Papa Rocks – Spartan Race is a Challenge for Tough Dads


While I have mostly focused in this blog on activities to do with kids, I think it’s fair to let dads have their spotlight too. Our dad is always looking for the next challenge, so when he got a registration to the  Reebok Spartan Race as his Christmas present, he was very excited. Out of many obstacle races, the Spartan Race seems to bring the “toughness factor” up a notch, making it an exciting playground for really tough dads.

The Reebok Spartan Race is a series of obstacle races of varying distance and difficulty ranging from 5 km (3 miles) to marathon distances. They were first introduced in the United States and then franchised to 14 countries including many European countries, South Korea, and Australia. One such race recently took place in our neck of the woods, in a beautiful Oberndorf in Tirol, surrounded by the Kitzbühel Alps. The Austrian premiere of the Reebok Spartan Race consisted of distances of 5+ km/3+mils (Sprint), 13+km/8+miles (Super) and 20+km/13+miles (Beast).

Our dad has already participated in the Spartan Sprint in Munich and in the Tough Mudder Race last year before training for the Beast Race in Oberndorf.  Unlike many other obstacle race franchises, the Spartan Race does not disclose its race course or the obstacles before the event. We arrived in Oberndorf to cheer for our dad on a beautiful and sunny September day.  The weather was still cool in the morning but in the middle of the day the temperatures climbed to nearly 27C/80F. As the temperatures climb, so did the participants adrenaline levels. How far and how high would they have to run? Little they knew that they will end up running just over 27 km (17 miles) with an altitude gain of about 1,600 meters (5,250 feet).  Those who trained for a 20 km race on a flat surface were in for a big surprise.

At the start there was a motivational warm-up routine with the Spartans-to-be doing burpees and shouting “AROO!” Right after the start line there were the first obstacles: a knee-deep muddy water pit and a jump over an approximately 3 meter (10 feet) high wall.

These two were the child play of what was yet to come.  To help participants cool, the race organizer sent them shortly after the start in the water basin of the local swimming pool. A few kilometers into the race the beasts faced what was in the winter a black FIS-approved ski run.  Uphill the path led first through a channel with ankle-deep water. But that was only the beginning of the hell. Some of the obstacles that followed were: going uphill with a 20 kg (45 lb) sand bag on your back, swimming though an ice-cold lake with wooden logs to overcome every few meters, dragging a 20 kg (45 lb) metal chain uphill and downhill.  Anyone unable to overcome the obstacle had to do 30 burpees instead. And the volunteers made sure nobody slacks.

One of the highlights that everyone talked about was the quarry – operational during the week but readily available to Spartan wanna-bes on the weekend.  There participants had to drag a 15 kg (33 lb) concrete block, pull tractor tires, swim in a lake again, and make their way through a waist –deep mud pit, and carry a bucket full of small stones over a hill. And what kind of Spartan is without a spear throw! A target must be met or there was no way of escaping a punishment of 30 burpees.

A downside of not having a course map was that the spectators remained mostly around start/finish line area. However, they were awarded with a view of tightly-packed 8 obstacles out of about 25 total obstacles. First and probably most exciting of all the obstacles just before the finish line was about 50 meter (165 feet) long crawl through a mud field under a tightly stretched barb wire. Next there were 2 kinds of rope climbs – one easy and one almost undoable because of slippery mud everyone was covered in.  Almost everyone opted for burpees with the crowd cheering loudly. Next there was a set of 3 mud hills each followed by a pit of muddy water to overcome. Another extremely slippery climbing wall followed – the participants had to pull themselves up with the help of a rope. After that a jump over a fire and you are done!

Although completely exhausted, all the Spartan Beasts had a huge smile on their face after finishing.  And when asked if they would do it again, the answer was a definite” yes” or in a language of a Spartan “AROO!”

Check out this 2 minute official highlight video of the event in Oberndorf on Facebook.

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