For a race like the Spartan Beast to exist, there have to be sadists who design this thing and masochists such as myself who want to go through it.
Let that be a little preview of what I’m about to tell you about this event. And yes, I did go through it. Never again I dare say!
Last Saturday, April 29th, I did the second hardest version of this event, the Beast (here are the other versions of it) and I will share with you what transpired. Now this event is 12+ miles long and in my case, it ended up being close to or exactly 14 miles.
This would be my 6th mud run I’ve ever done and without a doubt, the hardest one yet. Of the previous 5 events I’ve done, 2 of them were actually Spartan Race events, just not as long. One was the Sprint (5K) which ended miserably as it was cancelled due to torrential rain, thus I couldn’t get myself the nice red medal or cool t-shirt and the other was the Super, which I did finish in a manner of 5 hours and change.
These 2 events, plus the other 3 I did helped give me a TON of experience to prepare myself for the Beast. And I really did prepare a lot.
For example, here is my training regiment that I used to prep for it.
Was my preparation enough? Post event analysis and lessons:
Let me explain it this way:
1) Uphill climbing.
The main thing I feared about the Spartan Beast was the overwhelming amount of up hill climbing that I would have to endure.
Frankly, if I may be bold, this is really what makes up a majority of the hardships and length of the event and honestly, it’s one of the things I don’t like about this event because it lacks creativity. Something like Tough Mudder does a better job at this.
Anyway, with every mud run I’ve done, the ones which involved up hill climbing ended up being so tough, that even though I endured them, that afterwards, my legs and thighs in particular were shot and in excruciating pain for days.
I would not be able to literally walk up and down the stairs. Nothing short of rest and rolling my legs on a foam roller helped heal me so going through that experience again was something I was not looking forward to…
So in anticipation of the Beast, I really worked on my uphill climbing game, but living in the city, I didn’t exactly have many places to do this, so I improvised and rode a bicycle any chance I could, as well as lifted it up to my 7th floor apartment whenever I wasn’t too tired. I also would walk up to my floor as often as I could.
Let me tell you guys…
These exercise SAVED my legs. Not only were they better prepped this time around, but I felt much more comfortable climbing up those annoying cliffs. Now even though my legs still hurt the days after, at least now I can actually walk and the healing time is much faster.
So was it right to do what I did? Absolutely. And I do recommend you do something like this if not the exact same thing.
Some of the obstacles in the race involve lifting heavy things. 4 in particular are:
- The Atlas Carry.
- The Sandbag carry.
- Carrying very heavy pieces of wood (log carry).
- And finally…the one carry obstacle I hate above all else…the damn bucket full of gravel. Whoever though of this obstacle should really think of something more original because not only does this challenge suck, it also sucks in the sense that it’s just very excruciating to go through.
But anyway, these 4 main challenges were also things that worried me, but I’ll tell you what…carrying that bike up the floors over and over really made me BLAZE through these 4 challenges.
I was actually surprised at how quickly and dare I say, nearly effortlessly I was going past the other competitors and finishing these challenges rather quickly.
So again, reenacting that challenge by carrying something heavy up and down, getting used to it REALLY helped.
3) Crazy grip strength required…
Many of the challenges on this event absolutely require that you have an excellent grip.
For the wall scaling, for the rope climb, monkey bars (which there were 2 of in this event), you will need to really work on this.
Now in my training regiment I linked above, I had definitely been working on this as well and I was amazed at how strong my grip was, come race day.
Unfortunately though the creativity of some of the obstacles and slipperiness of the walls was too much for just my grip alone and I ended up not completing some of them.
However, I can attest that whatever I recommended you do to prepare your grip for this race WORKS.
Here are the tips and you will have insane grip, trust me.
4) The best clothing to wear for the Spartan Race ever…
Oh boy, I nailed this. Now unlike the other mud runs I have done, this was the first where we were advised to bring tick spray.
Because this particular event was held in Mount Vernon, NJ, it would be highly risky to attend it wearing very little, and not having any tick spray.
In case you didn’t know, ticks can be HIGHLY dangerous in transmitting a near deadly disease known as lyme disease, one which I have first hand experience with. Trust me, it is not worth showing of your incredible body and risking getting bitten by one of these things.
Instead, everything I had recommended you wear didn’t just help protect me against the ticks, but it also helped protect me from injuries and kept my muscles warm, warm enough to continue progressing through the course.
5 things in particular helped:
A) Rash guards. Shirts and pants. Here is a list of the 10 things I ALWAYS put on for mud runs. Consider this list a near perfect insurance from injuries, infections and other bad stuff that can happen.
B) Hat. Great for protecting me from the sun, although in our case, we were lucky to experience a cool, cloudy day.
