, did tightrope walks and leapt in and out of water before the real fun began.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest - Slide

The course took us down into a knee-depth river where we found a tunnel. The tunnel was enormous and seemed to go on for a good few minutes, but participants eventually made it to the end and found the light again after stumbling around in the pitch black for a while.

The next area was called the ‘playground zone’ and it was exactly as you’d imagine. It began with a space-hopper race, which may have seemed easy as a child but it turns out they are exhausting when you are of adult size. We leaped over pommel horses, went head-first over spinning barrels and made our way through a giant net full of exercise balls.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest - Spool Over

With obstacles to test upper body as well as core strength, this 10k was a proper workout, and left you feeling it afterwards, but had small foam mats at the bottom of some obstacles. I can’t imagine they would have helped much if you did fall, but they made it feel a lot safer at the time.  Having run through shipping containers filled with dry ice, and crawled through tunnels made from scaffolding, the course was almost over as we approached the main obstacle zone.

Leaping from a platform onto a stunt mattress, we set off up the three-storey shipping container pile, crossing a cargo net and making our way back down again, before arriving at the final obstacle.

It was, of course, the travellator. Being the second travellator I’ve encountered in UK OCR’s, this was definitely at a faster speed than the previous one, but it was one last push to the top of the obstacle and a leap down to the finish.  After collecting your medal, there was a free photo with your finishing time above your head, and a load of merchandise to look at, as well as being given a free rubber bracelet, headband and t-shirt.

Men's Health Survival of the Fittest - Car

The only negative aspects of the race were the fact that photos had to be bought (unless you were happy with the watermarked ones) and the water stations were a little too far apart for the temperature. But if those are the only two faults, you’re not doing too badly.

For a race with innovative, fun obstacles and the perfect mixture of challenges and achievable obstacles, I’d recommend Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest to anybody, from first-time runners to the experience.

Go get yourself signed up!

Spartan Race Beast – Krynica Zdroj, Poland

Spartan Race Poland StartOn July 23 and 24 was the Spartan Race Poland weekend near Krynica Zdroj, Poland  on the ski hill Jaworzyna Krynicka. I raced the Beast on July 23. It was a tough course with many hills and technical terrain. My Suunto watch recorded 22.5km and 1850m in elevation gain. This was comparable to the steep inclines of Montana race (Beast 2015) and Sun Peaks race (Beast 2015).

Spartan Race Poland Hurricane Heat

To begin, the Hurricane Heat started early morning at 5am on Saturday. A group of SGX coaches lead the hurricane heat. It was very early so I can’t recall all the details. There was about 50 participants. It looked really fun! Burpees was an essential part of this.

Obstacles that I believe are different from America and Europe: precision log hopping. There was a total of 8 short vertical logs/stumps in the ground that measured about 4 inches in diameter (~10 centimeters) and about a meter apart from one another.  With a decent pace, you lightly jump from log to log without falling to complete this obstacle.

Poland_bucket_carryThey also had 2 bucket carries. One of the buckets were already pre-filled with a sandbag. The other longer bucket carry was an uphill carry where you had to fill your bucket to the top and start climbing up a hill. If you didn’t think this was enough they also had a sandbag carry right before you cross the finish line!



The infamous memorization Sandbag carrytest. Each racer received a bib number. Somewhere in the first half of the course there was a board from #00 to #99 with 6 numerical/alphabetical figures that followed. You had to take the last 2 numbers of your bib and memorize the 6 figures that followed your bib number. While climbing the mountain I was repeatedly saying the figures to myself for approximately 1km. Much later in the race (8km later) there was volunteers asking for those 6 figures. If someone forgot their code it resulted in a 30 burpee penalty.

Spartan Race Poland Terrain

Furthermore, the part I enjoyed most about this Beast Race was the technical terrain. There was a long 2km run down the stream with rocks and current. The competitive racers were running through this but it was easy to twist an ankle on the uneven terrain. There was a long tunnel in the water we ran through as well. Let’s just say hydration was not a problem in this race! During the entire race I believe there was 5 hydration stations. Aside from the water trails, there was multiple steep inclines and single track trails. I remember climbing up the hill and every time we reached the top there was another hill to climb, classic!

Other than the terrain, Spartan Races in Europe use the same obstacles from venue to venue. They have a multi-rig but I found it to be the same set-up in comparison from the race in Slovakia and Poland. They have around 30 different obstacles. I found that the volunteers at each obstacle clearly directed you in the correct direction and explained what to do on each obstacle. Can’t thank enough for those volunteers!

Spartan Race Poland Festival

The Festival Area in the venue was in a great open location on the bottom of the ski hill. It had a gondola that went up all the way to the top of the hill for the spectators to watch all the racers as they hike up and down the mountain. It was a great venue. They were selling food, ice cream, and beer. It even had a Garmin tent as its sponsors. In the afternoon, Spartan Race was giving away prizes for top 3 male, top 3 female, and top 3 fastest teams. They were also giving away a couple of Garmin watches, and some goodie bags with protein and shakers.  All in all, it was a great event!

