Aston Down South West Super, Sprint and Hurricane Weekend 2018

Spartan returns, once again, to the Aston Down Airfield used by the RAF from the First World War. I have a love-hate relationship with this place, mainly stemming from my solo experience with the Spartan Super last year. Going into my first Super alone was certainly a daunting task and the aching, bruised body after certainly made it a day never to forget. This year, a little more of a seasoned racer and a little better prepared for what is to come, I have decided to return to Aston Down and be one medal closer to the Trifecta in 2018. This time, I’ve got friends.

“Every step you take gets you closer to the finish line”

Karl Allsop, Race Director at Spartan Race UK, ran his first Spartan Sprint at Bassingbourn Barracks in 2011. Karl spent some time talking with me about his love affair with Obstacle Course Racing that spawned from his first ever Spartan race. As Director of Race Operations, Karl has complete responsibility in the operational planning of Spartan Races within the UK.

 

The design of the Aston Down course, for Karl and his team, has really been a process of looking back on previous years and learning from them. I can tell that the course this year has been meticulously planned out, ensuring that the racers experience a challenging yet not impossible race that will really push them to their limits. “We really have had the benefit of being able to say, if we place this obstacle here, then what next? If we have the Atlas Carry here do we really want to be going into Bucket Brigade? Are our racers really going to be able to do it? But what we don’t want to do is sort of deflate our racers.” As a racer, it’s nice to know that those behind Spartan are interested in helping participants reach their goals even if it is in a painful, brutal way.

“Aston has become sort of synonymous with the ‘Death Valley’ it’s this valley that we flood with obstacles.”

I asked Karl how he felt this season, and the approach that has been taken to it is different from the last. “I think we have seen some great growth, not just for Spartan, but for the sport as a whole over the last few years. I think Aston South West is a great example of how we have seen it change and grow. The first year we had maybe just over a 1000 people for the race day. We then grew to just over 3000 last year and we’ve topped just over 4000 this year.”

As the numbers have grown, I really felt that Spartan Race has focused on listening to their racers and strived to make changes based on their experiences. “A lot of our obstacles have been upgraded for this race and the reason for that is that our racers are getting better, they’re getting faster, they’re getting stronger. It’s great that we now have to adapt to our racers”.

The desire that every racer will have the same experience when taking part in a Spartan Race is what drives the team to talk to the racers and spectators to get their views on what would make race day more enjoyable. Aston will improve on Spartan’s ‘rocking festival’ area where spectators and tired racers and finishers, can enjoy the Spartan atmosphere. It’s free to spectators and will even contain ‘festival obstacles’ to entertain throughout the day. “We spent a lot of time last year asking what do you want, what do you want to see, how do you want to do it? So this year we have more spectator areas and have designed the course a little differently just to give the spectators something to look at.”

And finally, an important part of enjoying the course rides a lot on the support you have around you. Not only the friends you run with but the encouragement you get from Spartan volunteers. My experience of these guys has been nothing but positive. I’ve seen many cheering, clapping and dancing the racers through the tough challenges that Spartan puts them through. “You get the guys who are just smiling, they’re laughing, they’re high fiving everyone you know there is mud flying everywhere and its infectious isn’t it?”

“A big focus this year has been on what does the racer actually want in terms of when they come to a Spartan Race? What do they want to see, what do they want to feel? And how do we slowly adapt and progress to that?”

A final round-up of Aston Down? The course layout for Spartan Race is always kept under tight wraps until race day but Karl was sure to let me know the gist of what to expect come Saturday. “If people want intensity, but they also want fun, then Aston is a great place to do it”. It’s going to be bigger and better than ever.

Aston did me right last year, it took me, chewed me up and spat me back out a better stronger racer. I’m glad to hear that Karl and his team have really taken these races up a notch and have done everything they can to make sure that those racing really get the most out of their time and out of themselves. Aston Down proves to be a show-stopping weekend of OCR magic and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

There are limited spots available for this weekend’s South West Super, Sprint and Hurricane Heat in Aston Down, Gloucestershire. Visit http://www.spartanrace.uk to book your place and get further information.

Photo Credits: Epic Action Imagery (www.epicactionimagery.com)

Spartan Race Launches Irish Debut

 

‘NOVICE HURDLERS’ SET TO SPRING SURPRISE ON PUNCHESTOWN GRANDSTANDERS

 


One of world’s biggest sporting series, Spartan Race, launches Irish debut

Dublin racecourse forecast: Going will be ‘Soft to Very Muddy’ 
Spartan Sprint welcomes all newcomers: Sunday, 27 May 2018

 

 Grandstand crowds at Punchestown Racecourse, the home of Irish National Hunt Racing, may rub their eyes in disbelief when ‘novice hurdlers’ romp home up the final furlong this spring.

Organisers announced today the famous Co. Kildare course, 18 miles south of Dublin, is to stage one extra thrilling day’s racing in May – but cheering spectators won’t spot a single horse or jockey in the parade ring.

Instead, only TWO-legged, human runners will feature on the racecard, with the special day’s adrenaline-fuelled sport being hosted by the world’s leading Obstacle Course Racing company, Spartan Race. Now staging races in over 30 countries, the company is proudly making its debut in Ireland this year.

