Later this month I’m looking forward to taking part in my next race – Spartan’s weekend at Aston Down in Gloucestershire. While I’ll be joining in the Super on Saturday and Sprint on Sunday chasing the big boys, my wife will be taking on the open wave at the Sprint looking to get out there and enjoy herself. This race is thankfully around a 15 minute drive from my house, based at an Airfield in Stroud. Not that I’m biased being from such a great area but I’d recommend this one to anyone who’s not tried a Spartan Race before.
The entry-level Sprint event is just 5k with 20 obstacles and based on the last couple of years is a really fun course. As my preparations for the June 23/24 race weekend plod along, I was lucky enough to catch up with Sam Lansdale, the General Manager of Spartan Race UK and Ireland to find out a bit more about his passion for OCR and Spartan Race itself.
Managing a Beast
As a quick overview, Spartan Race General manager Sam comes from a background of analysing and improving in business – graduating from UCL with a Quantum Physics degree(!).
I had a short stint at RBS before joining theatre producer Bill Kenwright (best known as Everton chairman) for three years. With a passion for combining sport and entertainment, I joined Spartan Race in January 2017.
Often found helping runners over the 8ft Walls, Sam has been taken by the community spirit surrounding obstacle racing. He follows football closely and coaches junior football teams in his spare time – with an eye on getting the next generation active from a young age, it’s easy to see why the Spartan Juniors is such an important factor.
Our main focus for Spartan Race in the UK and Ireland is building on the race day experience and increasing the number of races in different areas of the country between now and 2020. We want to be seen as a credible sport – not just a fad, and stay true to the core of Spartan Race with carefully chosen obstacles and great courses.
Aware of the high level of athleticism among the top Spartan Racers, the ability to cater for every level of competitor is highly important;
We run elite heats for racers looking to challenge themselves against the best competition around and this now includes prize money for the UK & Ireland Regional Series races which consists of five races across the year.
For beginners, we’re placing a big emphasis on making newcomers feel prepared for their race! For those in between, we’ve introduced Age Group heats for those racers who want to challenge themselves against others in their age bracket to find out how they rank! There’s something for everyone on every level.
With a total prize pot of £12k across the season – Spartan Race is undoubtedly investing in their keen racers. Sam continues:
The beauty of Spartan is our races cater for people of all different shapes, sizes and backgrounds – whether you want to run as part of a team for fun, or compete with some of the world’s best athletes, you will have a great experience.
For those who have never set foot on a Spartan course before, the appeal really is a chance to test oneself and compete against other racers – the race is timed and every finisher gets a famous Spartan medal – of course collect all three to build a brilliant Trifecta medal. Serious bragging rights. For those unsure of what to expect, Sam breaks it down for us;
We pride ourselves on our race day experience so expect a great day! Upon arriving, you’ll be greeted by our fantastic volunteers who will register you for your race. After dropping your bag, you’ll then head to the start line where Spartan Phil will gee you up and get you ready to take on the course. And then off you’ll go to take on one of our world famous races! The course will be lined with enthusiastic volunteers cheering and helping you on. And then you’ll cross the finish line and all that training will have paid off.
Onwards & Upwards
The next Spartan race on the calendar is Aston Down Super and Sprint weekend on 23rd & 24th June. Spartan Race UK & Ireland General Manager Sam Lansdale gives us a sneaky bit of information;
We’ve invested ten-fold in obstacle improvements and the race day experience this year in order to maintain our position as the world’s best obstacle course race. These improvements will gradually be phased in over the course of this season so stay tuned!
Sam expects around 5,000 racers and a further 3,000 spectators at the Aston Down race weekend, figures up on last year. He added:
We are very excited to be returning to Aston Down this month. We loved the venue last year and we have even more racers taking part in our South West event this year. In contrast to our last race event in Ireland, where the course was flat and quick, Aston Down really uses the hills and the slopes to maximum effect to create a pretty challenging route. This is due to the great skill and experience of our Race Director, Karl Allsop.
The race goes through terrain known locally as Death Valley, which is an incredible, three-pronged valley where racers will be directed up and down the three prongs of the valley like a skateboard half pipe. At Spartan we are renowned for our crawls and carries, sandbags and tyres, but we also utilise the natural terrain to full effect.
Aston Down’s slopes are not too long but are pretty steep (which anyone who has taken on this course in previous years will confirm), taking racers up and down at short, sharp intervals, which makes it quite challenging from a fitness and stamina perspective.
The Sprint race is still a perfectly achievable event for a first-time challenger though. We welcome all levels of racers and we hope everyone has a lot of fun on race day.
A big thanks to Sam Lansdale for the time and information. From my personal previous years’ experience Aston Down is a tough, but really fun weekend – there’s ample parking, ideal space for a race village, and an unrelenting course. If I remember correctly we’ll face a long crawl, spear throw, traverse wall, and rope climb all in quick succession of each other at the end so don’t get caught out there! As for me, I’ll be asking Sam – as a man with a degree in Quantum Physics – for exact specifications when it comes to angles and power on that damned spear.
As mentioned, the next Spartan race is June 22-24 at Aston Down Airfield, Aston Down, Gloucestershire GL6 8HR.
There’s still time to enter, just visit www.spartanrace.uk and use code SPARTANKEITH for 25% off!
(also can be used for any Sprint, Super or Beast open heat for the rest of the year)
All image credits to Epic Action Imagery
Written by me: Keith Fairburn
Personal Trainer, Sports Therapist, S&C Coach.
Ninja Warrior Semi-Finalist, Obstacle Racer, Salming Running Ambassador.
If you have any questions about anything I’ve written in this post or want to get in touch, contact me.