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Spartan Race UK – Edinburgh Sprint – 23 July 2016


I finally got to do my first Spartan Race this year, and it was more than I expected. The Spartan Race UK Edinburgh Sprint, organized at Spittal Farm on the outskirts of Edinburgh amongst the beautiful Scottish hills, was a 3.6 mile timed race with 23 obstacles that were designed to physically push racers to achieve new levels of comfort. Having taken part in multiple Tough Mudder events, I was looking forward to the challenge of a Mud Race rather than a Mud Run. The race began fast paced with some hay bales, 6-ft wall climbs and some OUT walls (Over Under Through walls), the biggest challenge was the use of the local terrain, through the thick foliage of a nearby woodland causing racers to almost bear crawl up the hillside, followed by surrounding hill climbs around the race hub. This is what caused the pack of runners to spread thin with the stronger athletes powering ahead.  Further round the course, we came across some of the well know obstacles, 30-ft cargo nets, 50-kg atlas ball carry, barb wire crawl, monkey bars, rope climbs, Hercules hoist, lots of water and mud not to mention the notorious spear throw (and of course my first and only burpee penalty of this race).

Unlike in other OCR events in which I have taken part, it was nice to be tasked with obstacles that had failure penalties; this forced me to physically challenge myself to push through some discomfort during some obstacles, the reward for finishing these obstacles, however, was far greater than any I have experienced before. It’s safe to say that this time I was not focused on time but rather completing every obstacle and actually finishing the race, but I now have the Spartan bug; as soon as we began our journey home after the event, we had already begun to plan to participate in the full trifecta next year. It’s true what they say, one is never enough.

I am still relatively new to the obstacle race scene but have been an avid listener to both the Spartan Up Podcast and the ORM Podcast for some time, so you can imagine my delight to know that Joe DeSena (Spartan race founder) himself was not only at the event but was also taking part in the same race. I didn’t get a chance to meet him in person due to my start time and Joe was out running when I returned to the race hub, although the atmosphere of those with him helped amp the experience to the next level.

I believe that the Spartan Sprint is a great entry race into the competitive world of obstacle course racing with the added bonus of being able to progress to the super and the beast. After the race events, there is also Spartan Endurance events (Hurricane Heat, Hurricane Heat 12HR, and Agoge) available to those able to participate.
Photo Credit: Epic Action Imagery LTD for Spartan Race UK

Spartan Race Europe: Kosice, Slovakia – July 9, 2016

This was my first European spartan race. The Spartan Race Europe in Kosice, Slovakia on July 9, 2016. With about 3500 participants, the race took place inside the old city, with most of the running on cobblestones and pavement. The total distance for this Sprint was 6.5km (that’s just over 4 miles to the Americans) with very little elevation gain. There were no single tracks, so in this race, it was easy to pass people if needed!

Spartan Race - Kosice - MultirigWhen I arrived at the venue, there were already many participants at registration. The lines for registration were very long, but it seemed Spartan had everything under control.

1. Wooden inclined balance beam; I found this easy as there was no mud and the way it was constructed, the balance beam was solid and not wobbly.
2. The bucket carry, which was a pre-filled plastic trash bin with sand inside. The good thing about this was all participants had the same amount to carry. It was really light compared to American Spartan Races, and the travel distance with the bucket was only like 100 meters.
3. Inclined and declined monkey bars. As all these obstacles were made on pavement, I would have expected to see some hay or padding on the ground, because I did see people falling and some even got hurt when landing on the hard surface.
4. Sprint memorization test, which I have only experienced in the longer races. This was where you memorize a variation of numbers and letters according to the last 2 digits of your bib number.
5. Lastly, they had a multi-rig. This was probably the hardest obstacle for most participants, especially in the rain. Since everything was announced in Slovakian, I’m not sure how the rules worked if you are able to kick the bell or not. After watching multiple athletes attempt, I saw one Athlete kick the bell, but he was still required to do burpees.

One thing I did not like was how non-strict the volunteers were at some of the obstacles. I witnessed a participant from the first heat attempt the rig and at the very end he placed his foot on the ground. He then kept doing the obstacle and hit the bell and went to the finish line. That would not pass in an elite race in America.Spartan Race - Kosice - Slovakian medal

Finally, the organization of the venue. The festival area was really good. The medic area, results area, merchandise area, and finish/start line were all close together. The timing chips that were used were bracelets and worked very well.  After the finish line, the gladiator girls gave the sprint medal and sprint pie piece along with the Kosice medal. The volunteers cut the timing chips, and the start time wristbands. Each finisher received a shirt, banana, water, and beer!

The starting line was organized very well. There were two security helpers making sure only the racers with the correct heat times were able to race.

There was also a Charity heat where racers raised money for a cause and were given a yellow charity shirt to race in. This generally only happens at the Spartan World Championships in America.  Once they crossed the finish line, they were given a yellow charity spartan medal. I liked this idea, as I’ve never seen it done this way before.Spartan Race - Kosice - Charity run

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