The use of riding crops will be strictly forbidden, and the going will officially be declared ‘Soft to Very Muddy’ as Punchestown’s equestrian fences are swapped for even tougher cross-country challenges. Runners will have to wade through muddy bogs, scale slippery, 7-foot ramps, clamber up 25-foot-high cargo nets, lug 10kg sandbags up steep hills, climb 15-foot ropes, crawl under barbed wire on their tummies, then leap a ‘fire jump’ finale over blazing logs as their Grandstand finish.

Nobody needs to be a thoroughbred to take part though, as the ‘Spartan Sprint’ on Sunday, May 27 is an ‘entry-level’ race suitable for beginners and all levels of fitness. The Sprint, Spartan Race’s shortest event, 5km+ (3 miles) and 20+ obstacles, is a firm favourite with both new and experienced racers. Spartan hosts 250 races worldwide attracting more than 5 million runners in under 10 years, and the fixture at Punchestown, near the county town of Naas, is expected to draw participants and family spectators from across Ireland.

With Dublin now one of Europe’s premier tourist destinations, organisers also expect the event to draw a wider international audience, with other sporting enthusiasts flying in from across Europe and the US.

Spartan Race Regional Director Sean Meehan, (now available for interview), who lives in County Fermanagh and helped plan the Punchestown event, said: “Like the horses before them, our racers will discover a fast, exciting racecourse that’s both challenging and diverse – plus water, mud, forest and rolling hills. Runners will head off cross-country, then return to a rousing Grandstand finish up the famous Punchestown final furlong.

“Spartan is the world’s biggest endurance brand and we’re thrilled that our debut Irish event will open up a new market for Ireland, locally hosting obstacle course racing, which is now also the fastest-growing participation sport in the world. The timing of our Ireland race is perfect as it fits the current trend towards fitness, wellbeing and adventure sports. There’s a boom in adventure sports in Ireland, particularly along the West Coast, with trail running, kayaking and mountain biking. I hope they’ll all welcome Spartan with open arms.

 

“More than 1 million participants in over 30 countries ran a Spartan Race in 2017, and absolutely anybody can do one – people of all shapes and all sizes. There is no prior fitness required: you will get to the finish line.”

 

Meehan, an endurance athlete who helps stage Spartan races across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, added: “We also attract elite athletes, but beginners receive lots of helping hands and assistance on the course. The atmosphere and camaraderie are awesome. Crossing the fire jump in front of the famous Punchestown Grandstand, receiving your Spartan medal round your neck, and enjoying the buzz from the festival, will create a very special day out for racers and spectators alike.”

Obstacle course racing is now a worldwide craze, attracting millions of runners and keep-fit enthusiasts, including 5km and 10km racers, half marathoners and marathoners seeking a fresh challenge. Contrary to the misconception that the sport is dominated by testosterone-fuelled men, 40 per cent of Spartan Race runners are women. Obstacles are always kept top secret on race day on purpose to surprise racers. Failure to complete an obstacle incurs a compulsory set of 30 ‘burpees’, or squat-thrusts, meted out irrespective of gender.

A packed Spartan Race 2018 programme of 30 UK races will run until October – a fixture calendar increased by a record 50 per cent from 2017, reflecting booming British interest in the sport (now one of the UK’s fastest-growing). This year, around 30,000+ people are expected to run Spartan Races, which are named after the fearless Ancient Greek warriors. Punchestown has hosted major music festivals in the past, welcoming bands such as Kings of Leon, R.E.M., The Killers and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but has never before hosted a Spartan Race.

There are three main types of Spartan Races, a Sprint (5km+), a Super (12km+) and a Beast (22km+). An average racer takes around 2 hours 40 minutes to complete a Sprint. Some elite racers can manage it in 40 minutes.

Spartan Race will also be hosting a Spartan Kids race at Punchestown. One of a record 11 Spartan events scheduled for junior competitors this year, it is open to children aged 4-13. They run a 1.5km course and youngsters must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian onsite.

To register for the Dublin event visit http://bit.ly/2DvIJv3

SPARTAN RACE SCHEDULE 2018: SPARTAN SPRINTS (5KM+ / 3 MILES; 20+ OBSTACLES)

Spartan Sprint South-east – Sunday, 8 April: St Clere, London Road (A20), Wrotham, Kent TN15 7NS

Spartan Sprint Dublin – Sunday, 27 May: Punchestown Racecourse, near Naas, Dublin, County Kildare

Spartan Sprint South-west – Sunday, 24 June: Aston Down, Aston Down Airfield, Gloucestershire GL6 8HR

Spartan Sprint Midlands – Sunday, 15 July: Marston Lodge, Marston Trussell, Market Harborough, Northamptonshire LE16 9TT

Spartan Sprint Scotland – Sunday, 16 September: Kinnoull Hill & Deuchny Woods, South Inch, Perth PH2 8AX

Spartan Sprint Windsor – Sunday, 7 October: Rapley Farm, Bracknell Road, Bagshot, Berkshire GU19 5PN

 

For full details of all UK Spartan Race events in 2018, visit www.spartanrace.uk

Follow Spartan Race UK on social media:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/SpartanRaceUK or https://www.facebook.com/SpartanRaceIreland/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spartanraceuk

Twitter: @spartanraceuk