2019 Spartan Stadion Series Announcement

The 2019 Spartan Stadion Series has been announced and it may bring us some top 10 shake-ups ib both the Stadion and US National Series.  More on that in a bit, let’s give you an overview first.

Back in the fall of 2012, doing an obstacle race at Fenway Park was just a cool idea/bucket list item for a lot of racers. However, we quickly found out that there was more to it than just running around a famous stadium. In this early podcast, we learned all of the built-in infrastructure benefits for the race directors such as parking, concessions, and registration. Soon thereafter, the idea of running in stadiums became popular with a ton of races and not just OCR. “Finishing on the 50” is a concept that has been taken on by 5ks all over the country.

Back to our history lesson. After that initial Fenway weekend being such a huge success, it was no surprise that Citi Field in New York and Miller Park in Milwaukee were added as race venues in 2013. Pretty soon, ole Spartan had themselves a series. They even began “crowning” a series champion, but with little marketing or fanfare. Previous “Stadium Series Champions” are tough to find. We did an extensive search on the internet and only turned up this January 16 article, that we compiled for the 2015 Spartan Stadium Series.

Last April, Spartan announced the 2018 series would have 10 races, bigger payouts, and a reduced penalty of 15 burpees. However, only 3 of the stadium races counted towards the point series championship so racers needed to show up and perform at their best at Citi Field, AT&T Stadium, and Fenway Park.

This year, there will be 4 races that count towards the series championship.

April 13 – Citi Field – NY, NY

May 11 – Nationals Park – Washington, D.C.

June 22 – AT&T Stadium – Dallas, TX

Nov 29 – Fenway – Boston, MA

Plus, stadium lovers can also get their “no mud” fix at the following:

June 15 – State Farm Stadium – Phoenix, AZ

Aug 3 – Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles, CA

Sept 21 – Citizen’s Bank Park – Philadelphia, PA

The increased payouts of $800/$600/$400 for all spartan stadium podiums versus the $500/$250/$100 at “regular” Spartan races will continue in 2019. Plus the $3,000 series top payout will also stay the same.

Here is an interesting wrinkle. The series opens at Citi Field on April 13th, which the same date as the Seattle Super. That Seattle event is the 3rd of 5 events in the US Championship Series. This means certain athletes on the men’s side who could be top 10 athletes in both series such as Robert Killian, Ryan Kent, or The Kempson Brothers (Ryan and Matt) will be forced to go all in on series or the other.

Additional reporting and fact-checking for this article by Jack Bauer. Be sure to check out Jack and Yancy’s amazing Spartan Rankings and Stats Website.

Tough Mudder Stadium Race

Tough Mudder announced they are putting on a stadium race in the spring of 2019. The first event, affectionately titled “Tough Mudder’s Cousin In A Stadium” will take place an hour and a half northwest of London, in Northhampton, England. The event will be located at Franklin’s Gardens, home of The Northhampton Saints Rugby Club.

The original “Tough Mudder 5K” hoped to get new participants by removing fire, ice, and electricity from the “Classic” course. “5K Urban” takes it one step further by stating “The Tough Mudder 5K Urban series has no water or mud due to its city-based locations”. They do promise 5k (3.1 miles), 13 obstacles, and a brand new green headband.

Unlike a typical Tough Mudder weekend,  the “Stadium Urban 5K” will begin on Friday, and end on Saturday. The “Up Late” Friday evening waves will run from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, and Saturday heats will go from 8:30 am to 1:45 pm

Costs: Entrance – £42 ($52), Bag Drog – £3 ($3.78) which goes to charity, Spectators – Free

The Spartan Stadium series has been immensely successful over the last several years. Will we see similar success with Tough Mudder? Will the Tough Mudder Urban 5k make it’s way to the USA? Stay tuned, true believers.

Fun Fact: Once upon a time, Tough Mudder announced the first ever Urban Mudder. It was a 5-mile “no mud” event they called Tough Mudder’s Cousin in the City. We had a great time as you can see in the video below. 

X-Warrior Challenge Stadium Sprint 2018

X-Warrior Challenge

I’ve got to fess up here, and say that I didn’t even run X-Warrior Challenge properly. Here’s my excuse – I was sick. In this picture you can see that I’m smiling, but on the inside I was losing a battle with winter’s last gift – the final supercharged cold of the season. I’m the one without the heavy bag with the shirt on #stuffedcrust. It’s a tough deal for me because I was really looking forward to running this one properly, but it wasn’t to be. Instead I walked the course with these guys and I’ve reached out to the Ocrguychallenge community for thoughts on the event! 


