A few months ago I received an email from my friend, Dan, inviting me to join him on an obstacle run at Fenway Park in Boston. An obstacle run is basically what it sounds like. Depending on the event, you run a few miles and navigate an array of physical challenges and obstacles along the way. The intensity varies according to the company/brand leading the event. Dan’s invitation was to run in Reebok’s Spartan Run. This Spartan Run was deemed a “sprint”…..a 3-mile sprint.
I had never participated in an obstacle race, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Many of these races are known for obstacles that involve crawling through mud or wading through ice water, but I knew those events were ruled out because they wouldn’t risk damaging the Fenway grass. In the end I decided it would be more fun to show up and be surprised.
Jessica and I drove into Boston in the morning and then took the T (subway) to Fenway with Dan and his girlfriend, Melissa. We wanted to arrive with plenty of time before our start, so we ended up having lots of time to kill. When our start time finally rolled around we were raring to go. We said goodbye to the girls–who had a special spectator map–and hopped in line which, of course, required going up and over a six foot wall.
starter screaming man with a microphone set a group of twenty competitors up in the starting area and then demanded we do 10 burpees (without pushups). Then after a few seconds of rest…3…2…1…GO!
We began by running up three flights of stairs and into a section of seats along the third base line. A few more random turns led us to our first set of obstacles. We probably ran another 1/4 mile between these events as well:
- Up and over a 6 foot wall
- Carry two 5 gallon jugs down and then up two flights of stairs
- Ascend 8 ramps alternating between low bungees (high-knees) and high bungees (bear-crawling) to the top of the stadium
- Jump 30 times using a really heavy rope (think heavy duty ship rope)
- Move a heavy stone 10 yards, do 5 burpees, and then move the stone back
- Complete 30 overhead medicine ball slams
- Row 500 m in under 2 minutes
The rowing event was a significant milestone for a few reasons. First, it was the first time we saw the girls. This allowed us to ditch our long sleeves (huge mistake wearing those!) and provided us with a much needed moral boost. My asthma had been acting up a little bit because of the cold, and both Dan and I were feeling the general lack physical conditioning we had both worked so hard to maintain.
The Spartan Races have the same punishment for any failed or skipped obstacle: 30 burpees. If you don’t know what a burpee is, consider yourself lucky. In principle it shouldn’t be that bad. You start standing up, drop into a crouch with your hands on the ground, kick your feet out into a push up position, kick your feet back into a crouch position, and jump up with you hands in the air. But, something about burpees generates that brutal mix of exhaustion and nausea that sucks so much.
The erg machines we rowed on were prepped to give us two minutes to row 500 m. Normally this would be cake, but we were wiped. I finished and got the signal that I had completed in time. Dan finished two or three seconds behind me and was told he had failed. There wasn’t a timer to warn us, so I think I just got lucky to barely make it. Dan did his 30 burpees (I joined him for the last 10) and then we jogged off down the course exhausted.
We travelled up and down and up and down stairs for a long time until we suddenly took an odd turn into the heart of the building. Next thing we knew we were in the visitors’ locker room where we had to do 20 push ups with arm-releases (event #8). I didn’t even notice the pushups while checking out the locker room.
The race then took us out of the locker room and dumped us in the visitor dugout where we promptly climbed back into the stands and up onto the top of the green monster. From there it was back down to ground level where the girls met us for another set of obstacles.
This set of obstacles included:
- Pulling a rope with 110 pound weight at the other end (Dan failed and I joined him for the last 10 burpees)
- Crawling through a set of military walls–under, over, and through
- Jumping a 7 foot wall
- Traveling across the Monkey bars (the bars weren’t drilled in very well and rotated…not helpful)
- Climbing/Traversing sideways across a wall with foot and hand holds (other competitors shaking the wood didn’t help)
- Throwing a javelin
The javelin throw was the only event I thought was dumb. The idea was awesome. They had what were basically pitchforks with all but the middle stake removed, and we hurled these at a straw square about 15 feet away. The problem with the event was that you only got one try. I didn’t see one person stick the target (out of about 50 people around us) while I was there. That turned this into essentially the throw-a-spear-and-then-do-30-burpees station.
After the javelin we only had a few more events left:
- Hopping up two flights of stairs with a bungee around our legs
- Carrying 200 m sandbag through the outfield bleachers (see photo below)
- Climbing 10 foot of rope
After the rope climb we zigged and zagged down about 15 long rows of seats before being directed out onto the field. Being on the field (or at least the warning track) was awesome. Along the warning track were some of the most fun challenges:
- Scaling a net pyramid,
- A set of four 6 foot walls, and then…
- An 8 foot wall
- Completing 20 box jumps
- Running by two event volunteers wielding foam jousting weapons
I was in pretty rough shape after the 100+ burpees I’d endured along the course, but popping out of the concourse and onto the field gave me a final burst of adrenalin.” -Dan
Finishing was an awesome feeling. Reebok did a great job with the event. They were constantly blasting music through Fenway’s sound system and they designed the course so Melissa and Jessica could cheer us on exactly when we needed it. When we crossed the finish line we got a medal, a t-shirt, and a banana.
Later we were able to check our time online. We finished in 59:29. Without anything to compare this to, I am just going to assume this is a near world record pace. And, based on the size of the sweet medal I received at the finish, that sure sounds right.