So you think you might want to run a Spartan Beast?? Maybe you’re looking for more of a challenge or you’re going for that coveted Trifecta (earning all 3 Spartan race medals in one calendar year). Whatever you reason is you need to be prepared. A Spartan Beast is very different from the other two Spartan Races. I thought it was worth a blog post to write about why I feel this way.
First of all let me start off by saying I’m not an elite racer, I don’t race to win. I race because I love it, it makes me feel alive and I love competing with myself and seeing how far I can push myself.
Let’s start by reviewing what each Spartan Race is:
Spartan Sprint: This is the entry level Spartan Race, it’s the shortest of the three, usually around 5-7 km (that’s 3-5 miles for you down South). There are generally around 23-25 obstacles and they are pretty standard ones with a few surprises and new ones thrown in to keep things interesting. I always recommend that people start with a Spartan Sprint before attempting the longer races.
Spartan Super: This is a race that was designed for those that want more of a challenge than a Sprint, those who are ready to test their physical and mental fitness further. It’s usually around 12-15 km (7-9 miles) with approximately 25-27 obstacles, a few of which are usually only on the Super courses (i.e. not found on a Sprint). Often the terrain is a bit tougher as well with more hills and single track trails thrown in.
Spartan Beast: This race was designed for those that want to push themselves to their limits and beyond. It is usually 21-25 km (13-15 miles) with 30+ obstacles, many of which are only found on the Beast. And the terrain is a lot more intense, usually involving significant elevation gains (aka HILLS!).
There are three key differences I wanted to highlight between the Spartan Super and the Beast:
- Distance, Terrain and Obstacles: The Spartan Beast is typically around 10 km longer than a Super BUT it is also a lot more intense. Most Spartan Beasts are run on a mountain or ski hill which means there is a lot of elevation gain. The Montana Spartan Beast for example had 4000 feet of elevation in 2016, that’s a whole lotta steep hills! The terrain was also bush whacked which meant we were constantly tripping over branches, roots and rocks and making our way through single track steep up and downhills. There are more obstacles at a Beast but also the heavy carries tend to be longer and heavier. And there are some obstacles that are typically saved for a Spartan Beast such as the 10 foot wall, the Twister and the new one The Bender. Things like the rope on the slip wall are shorter, the Hercules hoist is twice as heavy and the terrain itself is often the biggest obstacle of all.
- Time: A typical Spartan Beast completion time is usually 5-7 hours or more. To give you an idea of timing, I run a typical Spartan Sprint in 1-1.5 hours, a Super in 2.5 hours and my first Beast in Montana took us 7.5 hours. This year we were finished the Montana Beast in 6 hours but there was 1000 feet less elevation and less steep hills so we were able to run more. Being on a course for that long means you need to carry water and fuel in a camelback or pack. You don’t want to be out there for that long with no food or water (aid stations typically only provide water, no food or electrolytes). That long without food or electrolytes can leave you with no energy or worse, horrible leg cramps.
- It’s a Mental game: That much time on a mountain going up and down relentless hills leaves you with a lot of time to think. It gives you a lot of time to doubt yourself and you may find that “I can’t” voice creeps into your head. You’ll question why you’re there, why you paid money to do this, why you even wanted to in the first place and you’ll start to wonder if you can finish. So you need to prepare yourself for what you will do when that happens, this is why mental strength and conditioning is just as important as physical during your training.
Running a Spartan Beast is not easy, it’s really hard. BUT it is one of my proudest accomplishments and is definitely worth doing. I am a big believer in pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone but I also believe that you should properly prepare and train. And sometimes that means getting help from an expert.
I believe that anyone can complete a Spartan Beast IF they are willing to train hard and prepare. And it helps if you run it with someone who is just as passionate about it as you, someone who will lift you up when you fall (literally and figuratively) and give you strength when you feel yours running out. I could not have completed either of my Spartan Beasts without my best friend that I ran them with.
Are you planning to run a Spartan Beast? I’d love to hear which one and when!