REFACE: I don’t identify as a Spartan, I’ll never say Aroo! I don’t care about a trifecta, and I rarely do Spartan Races out of my 30+ OCRs yearly. To me, Spartan is the same at every venue, every year with minimal changes other than marketing strategies I.e. Delta, new medals, new shirts. I’ve done several ski resort venue Spartan races but this was my first stadium Spartan. I went into it with minimal expectations, as I’m all about mud and water for an OCR. Knowing I’d leave dry and generally dirt free was out of the norm for me.
The fun started with the drive. My buddy opted to drive to this race since I drove Pennsylvania to Rhode Island the previous week for a race. We got to CitiField where the GPS said “2 minutes to destination”. That “2 minutes” turned into 20 with multiple u-turns until finally finding the parking entrance. One nice aspect about this race(and I’d assume all stadium races) is that parking was on site and a short walking distance to registration. After locating waivers, check-in was quick and effortless.
After walking through the metal detectors and having my bag searched by security, it was a quick escalator ride to the main floor with all vendors, bag check, restrooms (not as nice at BattleFrog’s) and start area. One thing I’ve found Spartan is always consistent with is a quick and smooth bag check. After that, it was off to the start. Having never done a stadium race, I went into it with minimal expectations and understanding the build restrictions limiting the obstacles that would be used.
I won’t go into a walk through list of all obstacles(the course map lays that out), but Spartan made very good use of the areas they were allowed to utilize. Stairs, stairs and more stairs, mixed in with water jug carries up and down the stairs adding to the sandbag carry through the bleachers. Multiple sections in the stadium corridors that had walls to climb, and short jogs through the field level hall walls had you going through nearly every part of the stadium,including the visitors locker room, throughout the sprint distance course (which nobody agrees on actual distance).
Two of the most post race talked about obstacles turned out to be mainstay obstacles you’ll find at every Spartan race. The Herc Hoist (using sandbags) and the Rope Climb were hot topics of conversation at the event and afterwards on social media. Usually you hear squabbles about varying weights on the Hoist as a result of weather conditions (water soaked into the bags); this time, it was not having any gates to stand behind/assist in the lift. Smooth pavement gave very little traction and the inability to find a center of gravity to perform the lift. The Rope Climb was the most talked about obstacle of the day. Not doing Spartans often, I didn’t think much of it until the chatter began. It appears as though(unconfirmed) the rope was much thinner for this event then others and a different material. Many people were complaining and posting pics of blisters from this one obstacle. Turns out I lost a nice chunk of skin on my middle finger after completing the climb. To me, these obstacle variances were welcomed and not an issue as its something Spartan doesn’t normally do, make changes. Will the new ropes stay? We’ll find out soon enough.
I enjoyed my first stadium race as the scenery alone was something to see. Will I do one again? Probably not. I miss my mud and water, but I’m always open to try something new. Spartan certainly came through with some very nice new tees. The material seems different than previous years, and though I don’t Aroo, I will rock the tee. The medal was also on the higher end that you’ll see for a race. The lanyard is specific to the venue with very nice graphics depicting the NY Mets (go Phillies) logo for CitiField. Swag always seems top notch from Spartan, another compliment to their excellent marketing.
Photo Credit: Donna Langeraap
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