Spartan Race Windsor – Beast & Sprint – The good, the bad and the ugly

Spartan Race is traditionally made up of three race distances – Sprint, around 6km, Super, around 12km and Beast, around 20km. Complete all three races in one calendar year and you are the proud owner of the “Trifecta” and become part of the Trifecta Tribe (nothing more than great marketing, but hey it works!). Unlike Tough Mudder and many other OCR, all the obstacles in Spartan Race have been created to be completed by the individual and whilst for each race the terrain or distance may differ, the vast majority of the obstacles will be consistent. Joe De Sena (founder of Spartan Race) has the idea of Spartan (and / or OCR) to be an Olympic sport, thereby requiring some form of conformity.

Spartan Race UK’s last race weekend of 2017 was located in the region of Windsor – Bagshot to be more precise but only a few miles away from Great Windsor Park of 2016. Saturday hosted the Beast and Sunday, the Sprint race and was the final chance for those chasing their Trifecta within the UK. The Beast race would complete my own 2017 Trifecta whilst the Sprint was just the icing on the cake along with the Hurricane Heat which I participated in earlier in the year.

Here is my Spartan Race, Windsor review of sorts – well, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Good

  • Sprint Race – Wow – awesome race. The perfect length (I clocked it at just over 6km) but had a great obstacle density compared to the Beast. Great trail running through the forest, minimal elevation (hills suck, I’d never do Edinburgh) with the obstacles evenly spaced out allowing to minimise the queues of the hundreds of runners throughout the day. Possibly one of my favourite races of the year
  • The Event Atmosphere – “Spartan Phil” was at the start line (conspicuous by his absence in the early races) getting all the racers hyped up before the start. Whilst the finish line MC (I’ve never seen before) was really good. With the support of the other finish line volunteers, called out names of those finishing. Nice touch. Much better than other finish line MCs I have heard. Give that guy a job!
  • The Event Village – The “tightness” of the village also helped to the add the atmosphere – the start and finish line being pretty close to each other along with the last set of finish line obstacles for spectators to view. Large screen to view live and recorded feeds along with large PA system.
  • Water stops – A good number of water stops through both races all stocked with bananas too. 3 stops for the Sprint Race (7km) and 5 (or 6?) for the Beast for 17km.
  • A lot of people complained about the distance of the Beast – Beast is usually at least 20km – last year it was 26km. However, it was “only” 17km. Many people said they didn’t feel they “earned” their Trifecta (really? Maybe they should just go to Edinburgh instead) but hey, I was thankful it was short! I have no problem in a slightly shorter race – it makes up for the slightly longer race from last year.

The Bad

  • Car Parking – The parking area itself was very muddy with many cars needed to be towed IN (never mind also needed to be towed OUT). The team did as well as they could by using A LOT of hay to try and dry up the car park and give traction to the car wheels, whilst having a number of vehicles and volunteers on hand to help people out. But in all honesty, should have been managed better.
  • Photos – OK, so I love my photos, and Epic Action Imagery do a great job – but for some reason Spartan always picks the same spot to have the photos – Barbed Wire Crawl, Carry and Fire Jump (I have no issue with the fire jump as its freaking awesome!). But I’ve done 4 Spartans this year and having 4 sets of barbed wire crawls is a bit boring, especially when there are some more interesting obstacles such as Twister, Rig and Rope Climb.
  • The terrain of the first 5km of Beast was awful – In my opinion, too many trees and branches crossing the path not really allowing for any fast running – Very technical, just to ensure you didn’t trip over and do an injury. I would not be surprised if I was told there were a few turned ankles from this part.
  • The Bogs – What I really enjoyed about Spartan race was it’s non reliance on Mud – very much like Toughest. However, Windsor was a big change – after a short 200m sprint into the trail, you were faced with 100m of boggy mud (I would bet a few people may have lost their shoes) whilst towards the end of the race, you were faced with another bog (up to the waist in parts) of around 200m.
  • Rinse stations were not working at the weekend – really poor logistics especially when finishing so muddy.

The Ugly

  • The placement of the last bog was very questionable as you were then faced with the very technical “Twister” which I failed twice partly due to the slipperiness of the handles from the mud and rain.
  • I was warned by some competitors who had finished about the storm pipe “obstacle” who had told me it would bottle neck up and it did just that. I got to it and skipped it. I didnt want to wait what looked like 20 minutes just to crawl 2 metres. These two obstacle placements were just down to poor thinking and the course designer on paper thinking it was a good thing, but not really thinking it through in practice.
  • Due to the issues with parking, it took me over an hour to move the last 1.5 miles into the event village. The weather had been ok in the week leading up to the event so Spartan can’t even blame it on undue weather conditions.  Spartan are a “big race series” and their set up team should have done better to mitigate the ground. When I returned for the Sprint, I made sure I turned up much earlier than required (I had also warned my friend who was coming) and got in relatively easier.

Overall it was a weekend of two halves. Had I not participated in the Beast, I would have said it was Spartan’s best race to date. But the Beast has put a really bad taste in my mouth. A lot of the problems they had were self inflicted and would be made by “rookie” OCRs, not by the likes of Spartan.

Sprint Day – 8 / 10

Beast Day – 4 / 10