I bet you have all been waiting in keen suspense for part two of my description of the Spartan challenge. For this, I do apologise. The event was so momentous – and the bruises so colourful – that it has taken some time to generate the energy to tell you all how it went.
I was picked up by my ridiculously enthusiastic and excited team mate – the perfect counter to my more worried self. We then zipped off in the direction of Leicestershire, belting out some 90s alternate rock classics to get us in the mood.
The event was being held in Marston Lodge, and as we had discovered from a training day held there in January, it is held in a field that defies all modern satellite navigational equipment.
Of course, having been there before, we were pretty confident that THIS time we would find it first time. We didn’t.
However, we did still get there in plenty of time, enough time to seriously contemplate slamming the foot on the accelerator and zooming off to the luxurious spa hotel we had book for a post-race treat.
Somehow I manoeuvred my bouncy companion over to the registration stand where we were given a package that reassuringly warned us of the danger of dying during the event. As you can imagine, we were instantly filled with confidence.
We suited and booted, and pulled on our Spartan headbands. Sadly mine didn’t stay on for long and I lost it within the first 10 minutes of the race (I have a REALLY small head – not my fault!!!). We then stuffed ourselves with essential nutrition, otherwise known as M&S Colin Caterpillars and Percy Pigs.
Eventually it was time to head down towards the race area, which was filled by exhausted, muddy runners. We arrived just in time to see a friend and her team clear the last obstacle. This was a little surprising as she had started very early in the morning, which meant that our hopes of completing the course in about 2 1/2 hours were not going to last. Let’s just say that her description of the course didn’t fill us with a huge amount of confidence.
However, we were there, we were at the start, and the fun was about to begin.
And we’re off!
The start line of Spartan tells you a lot about the event. In order to even BEGIN the event you have to clamber over a little wall. A loin cloth-wearing Spartan (complete with rippling six pack) then bellows at you all to lie in the dirt so you know exactly how low you should go when performing a penalty burpee (cheers).
At this point my heart was thudding pretty hard and I wondered if it would be possible to fake a heart attack and get out of the race, but just as I was beginning to clutch my chest in a dramatic manner, the gun went off and a whole swarm of potentially masochistic runners surged forward.
And so it began.
Straight away we knew this was going to be a tough race, even by Spartan Super standards. First off, we immediately had to ascend a hill, at the top of which were some more gates to clear. It didn’t get easier.
What really made this course horrendous was the cross-country sections. Now, as a runner I thought this bit would be easy-peasy, but the race organisers had managed to scout out some of the toughest terrain EVER (no exaggeration).
The trail wound through the woods, which possessed very alarming gradients that occasionally saw me give up and slide down on my backside. It’s amazing how quickly you lose your dignity once you’re tired.
There were also tree roots to tackle and some massive ditches. These required leaps of faith and, occasionally, a few friendly competitors on the other side to haul you up as you slid perilously into the ravine.
In between these sections were the obstacles. The first large one was a massive cargo net, which was OK apart from being very high. We also had a lot of carrying tasks. This included carrying a tyre around the woods, jumping over a ditch with it, and then hauling it up a giant mudslide while avoiding being pushed down by other people who lost their grip. We also had to take a bucket of gravel for a walk, two logs, some sandbags, and a concrete ‘dog’ on a chain.
There was also climbing, my nemesis.
I will confess – one of two of the climbing obstacles I bailed on. They were simply too frightening for my height-phobic brain to deal with. Towards the end I valiantly scaled a towering structure only to become stuck at the top. As I clutched the top rail with a white-knuckled grip, a rescuer clambered up to the top and talked me over and down the wall. Whoever that man was, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
He was not my only knight in shining armour. I must have really been rocking the ‘damsel in distress’ vibe that day, because when a muddy bog decided to eat my shoe and leg, I quickly had two men rush over and help haul me out. Now, I’m all in favour of feminism and women having equality, but sometimes it does really help to have a burly man (or two) on hand.
Time was ticking by and we STILL weren’t finished. It seemed that at every obstacle we would turn to one another and scream ‘how many bloody things are there???’ before mustering up our depleted energy reserves and tackling the next horror of endurance.
About three miles from the end, my muddy, bog-soaked feet slipped off a wall I was trying to traverse. I landed awkwardly and sharp pain shot through my foot and ankle. I hobbled off to the side, impressing observers with my imaginative and colourful language.
My friend rushed over and asked me if I was OK. I wasn’t. My foot and ankle were throbbing but I didn’t think anything was broken. After the pain subsided a bit, I decided to muscle through the rest of the course (idiotic, I know). So I hobbled for a further three miles, stopping occasionally to walk (limp) to reduce the pain.
Finally, the end fences were in sight. These massive fences are about 10 feet high, and once again I had to be helped over. As I swung over the last one, the concluding firepit came into view. Together, my team mate and I hurtled as fast as our weary legs could towards the flames, leaping over and across to the finish.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I was so relieved I nearly cried.
And so, that concluded my first (and probably my last) Spartan adventure. It was hard, and muddy, and scary, but I did it. And if after reading this you fancy giving it a go, I can’t help but conclude that you are completely bonkers.
As you are a lovely bunch, I’m sure you will want to know how my foot and ankle fared. Well, the next morning both were terribly swollen and I could barely put weight on them. I ended up having a trip to A&E to check nothing was broken. They said it wasn’t (after a bit of poking) but I now have a permanent lump on my foot, so who knows? Good news is that it’s all OK now and three weeks ago I ran a half marathon (a post will be appearing at some point).
See you soon! And feel free to comment!