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.

 

`