C) Shoes. Without a doubt, make SURE you have the right shoes for this. Get these, they absolutely OWNED this race. I still can’t believe how good they are, and this was the second time I used them. They are still good to go for my next one by the way!
D) Hydration pack. Oh wow, if I could tell you how many people I saw wear these on the race…you wouldn’t believe me. I would estimate 8 or even 9 out of every 10 competitors wore these. Even the official Spartan Race newsletter advised we get these. Here is the one I used.
E) Get yourself a GoPro. It’s great for documenting your experience and learning your lessons, plus enjoying the footage after the event! I actually own 2 of them, the Hero 4 Black and Hero 5 Black. My Hero 5 Black was being fixed at the time, so I took my 4 and just for the record, for this event, you will need to have 3 batteries, one for the camera and an extra 2 just in case.
What about food? Did you bring any?
I had team members bring the following things:
Energy gels and a few energy bars. These were absolute gold on the race and helped us re-energize. Furthermore, the water station at the halfway point was also giving these out in droves so we took as many as we could carry (a hydration pack helped keep it all stored).
Were there new obstacles on the Beast?
Yes quite a few! They actually made a few modifications to existing ones as well. I have a list of the new ones here.
But also just know the main part of the race is the uphill climbing, a bunch of walls, those 4 lifting challenges and for specifics, see this obstacle list, generally 80% of them on that list are always going to be on this event.
Where I totally owned this race:
The uphill climbs, the 4 main lifting stations, were surprisingly a lot easier than any of the previous times I did it. This was actually about 85% of the whole race if you add their lengths together.
There was a memorization obstacle where based on the last 2 digits of your “bib” number, you were given a name and number to remember, only to have to say it later on when asked by the staff. Getting it wrong would require you do 30 burpees, the central punishment of this race. I still remember mine by heart: Alpha-368-2700, YES!
The spear throw was also easily completed. I actually threw it twice this time. The first time, it hit the target and slipped off because I threw it too lightly, but the second time, I got it straight through. For people who are worried they’ll struggled with this, here is my best tip for completing the spear throw.
Where I could have done better…
Man some of those new obstacles really surprised me. There was an advanced monkey bar climb I couldn’t even get 10% through. I will have to work on my monkey bar climbing more and really try to mix it up.
The rope climb was ridiculous this year. Last time I did this event, the rope climb was in water and the rope itself was very wet, yet that time, I almost made it to the top, this time around, there was no water, the rope was on dry land and we stood on these soft pads in case we fell, yet this time around it was MUCH harder. In fact, NOBODY on my team managed to complete this obstacle. I will definitely be trying to climb ropes more often from now on…
Some of the walls that I managed to scale relevantly quickly weren’t as simple this time…the 7 and 9 foot walls were the hardest. They were very slippery to land on and grab onto the top, which I always advised doing through these tips, yet here, I lost my confidence. I will have to re-learn how to scale walls.
And these 3 areas, despite making up LESS than 20% of the event were still enough to have me be disappointed a little bit.
5 essential tips for completing the beast:
1) Wear that good clothing.
2) Stretch after EACH up hill climb. This is another MAJOR factor that helped prolong my legs resilience and continue the race. Basically after each climb, my legs would get stiff and taking a minute to stretch them out really reignited them and at times, even well into the event, I felt like I was flying, something which feels heavenly on something as difficult as the Spartan Race, so PLEASE stretch, often if you have to.
3) Wear those good shoes.
4) If you feel like an obstacle is giving you too much trouble and/or you feel as though you are about to pull a muscle, STOP and relax. Worst case, restart the obstacle again. They don’t penalize you for trying. Also to add to this, do NOT do the beast if you’re a first time mud runner or aren’t in great shape. At worst, do the Sprint.
5) Do my recommend training exercises above, either the classic ones or the specific ones I did for this one. They helped me complete nearly the entire race without a hitch and we are talking 14 miles people…
What’s next? Think this one isn’t enough for you? 2 even crazier races to consider:
Well I admit, I’m a crazy guy to do this and I cursed this race several times throughout doing it. However, as the days go past this event, I feel as though I want to go further and try to hit that next level. And if you’re like me, there are 2 known events in the mud run world tougher than this:
1) The Ultra Beast. Ladies and gentlemen, imagine everything I just told you about my 14 mile “adventure”, but multiply it by 2 and you have yourself the Ultra Beast. It is “just” 2 laps of the one I ran.
We actually had a bunch of these “Ultras” running past us in the race. They wore a light green sleeve to indicate that there were ultras and by the rules of this event, you have to give them passage.
Generally the length of the Ultra Beast varies but it’s 26 miles up and up.
2) The World’s Toughest Mudder. Ever heard of Tough Mudder? Well imagine that basic race, which is typically 10+ miles, but done lap after lap for a period of 24 hours.
And there you go, 2 challenges that are on the next level above the beast.