About X-Warrior Challenge

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

X-Warrior represents the start of the OCR calendar in Western Canada, and after a really long hard winter in Alberta Canada, everyone is excited to get started. 

X-Warrior Challenge began as a fully independent stadium race in 2016 (which I missed), but I reviewed the excellent 2017 race myself here. X-Warrior challenge has now grown to become a stadium event, with the increasingly popular titan multi lap event taking place on the same day, and a Wilderness OCR later in June held at the ‘Boneyard’ OCR compound North of Edmonton. For this year X-Warrior has added a new 12 hour overnight Black Ops multi lap event at the Boneyard event. There are usually kids races available too at X.

One great thing I didn’t realize at first is that there is a free lap included in each race entry! It’s amazing to get out and see the course twice, especially if you failed an obstacle the first time around.

All runners get a t-shirt, medal, and snacks for finishing. Outside of races, X-Warrior also offers virtual runs and races throughout the year, and a weekend long training boot-camp.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Stampede park

The venue has access to the facilities of the Calgary Stampede ground grandstand (read: no mud and soggy waiting for spectators). Parking is convenient, and access to the race ground is simple. There is no need to shuttle, and downtown Calgary is pretty quiet this early in the morning. The course itself isn’t all stadium stairs and suffering. The actual stadium/grandstand stairs are just a small part of the race. The course winds its way through the sprawling stampede grounds, across the river via a bridge, through the stables and outbuildings, and over the race track itself. It’s a fast running course as a result, with only a small amount of elevation change. Not that I ran it fast!

Check out the course here

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary


  1. Wall – 6’ and a 3’ wall
  2. Stairs on the interior of the stadium.
  3. Spider net climb up the stairs
  4. Stairs crossing the grandstand of the stadium
  5. Spider net climbs again.
  6. Wall – 6’ and a 3’ wall
  7. Monkey bars
  8. Bucket Brigade
  9. Tarzan ropes (swinging across a gap with 3-4 ropes)
  10. Wall – 8’
  11. Under a hurdle
  12. Tire Town (heavy tire flip
  13. Timber (log carry)
  14. Under a hurdle
  15. Wall – 8’
  16. Sandblast – A heavy sandbag carry that turned into a double sandbag carry (thanks Austin Azar)
  17. Rope a Dope (rope climb)
  18. Climb (Z wall)
  19. Inverted wall
  20. Tip of the Spear ( Pyramidal traverse)
  21. Ax throw (one shot only)
  22. Dragon (Dragon’s back obstacle)

The race features a mixture of concrete, asphalt and hard packed horse racing track. I suppose it could get muddy in the rain, but it’s usually fairly dry and well kept.

Regular running shoes would be fine for this event. There is no need to be obstacle race specific with your gear.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

From my pitiful lap, the Tarzan ropes stood out as something new, allowing participants to swing across a big gap between two scaffolding platforms. I haven’t done that at an OCR before and it seems like such an obviously fun and challenging thing to include.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Safety was great in this race too. The Axe throw had been moved into three or four protective cages, almost like a firing range. Participants had one chance to throw an ax into a log from a distance. Failure rates are higher than the Spartan spear throw, but it’s a really rewarding sound when it sticks.

There were also crash mats below each obstacle where there was a falling hazard. It was really one of the safest races I’ve been to. That’s a great thing, but it won’t suit those who want that danger and need the most adrenaline possible. Stadium races are a little safer and a little more sterile than some would prefer, but for those wanting to dip their feet without getting head-to-toe in mud, this is a great place to start. For those seeking muddier thrills, X-Warrior does offer wilderness events too, as mentioned above.

X-Warrior is generally for everyone

I feel like one of the strengths of X-Warrior challenge is that it caters for the full spectrum of abilities, from the endurance athlete to the trained elite competitor, to the strength based athlete, to the casual participant. There was nothing extremely difficult at X-Warrior challenge, but for the Titan race, those obstacles get tough pretty quickly (or so I am told). You can run your own race. Oh, and I should mention that X-Warrior also offers an opportunity to run a ‘Heavybag Strong Lap’, with sandbag drop zones near each obstacle.

