Marathons and triathlons are tough, sure. But there’s a new trend in racing that eats those linear races for lunch. In the 29 Spartan Races held in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. this year, competitors run through mud, crawl under barbed wire, hurl a spear, carry heavy buckets through water and even leap over fire. Sound medieval? That’s the whole idea.

The race takes its name from the ancient Greeks from Sparta who emphasized physical training and discipline.

The next U.S. race is scheduled Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011 at Killington Ski Resort in central Vermont. The Killington event is a Spartan Beast – a twelve-mile trail run with over 20 obstacles. The already super challenging course will include a feature unique among Spartan races: the lure of an easy out. Race organizers will offer a “dignified exit” after mile three for those who may have bitten off more than they can chew. The commitment and determination of all racers will be tested as they decide whether to take this opportunity or continue for nine more miles of grueling hardship.

Competition is expected to attract 3,500 weekend warriors on Aug. 6, at the Killington Showshed Base Lodge, 3800 Killington Rd. The race starts at 9 a.m. Children ages 5 to 13 can compete in the Junior Spartan Adventure on a specially designed ½-mile course at 12:05 p.m. on race day. Proceeds benefit the Max Cure Foundation (www.maxcurefoundation.org).

Also appearing is Spartan champion Hobie Call, 34, from So. Jordan, Utah, who has won all seven U.S. Spartan Races that he has entered to date.

“Life is not a straight line,” says race organizer and Pittsfield, Vt. entrepreneur Joseph DeSena of Spartan Race, Inc. “Spartan Race returns competitors to our ancient roots where running through woods, getting dirty, and facing adversity was part of everyday life.”

The Spartan Races benefit Homes for Our Troops, hoping to raise $400,000 to fully construct a specially adapted home for an injured veteran (www.homesforourtroops.org).

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