I’m seeing murmurings of people preparing for Spartan Race 2014 and realized I never posted about my 2013 Spartan Race: the Citizen’s Bank Park Spartan Sprint.

It was pretty much the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve gone through 3 natural childbirths.

And I loved it. Even while I was hating it. While scaling the last obstacle before the finish line, I was already thinking about how to prepare for next time.

Now, Spartan bills the Sprint race as being doable for anyone. But then they also turn around and say:

An obstacle course race is designed to test your resilience, strength, stamina, quick decision making skills, and ability to laugh in the face of adversity. We want to own obstacle racing and our unique obstacle course trail races will demand every ounce of your strength, ingenuity, and animal instinct.

which is somewhat intimidating, yeah? Hopefully reading through this recap of Spartan Race obstacles will help diffuse some of that intimidation.

My official stance: anyone can finish Spartan Sprint if they are capable of stringing together 30 burpees without wanting to die, and are not terribly concerned about their time. I didn’t do all the obstacles, and for each one I missed I did the 30 burpees. So the best way to prepare, frankly, is lots and lots of burpees. The upside to that is— burpees make you strong, and that upper body strength will go a long way with the obstacles.

The four of us took forever. We started as a team, we waited for each other, and we crossed the finish line as a team, and I was very pleased about that. For us it was more than a run, it was a group experience, something we did together.


spartan race citizens bank park

With Andrea, who I’ve known since grade school


This was a stadium run, so we knew there would be no mud or water involved. It started off by going up several stories via the ramp; cords had been zigged and zagged across, first about waist high, then lower.

I bear crawled at first like a champ (bear crawl is like going on hands and knees, only straight leg, butt down), scurrying up that ramp under the cords. Then there was a few feet of space before you hit the lower cords (meant to be stepped or jumped over).

First bit of advice: when traveling at a speedy momentum up an incline, it’s best to slow down before attempting to stand up. 

I totally bought it one minute into the damn race, my momentum hurtling me forward as I tried to stand upright while still running. Luckily I caught myself in time to take all the weight on my hands, and I was already wearing my gloves (I didn’t know what else to do with them).

I didn’t scrape my knees and palms, I didn’t faceplant, but I did bang my wrist a bit and more importantly I was thoroughly shaken and feeling a bit stupid. I took it much easier the rest of the way up the ramp.


spartan race citizens bank park


After that there was cement blocks on pulleys which had to be hoisted way up and brought gently back down. Easy peasy and one of my favorite obstacles of the day.

500 meter row in two minutes. Done. Thank you, CrossFit Riverfront.

Then in no particular order:

  • a series of walls, from 6 feet to 8 or 9 feet, I’m not sure. The higher ones had a little step about the size of a brick built in, which were enough of a launchpad that I was able to scale them all, but my hips were seriously bruised the next day. Some walls had windows cut through the top half that you had to go through.
  • monkey bars. They were not level and not evenly spaced, and not every bar went all the way across. I got a little more than halfway done and my hand just slipped off one of the peg bars. My first set of 30 burpees.
  • stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. Up the stairs, down the stairs.
  • Weaving across sections of seats.
  • More corded ramps.
  • Bunny hop up two ramps with a thick resistance band around ankles. Most people kind of just walked it. My second piece of advice is to just do the bunny hop. It’s just as easy and takes way less time.
  • Carrying a filled water jug, more weaving across sections of seats.
  • Carrying a sand filled “pancake,” maybe about 15  pounds? Not terribly heavy. More weaving and stairs.


spartan race citizens bank

Kelly, Christian and I are pancake carrying champs.


  • Slam balls. 30 sounds right, I believe it was a 20 pound weight for the ladies.
  • Javelin throw. I had asked Jeff to fashion me a spear so I could practice throwing it at the bales of hay in the park, but we never got around to it. I’ve never thrown a javelin before. I totally overestimated and it went sailing up and over. 30 burpee penalty.
  • Carrying a cement filled bucket a short distance, doing some burpees (5? 10? Can’t remember) and then bringing it back.
  • 40 jumps with a heavy jump rope. I rather enjoyed this one, enough that I went ahead and bought my own heavy rope (an outdoor Muscle Rope jump rope).




  • Rope climb. I’ve never climbed a rope before either, and this was the obstacle I was most worried about; I was afraid I’d get to the top and be paralyzed there. Turns out I was worried about nothing because I couldn’t figure out how to scale the damn rope. 30 burpee penalty.

Tip #3: prep for the rope climb by watching this awesome rope climbing tutorial video and reading this post from one of our FitFluential Ambassadors, Parkour trainer Ryan Ford.



Now we were in the locker rooms and presumably the homestretch!

30 hand release pushups (chest all the way down to the floor, hands off the ground, then push back up).

Short photo break in the dugout.


spartan race citizens bank park


30 box jumps.

More walls. These were an easily manageable 6 feet.

After the walls there was an open stretch to run on the infield before the next obstacle. I thought FOR SURE there was a camera trained here and I ran that sucker as fast as I could, slowing to a walk as I huffed and puffed and turned the corner.

Turns out, THAT’S where the camera was.


spartan race citizens bank park


A sort of long horizontal rock climbing wall. I lost my footing and slipped off. 30 burpee penalty.

A “V” wall. When I did my first obstacle race I thought these were scary because they sway as each person grabs on and jumps off, but they’re old hat by now.


spartan race citizens bank park


And then the literal homestretch, through the gladiator gauntlet.

I look like I’m dancing. Like a moron.


spartan race citizens bank park


And that’s that, man. We did it. And if we can, so can you.

It was pretty badass. Like my socks.


spartan race citizens bank park


A couple more tips:

If you check your bag, it costs 5 bucks but you get a $5 credit for any merchandise. They put a band on your bag and a matching one on your wrist. Tip #4: don’t cut off and throw away the band before you remember to redeem it for merch.

Tip #5: you can totally try some of the obstacles more than once. The javelin is one-shot-only, and I never would have made the rope climb, but I probably would have managed the monkey bars and rock climbing wall if I’d tried again.

Tip #6: don’t be afraid to ask for help, from team members or anyone else. I helped hoist a couple of people over walls, and I accepted a shoulder coming down off one of the high ones. The rope climb in particular was full of strangers helping each other and cheering each other on. This support is part of what makes obstacle runs particularly fulfilling.

Tip #7: do the burpees, kids. On your honor. I saw plenty of people blow the burpees off and it didn’t make any sense to me. You paid for this race, why not do the whole thing? I would feel cheated if I didn’t run it as intended, and that means a physical/time penalty for each uncompleted obstacle.

Tip #8, I guess, would be to wear close-fitting, sweat-wicking clothing so you’re not dying of heat but also not flashing anyone (lots of opportunities for that). I was really grateful to have been wearing the gloves, and my knee highs definitely protected my shins more than once.

I’m wearing Reebok shorts and shoes here (RealFlex which were sent to me by Reebok). I saw this weekend that Reebok just unveiled a new line of all-terrain shoes “built Spartan strong”— I haven’t tried these but they look pretty cool, and are designed with obstacle racing in mind (good traction, rock guards, drainage ports).

One last tip: sign up today, and start training now!

Yes, it was hard, I’m not gonna lie. Much harder than finishing the Merrell Down and Dirty Mud Run and a world away from Dirty Girl.

It was also hugely, hugely satisfying. DO IT. Join us in Philadelphia!


spartan race citizens bank park


Photos showing the Spartan logo were taken by Spartan Race and were FREE, which is awesome.

The rest were taken by Andrea’s boyfriend Chris, who is also awesome.



read more