Development and improvements

There were only a few minor complaints about the layout of the course this year. There were occasional moments where it wasn’t immediately clear where the course was going, especially for faster runners in the competitive heats. A couple of well-placed arrows or extra course tape could have helped at times, but otherwise, it was very well laid out.


Race entry includes a second free lap for fun, and spectators are FREE! Prices are here in USD.

  • $70 for competitive
  • $60 for open
  • $103.91 for the titan event
  • $23 for little warriors
  • $30 for the junior race

You’ll find that compares very favorably to other races of this type. Parking was $15 Canadian per vehicle, or you can park elsewhere and use the C-Train. X-Warrior is pretty good value.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

So anyway, that’s my take. To round out the recap I thought I’d gather some more from the participants themselves.

Christine Dumont Barr This event is pretty unique for Canada, at least in the West as its the only stadium race (No mud 😊). I feel I get great value for what I pay, because you can run a second lap for free when you sign up for a sprint. The organizers and volunteers set the stage for an amazing day because of they’re energy. Each year they tweak the obstacles a little and try to scare everyone with a challenging new one (or two). This race is built so that people of all fitness levels can partake and enjoy! All in all, xwarrior is a stellar event to take part in. One that I come back to every year. And the new battle ax series this year is going to be epic!

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Lisa Langlois My very favourite was being able to run my last Titan lap with my 12 year old kiddo. He was in the junior race. What an unexpected treat for him and I. I have a passion for OCR and have had him participate in kids races… which are always on the sidelines and never part of the adult course. This was truly the best race I have ever done based on that experience alone. I was so proud of him. 2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Brandy Conlin I was so surprised to see the junior heat being the same as the adult course minus 6 obstacles. I loved that the kids even did a bucket carry and tire flip too. My 10 yr old was very much challenged but felt so accomplished to find out she just did the same course as I did. The volunteers helping the kids were awesome (okay all the volunteers were awesome). The whole event was very well run.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

James McLean I’m excited that Sandbag ‘Heavy Lap’ so quickly gained legitimacy in one weekend through the help of X Warrior – after a year of people looking at me like I had 3 heads. It was amazing seeing so many people try out the concept and genuinely really enjoy the experience. Before the weekend, most people brushed it off as crazy, now it’s truly legit. It’s the genesis of a new type of challenge, something us non-runner, strong, types can thrive at!

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Karen Bailey I loved the fun lap. Being able to run with friends who you competed against in competitive and cheer on new comers at the same time was a blast. This was my first x-warrior and it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. The OCR community is awesome and this event really show-cased that.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Scott Ceminchuk 1st and foremost what an amazing event to kick off the Canadian season off with. X-Warrior stadium was my 1st OCR race. I decided to try OCR last fall. After 10 months of training from scratch, I felt the course had the perfect amount of challenge for a newcomer but I didn’t feel overwhelmed at any point either. I only failed the 2 rope obstacles. The community is amazing such amazing people willing to help you at any point in the course. I will definitely do it again and will be trying out a few of the other races along the way.Scott X-Warrior

Ally Ash  (TITAN)I totally agree with “the community” 😍🙌 Such a great group, everyone willing to help out! Well organized event, even if you are confused or have any questions about anything you are 99.9 percent going to get a response and not wait days or weeks for one. I also love that it’s not in the grass or trees as I have bad allergies this time of year. I completed 4 laps and came out in perfect condition sinus wise 😉 That is a huge win for me! Can’t wait to purchase next year’s ticket!

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Jaclyn Pruett Ung  (TITAN) This was my first Titan and it was amazing! The people, community and cheers were the best. I am glad I started working on my cardio endurance a month or two before, definitely need to keep working on that. I loved the rope a dope climb, the first lap I was nervous to try it (heights and my injured torn shoulder/rotator cuff) but I did it on lap 2 and it was so fun! I ended up doing 240 penalty Burpees and I was grateful that some obstacles had mountain climbers instead because by lap 4 I was running out of steam 😂 I ran 4 laps and will be back next year to take on more! I love the grass roots community feel of x Warrior, much more welcoming than how I feel at Spartan.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary


Patrick Wilson (TITAN) highlight for me was getting my Glenn hug

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

Colleen Ludwig This was my second year attending X-Warrior, I absolutely love this race, the obstacles are great, there’s always at least a couple of them that humble me again and make me realize I have to train harder and or smarter. The camaraderie is by far the best in OCR races. There’s the competitiveness in all of us but there’s always cheers and encouragement from so many racers during the event. Often I pick someone in my heat to challenge myself to keep up too, this year this person noticed, she encouraged my to push harder, and was literally waiting for me at the finish line with a cup of water to congratulate me. I didn’t know her from Adam but we made the finish line knowing we did our best and said cheers to that. That’s cool. One thing during the last 2 years is that there is always a part of the race where I feel lost, did I go the right way? Maybe better markers in some areas. And maybe I missed something but where do you get your race times?


