A Bid For The Title Of ‘Spartan’

Spartan Race Photo by Marc Rafanell LópezA while back, a friend of mine finished a Spartan Race. I’d seen this new-fangled thing called obstacle course racing and knew little enough about it, so I checked it out. It was…intimidating.

Warren wasn’t bragging or anything, though he was entitled to do so. He’d done something pretty damn cool.

I wanted in.

The problem? I was fat, slow, and out of shape. I’d gone from a runner in high school and a swimmer in college (yes, I competed in both) to sedentary and unable to do a whole lot. Worse, I figured even trying to run could be horrible on my joints, so I figured I needed to lose weight first.

First, a history Lesson

That was years ago, though. I’d kind of let the whole idea slip, even though my buddy encouraged me to do it and talked about us doing the race together. I wanted to, but I had to lose the weight first and that was hard.

While embarking on a research project, I found myself looking at obstacle course racing again. This time, I was looking at it from a different perspective.

There’s evidence that at least some medieval knights engaged in a training regime that included things like long runs, using a ladder kind of like a set of monkey bars, vaulting onto horses, etc.

Eventually, looking at ways to replicate that training, I stumbled back upon obstacle course racing and Spartan Races in particular.

I remembered talking with my buddy about it. I remember saying I wanted to do it. In fact, I remember saying that I would do it. I just had to lose weight first.

That was almost 70 pounds ago.

Over the last year or so, I’ve dropped 67 or so pounds, depending on the day. I’m lighter than I was. I’m stronger than I was. Frankly, I’m primed for something like this.

Further, I need to train for HEMA and I need to up my training to fire up my body’s fat-burning mechanisms. I need to exert myself and exert myself hard.

In other words, it’s time.

The last few weeks have been kind of quiet here as I first delved into the research project, then started adding some research into obstacle course racing, and I wasn’t really sure I had enough going on to write about any of it.


Well, I still don’t.

What I do have, however, is a new focus for my training. I know this is something I want to try and accomplish. More than that, though, I want to be good at it.

For me, the applicable phrase is, “Compete, not complete.” I want to race, not just go through the obstacle course in whatever time it may take.

Do I think I’ll win? Oh, hell no. I’ve been watching the cream of the crop on YouTube. I ain’t going to be up to that level anytime soon.

But I do think I can put up a good show and maybe win an age group or two along the way.

To that end, I needed to shift my training. For one thing, training for raw strength isn’t the end all, be all of things. I needed muscular strength, sure, but I also needed endurance. I needed to not just carry weights, but carry them for long distances after running for three miles or so. Also, I needed to be able to hold my body weight one-handed while exhausted and swinging from gymnastics ring to ring.

I have a lot of work ahead of me.

There’s a lot to do. However, the best thing was it got me off my ass to start running again.

You see, I like to run. Well, I did. After going through boot camp, I started getting shin splints regularly on the runs. I’ll go into all of that another day, but apparently, my stride got messed up and now I think I have it worked out.

So, starting Monday, it was time to run. I used an app to help get things going (review coming in due course) and I ran on Monday. Then I ran earlier today.

I lack the words to describe just how amazing it feels to run again.

If nothing else, the Spartan Race has already given me that and I still haven’t even entered a race.

So, here’s the plan:

Step 1

Get running endurance up to the point I can run a 10K. While I plan to try and start with a Spartan Sprint that’s only a 5K, this isn’t just a race. It’s also going to demand more of me with obstacles in my way. Better to be capable of running a lot more.

Also, I’m doing total body workouts that focus on high repetitions. The weight is crap, of course, but the idea is to build muscular endurance more than anything else.

Included are things like dead hangs from the yoke cross member and static barbell holds. Further, some traditional exercises are being done with the axle bar. Everything becomes about grip strength.

Step 2

Next will be incorporating things like box jumps and other plyometric movements into the training. I’ll also be working on calisthenic exercises like pull-ups and dips as I can see precisely how these could come in handy on the obstacle course.

I’ll also be refining my running so that I’ll be able to make the most of my ability there. Additionally, I’ll also be tweaking it in any way I need to for obstacle course racing. All of my running experience is on a track or the road, so I’ll have to find good running trails locally and potentially even plan some trips around their running trails.

Whatever a man’s gotta do, right?

Step 3

The last step as I see it is to learn the technical aspects of obstacle course running. I need to learn how to climb some of the walls and how to swing from point to point. I’ll need to learn how to throw a spear (a common Spartan Race obstacle).

More to the point, I also need to make sure I can do hundreds of burpees. After all, those are the penalties for failing obstacles, and I don’t want to just expect to finish cleanly. Instead, I want to know that if I do fail one–it’s not the goal, but a case of “prepare for the worst”–that I can handle it.

After that, it’ll be go time.


That’s a great question. I’m hoping to be up to doing a Spartan Trifecta–a Sprint (5K), a Super (13K), and a Beast (21K)–in a single year. I’m probably not going to worry about a Spartan in 2019, mostly because that gives me at least six months to train.

Once I know what I want to race, I’ll let you know. I do know there are races in Jacksonville, FL and Mobile, AL in the first part of the year, and those might well be options. I hope there are Sprints at one of those, but it’s too far out to see just yet.

Either way, I’m stoked for this new adventure.

I’d said that HEMA physical training should be combat sport training, and what differentiates combat sports from other kinds of training is toughness.

Frankly, from what I’ve seen, training for and completing any Spartan Race means you’ve checked that box off.


Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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