One of the fastest growing obstacle course races in the world, some hundreds of thousands of people volunteer (yep, willingly) to take part in a Spartan Race held somewhere across the globe each year. Over 5,000 people came to experience its first edition held in Japan this May — some even flying in from the U.S. to participate. Next month’s event on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22 looks to be just as popular.
So what exactly is it about the Spartan Race that has so many people inspired to crawl through mud, climb walls and jump through fire? From a current Spartan, here are six things to know about this ultimate physical and mental challenge that might just inspire you to join the fun.
1. Spartan Races are held in the wild
Races usually take place in somewhat remote and wild locations to offer participants an extraordinary and challenging course. For the May event (Japan’s first ever Spartan Race), the race took place at a U.S. armed forces facility in Sagamihara, Kanagawa Prefecture. The upcoming race on Oct. 21 will involve some serious mud in the forest of Sagamihara.
While the terrain was fairly flat, May’s Spartan Race definitely gave us our money’s worth by shipping over and setting up all their classic obstacles, such as the barbwire crawl, rope climb, Hercules hoist, bucket brigade and many more.
2. There’s a Spartan community to help you train
Adapting one’s training to prepare efficiently can be difficult without previous experience, which is why I highly recommend joining one of the local Spartan Race communities. You can either join the official Spartan Race community in Tokyo led by Leo or join one of the Spartan SGX programs led by experienced and certified Spartan coaches. They will all prepare you well for the race, and if you really want to go all out, you can join more than one group. The respective training sessions usually take place once a week.
3. You can run as an individual or in a team
Our team (Sogo Tokyo Spartans), showed up with a roster of more than 130 people and was awarded the prize for “Biggest Team.” It can be difficult to run together with so many people, so we split into teams of four during the race to better support each other. At the end, each and every one of us crossed the fire pit with a giant leap and a smile on our faces. But no matter the size, racing in a group is always more fun! It’s free to make a team, so why not gather your friends to form your own and fight us for the title this October?
Part of the Spartan mentality is to support one another both on and off the course. Even if you race alone, you can always count on a fellow Spartan to get you over that 2 1/2-meter-high wall and lend a supporting hand if you are struggling during the race. However, this does only apply to the Open heat. Receiving help in the Elite or Competitive heats will result in disqualification (sorry…).
4. There are different heats
At most races, there are three kinds of participants in separate heats:
- Elite: participants who start first and compete for money
- Competitive: participants who follow the same rules as the elite racers, but without the prize money
- Open: participants who want to see if they can complete the course, inspire their kids, wish to start a new lifestyle or are simply looking for a new challenge
Whichever heat you decide to register for, remember one thing: you are here because you want to be! So have fun and enjoy yourself. If you aren’t, then you might be in the wrong place — or, as the Spartan Race motto goes: “You will know at the finish line…”.
5. Seasoned Spartans can aim for the Trifecta
Once you have finished your first Spartan race, you can aim for the Trifecta. What is the Trifecta you ask? Well, there are three levels of Spartan Race obstacle courses each more daunting than the other:
- Sprint (5-7 km)
- Super (11-13 km)
- Beast (up to 24 km)
To earn a trifecta, you need to complete one of each within one calendar year. Learn more here.
6. You’ve got to learn to love burpees
Each time you fail an obstacle during the race, you will get a 30-burpee penalty. For most obstacles, a referee will lovingly dole out the burpee penalty; even if you slip past their watch, you should still do the burpees! All Spartans I know list this awesome full-body exercise as being at the same time their favorite and most despised exercise. So, learn to embrace the “suck” as they say and make them a staple of your training. It will serve you well, trust me.
Inspired? Then Spartan! See you at the finish line.
Text and photos compiled by Timothee Engel.