Darcy Barrett – X-Warrior was the best ever, with some great new obstacles. Just wish he (Darcy Chalifoux) would make it mandatory obstacle completion for elite and Titan elite. But it was a great fast course.

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary

2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary



2018 X-Warrior Challenge Calgary


If you’re in or near Alberta in early May and you love obstacle course racing or fitness in general, you should definitely attend X-Warrior Challenge. It’s a great version of the obstacle race format that covers everyone from beginners to experienced athletes. You can visit X-Warrior Challenge to see the schedule of races and events for this year.

Photo Credit: xwarrior challenge and Shotsee.com

Spartan Citi Field Stadium Sprint 2018


Citi Field is no Killington. But this concrete mountain provides plenty of challenges of its own for Spartans looking to push their bodies to the limit. Though this year’s race didn’t have the torrential rain like last year, the early morning racers faced chilly April temperatures and a brisk bay breeze.


Getting In

One thing to keep in mind when selecting your heat is travel time. Usually, Spartan recommends arriving 60-90 minutes before your start time. If you’re in a later heat, traveling into Queens, NY, you’ll hit traffic. Also, the registration line may be a bit longer. The benefit of running in the earlier heats means less traffic and less wait time on-site. Parking was run by Citi Field, which meant $12, instead of the usual $10. The benefit, though, was that credit cards were accepted for us non-cash carriers.


Stadium vs. Trail

This was only the second stadium race I’ve ever done. To me, a normal Spartan is a trail run with obstacles spread throughout. A stadium race, however, is more like a 40-plus minute circuit workout. It completely challenges you in ways that a normal Spartan doesn’t. Sure, it’s shorter. There’s no Twister. There’s no “Death March.” There’s no Bucket Carry. But it still requires very specific training. Completely different from your average race.



Perhaps the toughest obstacle for most, is the one that isn’t on the course map list: the stairs. I’m not sure the exact number of flights climbed and descended, but if you weren’t tackling an obstacle or exercise, you were most likely going up or down steps. Some obstacles, like the Jerry Can Carry and Sandbag Carry, wouldn’t even give you a break from those climbs.


Some obstacles you’ll see out on the mountains and trails, you’ll also run into at a stadium race. Included at Citi Field were the rope climb, Z-Walls, and Hercules Hoist, to name a few. There are a few that are the same as trail races, with a minor twist. The Spear Throw target is a bit different. Rather than a bail of hay, it’s a foam block. It seems a bit smaller than the usual target. Citi Field also included the Atlas Carry, however, the stone at a stadium race is considerably smaller than the other races. The rings are almost identical, with one small difference: two hanging baseballs at the end before the bell.

One new obstacle to the stadium series this year is the Assault Bike, where racers need to burn 15 calories as quickly as possible. For reference, this took me about 90 seconds.


Less Is More?

In October 2017, I competed at the Citizens Bank Park Stadium Sprint. That was my first and only previous stadium race before Citi Field. One thing that changed between then and now is the number of reps Spartan enforces. Last year, exercises/obstacles such as Hand-Release Pushups and Slam Balls, required 25 reps. At Citi Field, those and others like the Box Jumps and Jump Rope only required 15 reps.


Perhaps the biggest surprise to Spartans was the burpees for this race. Spartan decided to try reducing the number of penalty burpees. That’s right, reducing! Instead of 30 burpees for a failed obstacle, the penalty was down to 15. This was definitely a help for anyone who may have failed an obstacle or two, though perhaps seemed like a punishment for competitors who ran clean races. These rep reductions seem to be Spartans way of keeping stadium races challenging, but quick.


Stadium races are a great way to try something new, especially if you enjoy obstacle races but want to try something a bit faster paced. Citi Field is an excellent venue and it’s easy to see why Spartan comes back each year.

Photo Credit: Spartan Race, The Author

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.