It seems that these days it’s not just a lifestyle choice, but a trending activity, to work out. As opposed to breaking a sweat as some people may be, my choice of poison is training for my favourite obstacle course race: the Spartan Race.
Recently, they organised the Spartan Urban Challenge, an urbanised template of their usually rugged terrain. I was curious to find out how the concrete format would challenge me, not only physically but also mentally.
The distance participants were required to cover wasn’t as long, given that it was a promotional event that was made to bring to attention the upcoming Spartan Sprint and Super in October 2018.
In spite of that, I found myself having to overcome a different set of obstacles (literally and otherwise), which I didn’t anticipate prior to this urban challenge.
From someone who’s run her fair share of Spartan races in the last two years or so, and as a word of advice to those thinking about embarking on the first-ever race in October, these are the five most note-worthy observations of differences between an urban and a more natural terrain-based obstacle race:
For those acquainted with the Spartan Race’s most common obstacle, would be very familiar with their walls. It varies in height along the course, and usually the easy, shorter ones are placed at the start of the race.
Overcoming those walls when I had to bounce off asphalt proved to be much harder than gaining momentum from a grassy or dirt patch. Who knew?
I had to make full use of my upper body to propel myself over a typical height that I would’ve been able to do normally during the race. I actually felt a little handicapped, and very surprised by this revelation.
Now, unless you have a terrifying fear of heights, clamouring over the obstacles shouldn’t induce you with the irrational fear that your grip isn’t tight enough.
I discovered that I felt anxious about how well I was holding on to the metal frame of the obstacles because I had this feeling that I’d just fall off, hit my head, and get a concussion.
Of course, there were safety mats placed beneath, but that didn’t stop my overthinking from going into overdrive and worrying about the “what ifs?”.
My coping mechanism was then to not look down as much as I could, and just zoning in on getting higher, not thinking about the probability of falling to my possible death.
It’s to be expected that the more you’re surrounded by tall buildings, the more heat that radiates throughout your surroundings.
On the day of this urban challenge, it was overcast and slightly breezy. However, that didn’t stop me from breaking out into a sweat within the first three minutes!
The humidity felt like it was hovering right above me and the hot air made breathing more tiresome than I’m used to. I don’t make a habit of running in heavy traffic areas, which is also probably why I felt a little suffocated.
I don’t know if my body just wasn’t in top form that day, but having to traverse the course over concrete ground wore me out quickly. A lot of my training occurs in the gym or in open outdoor areas like parks or nature trails.
This is quite a key point to note because the terrain you train in will affect your performance on race day, especially when one is so different from the other.
I’m no fitness expert but I reckon it’s due to the use of very different muscles when placed in different terrains. That is the biggest lesson I took away, for sure.
What I love about the Spartan Race is that it’s as much physical as it is mental, and the mental aspect quickly came into play during this urban rendition. With so many more chances of injury and the physical weariness taking its toll, you have to really dig deep to find the motivation to continue.
This short distance was merely a taste of what the actual race is like, but I could imagine if they transported the entire race to fit an urban landscape… it would be pretty damn brutal.
I’m glad I had the chance to get a sneak peak into what an urban obstacle race would be like, and thank God that the default terrain for the Spartan Races are all out in nature (read: love the mud!). But with so many obstacle races aiming to get people to move around more, it’s wise to know a little more about what you’re getting yourself into.
The next edition of Spartan Race Singapore happens on 13 October 2018, so that’s what I’m looking to overcome. As for me, I think I’ll stick to what I’m familiar for now. Just getting myself to be disciplined with training is an obstacle in itself.
Date: 13 October 2018 (Sentosa Island, Singapore)
Prices: S$118 – S$188 per pax
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