Do you have what it takes to be a 'Spartan?'
Jul 20, 2018 12:51PM
● By Greg James
West Valley resident Cody Kluge raises his hand in victory as he climbs through a mud hole at a recent adventure run. (Photo courtesy of Cody Kluge)
By Greg James | [email protected]
Northern Mexico’s rugged Sierra Madre mountains are home to the indigenous Tarahumara people. During the 16th century they retreated deep into the formidable canyons to escape slave raids by the Spanish. They have remained isolated from the outside world and trail running is a major part of their lifestyle.
Running became important to them for hunting purposes, notably chasing deer until the animal becomes too exhausted to flee. The book “Born to Run” explores their lifestyle and running habits. Today’s crossfit training, backcountry adventure races and Spartan events exhibit many of the physical challenges demonstrated by the Tarahumara.
“A friend of mine got me involved,” West Valley resident and Spartan competitor Sam Jones said. “It is a race with a lot of physical tests. I have competed in 30 or more Spartans and I enjoy it.”
A Spartan event includes racing up and down mountainous terrain, carrying baskets of rocks, crawling under barbed wire and climbing ropes — all while competing in a distance race course.
There are three main distances in an event: the sprint of 3-5 miles, middle distance of 8-10 miles and then the expert with a length of 12-15 miles.
Many outdoor events have incorporated 5Ks, family fun runs or marathons as part of the celebration, but training for each of these events can be a different experience.
“I have incorporated trail running and some say like a cross fit training into my exercise routine to prepare. I do carries with weights and training like that. Just being able to elevate my heart rate without red-lining,” Jones said.
The event coordinators of Spartans have developed training programs to help its competitors prepare. Fitness experts warn competitors to train properly to avoid injury.
“Doing 30 deadlifts fast can be harmful if proper technique is not followed,” said Kenyon James, a fitness trainer from The Drive. “So carrying a dead weight across the room wrong could cause injury. Like any training if you do not maintain correct technique it could be bad.”
Training for a physical event like a Spartan, 5K or a marathon should include a check up from a doctor and a good mixture of different types of exercise. The Stack training program suggests weight lifting day one, sprinting and short bursts of power day two, trail running day three and density training day three, day four should include muscle use with the running. Then the process is repeated.
“I have gotten to know a lot of people and made several friends by participating. I suggest to start small and slowly get into it. It can be hard to go right into the big races. Not everyone is there to compete. Some just want to be physically fit and get together with friends,” Jones said.
Fitness training can be relatively inexpensive to begin with. The proper equipment can be as simple as a good pair of shoes. Although many experts can invest thousands of dollars into training, gym memberships, personal assistants and specialized equipment.
For many racers the desire to do a marathon or Spartan is a personal challenge. They want to test their limits and see if they can go the distance or even lose weight. Whatever the reason, they hold tight to that desire. Months of preparation can be tough, so maintaining the motivation can be key.
“It is a lot of fun and a good way to stay physically fit. Be ready to get messy. I have gotten bruises and cuts.” Jones said of his Spartan races.
Near the end of most Spartan races the final obstacle can be a fire jump; stacks of wood with small fires that the competitors must jump over to get to the finish line. The fun and hard work leading to that final moment is much like the Tarahumara in Mexico coming home to a warm meal at their nightly resting place.