Overall opinion of the race:
While doing it, I hated it. After I finished it, I kind of wanted to go further with it. Like I said, the T-Shirts and medals really look and feel nice so that’s an incentive, plus the experience is pretty cool too.
I honestly enjoy Tough Mudder more (why) than this event because it’s more action based, where as this one is just a masochist’s dream come true.
If you’ve done any of these events, man would I love to hear what you think!
30 thoughts on “Spartan Beast Review: How to Own it’s Obstacles And Survive it.”
This looks awesome! I have been wanting to do something like this but I keep being held back by money, work, and my fiancÃ©, who is not as physically fit as I am. For someone who likes strength training and hiking over cardio, would you say that the Spartan race would fit me better as first run or something more like tough mudder?
It would suite you just fine! Do the 5k first, if you have friends who are also into the same things, try Tough Mudder, both races would suite you fine 🙂
This looks like so much fun. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a few years now but never got around to doing it but after reading this it’s got me interested again. Do you know if the challenges are the same in the Australian version of tough mudder?
The only Tough Mudder I’ve done so far was in the states Darren, but the central theme is the same worldwide: 10-12 miles and the challenges bear SOME resemblance to the Spartan Race, but they are not the same. Here’s a comparison between the two.
Wow that looks like a real grueling event, I love It! I have always been a bit of an extremist and put myself into many tough challenges.
That all changed a few years back when I blew out my back. I turned into a couch potato due to the pain and limited movement, but about a year ago I got up, and I have been working my way back into activity since.
Do you know of any other events like these that may be tuned down a bit? I would love to get involved in these types of things, but I do have an injury to keep in mind.
To be honest Brendon, even with the easiest mud runs around, like say the Survival Race, which is a 5k is something I would not recommend you do with a back injury. Some of their obstacles and areas require that you use explosive movement and often squat. That really goes for every OCR out there…
This may put unwanted pressure on your back and possibly injure you again. As of now, I am guessing you are not at 100% so until you are and a doctor clears you, I would NOT do any mud runs.
At most, maybe a simple hike will be fine, but nothing involving obstacle racing, not with a bad back.
Awesome guide! I’ve been thinking about trying out a mud run but can never seem to get around to it. Based on your experience, I think the Spartan seems a lot more hard core than the others. The pics you posted are super helpful so I can get an actual feed for some of the events. Congrats on completing it!
Thanks Katie, since you are considering it and don’t sound like you want to try something as difficult as the Spartan Race, I would recommend a much easier mud run such as the Survival Race.
Omg this looks amazing. Now did you have a photographer taking pictures of you as went through the event? I’m an athlete too and this is something I’d LOVE to do.
I love how you described how the clothing helped you in particular. So helpful to know. I’m bookmarking your site so that when I am ready to do something like this I will follow your recommendations.
There were a number of photographers throughout the course taking pictures Tim, but for the most part, I carried my GoPro with me on this and on a previous race, it makes for some awesome videos and pictures to look back at!
I’ve never even heard of Spartan Mud Runs and I’m an equal mix of in awe of you and jealous! I’m doing an event called Mud Hero for the second time this year. It’s only 6k and seems like a cake walk compared to what you described. Some of the obstacles are similar though so I feel like a lot of your recommendations are still relevant. If they help me fly through it this year, I’ll have to see if there are more challenging mud runs around here! I agree the hills are the worst part for me too. I’ve been weight lifting and running but will definitely add in some of your other suggestions like burpees, as much as I hate them. 🙂
I also love the tshirt and medal at the end! It’s a great feeling of accomplishment. 🙂
Interesting, so many new mud runs are popping up around the world and to be honest, Mud Hero is completely new to me, but a 6k is close to a 3 mile run. If you do this race well, you may want to try out the 5k Spartan Sprint!
As an athlete, I see events like this as a great challenge. You train for a long time and then you reap the rewards of completing such an endeavor. More people should do events like this. Because of it, you grow through the journey.
I have not done something like the Spartan run before, but I want to try it after reading your review. It looks very fun. Thank you for sharing and I hope you have a great day!
You mentioned you’re an athlete, I’m curious to know what types of sports/events you do Alex 🙂
It’s great to know that you actually did it. It seems pretty tough. However, I do wish they had different challenges that were more creative. I know I’m not the only one to say it, since I can’t do mud runs, but it’s fun to see people do it and overcome challenges.
Maybe they could have a challenge like having the participants climb a slippery inclined wall? That would make it more challenging and interesting rather than having people lift many things. Anyways, I’d love to hear from you if you participate in an Ultra beast.
They actually do have slippery walls (Z Wall) but to your main point about the lack of creativity, I think a Tough Mudder would be more to your liking. That one truly has creative challenges and you complete them with a team, be it your friends or other participants.
