Top Tips to Run a Spartan Race
Oh boy did I jump into the deep end.
In April I skipped ahead three steps and decided to run the Spartan Race "Beast," having never run an outdoor obstacle race or marathon before. Ever. The Beast is the toughest of the three Spartan options – it’s 14.5 miles loaded with 30+ intense obstacles. The other two, the Sprint and the Super, are far less mileage with less obstacles.
The general consensus on Saturday from experienced racers was that the Mountain Creek, NJ course was one of the toughest that the Spartan Race has designed. That’s because it’s racing up and down a mountain three or four times. Other courses around the country don’t have the luxury of this hellishly-inclined terrain.
Now bruised and battered, I have learned several lessons from this race that I’ll use for the next one. Yes, you heard me right, the-next-one. I’m addicted. I need to complete the trifecta. I've caught the Spartan bug – but it’s all rainbows from here, because I started with the hardest first!.............Right?
Here are my top tips for successfully completing a Spartan Race.
1. Energy chews are crucial. There are a ton of options out there now for energy supplements, like gels, waffles, chews, and bars. Personally, the chews are the best because you can eat them on the go. They’re soft and feel weightless in your pocket and you can pop ‘em in your mouth when you need a boost. Though I can’t comment on the waffles, I have a feeling they’d be dry and could make your mouth dry or even get stuck in your throat. I’ve had gels, and though you can attempt to squeeze them in your mouth while on the move, it’s not the easiest, and most of them taste so strong you’ll need some water to wash them down, making them more hassle than chews. I recommend Honey Stinger Organic Energy chews, or Cliff Bloks – volunteers at my race handed those out midway and they were delicious and the perfect size.
2. Save those mustard packets from the diner. Many runners eat mustard packs for cramping – I thankfully did not suffer from cramping during the race – I made sure I sipped on water all morning and ate a heavy carb breakfast, but I honestly just got lucky. Mustard packets have a number of ingredients that help ward off the mid-race muscle cramps including turmeric and vinegar. Learn all about why it helps here. I can’t tell if I’ll get cramping next time, so I will definitely bring a mustard pack or two with me to be safe.
3. Wear long socks. Super important if you want to successfully complete some of the aggressive obstacles. Many of them have you traversing rope – I learned this the hard way – my Achilles heel was burned bare from one the rope obstacles. If I had long socks, I would have slid across easier, and not destroyed my legs. Let’s be honest, you’re also bound to take a dive once or twice. It IS mud after all. Socks will help you battle those spills and save your shins and calves.
4. Do not wear your old Jordans. This isn’t the time to use old, worn shoes. You need all-terrain hiking trail shoes. The greatest purchase I made for the race was buying my Merrell All Out Crush shoe. I always felt in control, always had grip during the wettest paths and slippery areas. A lot of people around me complained about their shoes. I was so glad I didn’t have a single one. These are great shoes. Check them out here, or buy them on amazon here. Be sure to have semi-new shoes too – you don’t want to run in shoes with worn soles or no treads. Buying a brand new pair and bringing them in the box is a bad idea – you’ll get more blisters and skin irritations that way – wear them in a little before the race. Plus, they’re going to get de-stroyed! Prepare to beat the crud out of them on race day.
5. Put gloves on em' fingers of yours. Some other blogs told me to wear gloves. I was mistaken to ignore the advice. You do so many brutal obstacles with your hands – not only will they rip up your hands and give you burns, but having on gloves also will help with grip and give you an advantage. You’ll have to traverse across a rope, lift weights up into the sky, climb up rope – it’s just a nonstop rope brigade. And coincidently, many of those rope obstacles come right after a nice swim in a river, or a muddy path – just when your hands get wet! So next race, I’ll be wearing gloves.
6. Put a pack on yo’ back. All the photos from marketing and social media never show racers wearing water packs, and so when a friend told me I should bring one, I questioned it. I didn’t want it getting caught in barbed wire or snagged on branches. Silly me. Over 50% of the racers had them and I wished I did. Relying on water stations every four miles really stunk and made me feel helpless when I wanted some water. I know they add weight but I never saw anything bent over saying “man this water weighs too much.” I did see people bent over saying “damn I could use some water right now.”
7. Prepare for the end! I knew I should have clean, dry clothes waiting for me at the end, but I forgot some important items and tricks to making me feel better. A towel is always helpful to wipe off the dirt and grime from your feet and body. Instead of a second pair of shoes, flip flops are more comfy, or slippers. Your legs are going to be ripped up, so instead of sweatpants, just some comfy shorts will do.
So those are the top lessons I learned on my Spartan race. How about you? Have more to add? Please post them in the comment section. I’ll be running the Sprint or the Super later this year, so I could always use helpful hints!
No matter what, relax and have a blast on the course – AROO!