Spartan Race Citizen’s Bank Park Philadelphia: Race Review

Jumbotron on the ropes

The Phillies rallied strong after the All-Star break.  Even in last place, they swept the Mets at the end of the season.  That bodes well for the Phils next year as they also picked up a lot of young talent.  It probably spelled doom for the Mets as they got swept again to lose the World Series against the Royals.

There was similar doom and drama at the Philadelphia Phillies’ Citizen’s Bank Park Spartan Race Stadium Sprint on Saturday, November 14, 2015.  This race review comes to you from the perspective of a course volunteer.  I have served at many OCRs, but this was my first stadium event.  It was a real treat for this Phillies fan to spend the day on the right field warning track.

Spartan Race Rope Climb - Last Obstacle!

My wife and I arrived for the afternoon shift and headed towards the center field service tunnel.  The first thing we saw was the outdoor (parking lot) portion of the course.  The spear throw was set up at the left field stadium corner.  Strong winds gusting to 40mph that day accelerated around that corner and the Bernoulli effect tossed the spears like toothpicks.  Before we could see what was happening, we could hear the missed spears clanking on the asphalt.

We entered the tunnel, went through bag check, and registered with Lizzy Dickey, the volunteer leader.  She assigned us to Zone 4, gave us lunch and a t-shirt, and then we waited for our crew chief to bring us out.  We deferred our races for next year.  An email from will come later to confirm it.

Zone 4 was the end of the course and included the cargo net A-frame, four 6-foot military walls, the rope climb, and the gauntlet.  My wife and I took the rope climb for the afternoon.  We noted during assignments that many volunteers with first-timers and also in their first year as OCR athletes.  I think that’s great to see such enthusiasm and support as newcomers go all out for this sport.

But I also noticed that with this newness comes the expected inexperience.  I’ve posted many times before on this subject so on with the review.

Technique. It's all technique!

Each obstacle had a crew chief armed with a walkie-talkie.  So if anything happened like an injury or other incident, help was imminent.  Fortunately, aside from a few inevitable rope burns, our obstacle was incident-free.   About thirty ropes were available so our job was to keep the athletes moving down the line to an open rope.  This is where things got interesting.

I have to say that better than 90% of the afternoon athletes failed this obstacle.  Technique varied all over from those who relied solely on upper body strength to haul themselves up (no legs/feet on rope), to one girl who obviously learned her moves on those silk curtains you see in aerialist performances.  Very few used the S- or J-hook techniques.

My wife said that the number one comment she got all day from athletes was, “Which way is the burpee mat?”  They didn’t even attempt to try to climb.  Well, if the backup wasn’t too bad, I would encourage some of them to take a moment and learn the basics.

Encouraging climbers. You got this!

It started out like this.  “Show me your technique,” I said.  They either said, “I don’t have one,” or they tried to haul themselves up using just their arms.  By the end of a race, I knew they would not get up that way.  The best outcome was a promise to practice and a “thanks for showing me.”  I also lamented that most folks I talked to did not have a rope to practice on.

As the very last athlete finished the course,  he came through with a dedicated SGX trainer by his side.  I went back to the military walls to run it with them and encourage them.  At the finish line gauntlet, the crew of about fifty volunteers lined up to cheer him on.  Cameras clicked and live video projected him right to the Jumbotron.  The latter was a very cool feature to watch the action throughout the day.

Ropes on the Jumbotron

Right after that we started course breakdown.  The crew chief gave us clear instructions and we got right to work on our obstacle, then helping palletize the hundreds of banners, flags, and signs around the stadium.  This all took less than an hour.  Then we checked out out with Lizzy and were on our way home.


Mr. Caldwell, aka the OCRMudmaster, is an competitive master's division OCR athlete.He lives in Medford Lakes, NJ with his wife and three sons.He trains in his backyard on his DIY gym.

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