I just want to start by saying what a great layout of your site! I have always wanted to participate in something like this but they never seem to host any of these mud runs in my city. I’m in the best shape of my life too. I’m basically in my prime. Just last week I jumped over a car, the week before that I brought and carried the washer and dryer upstairs alone. I’m basically the real Spiderman.
Hah, that’s some real feats! Generally if you live in a city, you will not find any mud runs being hosted there. The closest ones near me are about 2 or more hours away if you drive. I’d look on the Spartan site or other mud runs events and see which is the closest to your area.
This is a great post and it looks similar to one we have in Belgium.
Here the Spartan Beast is called the Hercules Trials, and as the name predicts, it is very hard and you really need the good stuff for it.
Shoes are the most important part of it, together with good clothes, I prefer ones that can soak water easily.
Anyway, I believe your post can help people, whether it’s for the Spartan Beast or other tough sports, since that is needed.
Thanks for sharing it!
I actually became interested in the other mud run you named, but I couldn’t find anything on Google for Hercules Trials, other than the actual myth and story behind that. If you have a moment, I’d love to get more info on that race, I’d love to do an article on it too.
I have been wanting to do a mud run for so long! I just had no idea how to prepare for it.
After reading this article, I got more of an insight on what to expect. Boy, I didn’t expect ticks! Ticks are GROSS! I really like the outfit you put together, its really clever for keeping those bugs off you and keeping you warm.
That outfit you have there, a woman would be able to wear most of that as well right?
Note to self: I need to get me the kind of hydration pack you have and I also need a GoPro! I am pretty tough though. I have been running, sprinting, jogging for 10 + years. A mud run is just on my list of things to do! This is a great resource, thank you!
Yeah if you just change up the style, but keep the same idea of clothing for the mud run, any woman can also use these tips. I personally notice most women go into these races either with leggings on or shorts and no leggings, which I would not recommend for ticks, injuries and all that bad stuff.
Looks like a pretty cool fitness challenge!
I do have a question for you (this is coming from someone who might not have the best physical health in terms of weight, fitness, etc): How long should you condition and train yourself before embarking on a challenge like this?
From the pics of the event, this definitely seems like an event I’d be interested in doing! If this is too hard-core for someone like me, what other event would you recommend, if any?
Hi Will, I don’t know your physical level, but I would not do any Spartan Race yet, do a local mud run (check Google and see if there’s any events) and start with any 5k.
To prep, I would focus on these types of exercises and the easier you can do them, the better. Also be sure that you can jog at least a mile.
Hi. This is such a great article for a few reasons:
1. I’ve spoken to folks that have gone to these races and they all say they had a blast and to read your specific experience about it is very cool indeed.
2. Great specific advice in here on what to expect and wear etc…
3. I get a kick out of reading about folks that will pay to go through this pain. I have a military background from my younger years and this stuff was everyday part of basic training and it did hurt, so I can relate to your comments in here but can safely say I have no intention of going through any of that again lol.
I don’t blame you Billy. Every single time I’ve finished these races, I’ve always asked myself why I did it and that I’ll never do it again, but after a period of a few months passes, I’m thinking about challenging myself all over again.
Since you do have a military background, despite you saying you wouldn’t want to do this, you may want to look at this mud run, it’s actually far more military training oriented, plus it mixes in mud run elements.
I have only watched these kinds of races on extreme sports tv programs. I had no idea that they were so popular around the world. This is something I would love to participate in, and this will be a good motivation to do more exercise (not only jogging) and get more fit. I have two questions:
Is there a time limit to finish the race?
What is the top age that you recommend for attempting this race?
1) There’s no time limit for these races, but certain people DO compete for time to set a record. It’s not something I’d recommend doing though because you really increase the risk of injuries when you try to hurry through all these dangerous obstacles.
2) Any adult who is in great physical condition can do these races. I’ve seen some elderly people doing these races, but to be quite honest, it all comes down to your physical level. Also do another, easier mud run before you do a Spartan Beast so you at least have an idea of these types of races.
Love the article. Question, When did you first heard of the Spartan Beast? The obstacle course seem very fun and hard at the same time. How long did you take to prepare for the entire activities? I notice you how you mention about wearing the right clothing which is crucial to this type of activity.
I know the training is important and you laid it out for the Spartan Beast how you prepared yourself and you shared your knowledge with us thank you. Now I am not knowledgeable in this particular obstacle but I believe it will be something to try in the near future.
I heard about it when I enter my first mud run which was MudManX. I wasn’t challenged enough with that event, so I tried others and eventually worked my way up to the Spartan Beast. As for preparation, the longer the race is, the longer you’ll need to prepare.
I maintain a good shape across the year, so at any point, I could handle pretty much any simple mud run like these, but ones like the Spartan Beast in my opinion require a few months of training at least.