Guest Post: Spartan Race Review Gulf Coast Founders Race
Guest Post by: Matt B Davis reviewing the Spartan Sprint – Gulf Coast Founders Race last weekend. Thanks to Matt for the review. Find at Matt’s blogs and podcasts at mattbdavisruns.
The Spartan Race in Perkinston, MS was billed as a “Founder’s Race”. The way this type of event even comes about is someone takes it upon themselves to email Spartan to say “Please bring a race to my town”. A process begins with a Facebook petition and some street team requests and, if they can get it together, Spartan will indeed bring a race to your neck of the woods. This has only been done once before when the Cornfed Spartans were able to get Spartan to bring an event to Indiana in April of this year. That Spartan Race is willing to do this says a lot about the kind of organization they’ve become. I’ve not seen any other race get this involved with their fans.
A “Founder’s Race” also means a no-frills course. This meant that it would not have a lot of the typical Spartan-made obstacles competitors have come to love, such as the traverse wall, monkey bars, herculean hoist, or gladiators at the end. Instead, they made a pretty gnarly course over some cool terrain with some original ideas. Right out of the gate, they had the most interesting start to an obstacle course I have ever seen. 50 feet from the start line was a blazing fire pit. When you leapt this fire pit, you landed in a moat of water on the other side.
Throughout the day, I heard of a few injuries due to this very first obstacle. The next obstacle had us climbing in and out of a strange sand contraption, which was shortly followed by a crawl through a small culvert across a river. Spartan founder Joe Desena got on the mic prior to the race start to let us know this was designed to act as a bottleneck. Meaning, you had to get out front in a hurry if you wanted to avoid a line in the first few minutes. Now, the delay at this obstacle was only about 30 seconds to a minute long, but to the front-runners in the elite heat, those are precious seconds.
Another great twist at the end of the race was to have us complete 30 burpees without explanation. That’s right, even if you got through the course with zero obstacle mistakes and nailed your spear throw, you had to do 30 burpees before crossing the finish line. Leave it to Spartan to turn a seemingly straightforward course into something dynamic and original to finish the day.
The remainder of the course was a great mix of local terrain and a few man-made obstacles. There were 3 separate barbed wire crawls, a smattering of 6 to 8-foot walls, a bucket-carry through the woods, a true mud march, a rope climb and–of course–the famous Spartan spear throw. There was one particular obstacle present that also wasn’t. Spartan has been known to deploy a memorization obstacle at previous Spartan Beast events. You know the one where you arrive at a large poster in the woods, which presents the competitor with a series of numbers and words to remember, coinciding with the last two digits of your bib number? For the next several miles, I could hear runners repeating this combination out loud or under their breath. Somewhere, later on the course, a volunteer will ask you to repeat his/her number. If you can’t recite it properly, it’s 30 burpees. Here is the twist: at the Perkinston race, they never did ask us to recite it. Later, when I found course designer Norm Koch, I asked him about this omission. He just smiled. “So it was just to mess with our heads?” I asked. To which he began to laugh maniacally.
Having completed the race once, I decided to run a second lap to get a better sense of what it was like for the non-elite competitors. As Margaret has talked about in previous blog posts, it gives you a completely different perspective. You are going to run into people doing they’re first ever race. When they see barbed wire or a large wall, they see a challenge they have never done before. The excitement of them seeing this new obstacle and the joy of overcoming it is a sight to see. You see people laugh with their friends as they fall in the mud or climb over a hay bale. You also get to help people, which, is always satisfying and good for the soul. At the vertical cargo net, about 10 of us helped and cheered a 350-pound man as he overcame a huge personal fear and made it over the net. He was so proud of himself and I won’t soon forget him. Everyone around was just so touched to be a part of his success.
Also, the course itself was very different during my second lap. The barbed wire crawls and mud marches had considerably more mud by the time I got to them the second time. Mud hills that were relatively easy early in the morning now required the help of several people to get up and over. On other parts of the course, simple steps became fall-on-your-butt-over-and-over-again if you weren’t careful. This too, required us to help (and be helped) more on the course that in lap one.
All in all, it was a very fun course. I am used to saying “That Spartan course just kicked my butt”. I don’t know that I have ever said, “That was fun!” I am not saying that it was not challenging, because of course it was. Maybe it was because it was a Sprint rather than a Beast, or maybe I am just getting a lot stronger, but it was great to do this course and have so much fun.