Running in itself can be tough. Then add mud, rope swings, trekking uphill with crates of rocks and jumping through heaps of fire and your average outing reaches Spartan Race status. At these epic obstacle runs, you’ll likely climb mountains, jog through woods and maybe even swim around a lake — all for the sake of a hard-earned medal.
You can choose among four Spartan Race distances: Sprint (three to five miles and 20 obstacles), Super (eight to 10 miles and 25 obstacles), Beast (12 to 14 miles and 30 to 35 obstacles). And for the truly gritty competitors, you’ve got the Ultra Beast (26-plus miles and 50 obstacles). If you’re feeling good after that first race, you can also try for a Trifecta, which includes finishing a Sprint, Super and Beast in the same year — with a pretty cool medal to show for it (and all the bragging rights, of course).
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No matter what distance you choose, there’s a Spartan Race waiting for you. From the majestic mountain views of Killington, Vermont to the steep inclines and declines of Lake Tahoe, California, there’s no better time to conquer new terrain. So what are you waiting for? Train like an elite Spartan athlete today, then get ready to shout “aroo!” from the mountaintops! (Races below are listed by date.)
The 10 Most Incredible Spartan Races Across the Country
[caption id="attachment_55979" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo: Courtesy of Spartan[/caption]
Date: May 13, 2017
Race type: Sprint
OK so an urban jungle may not seem as challenging as mountainous terrain, but that doesn’t mean this race skimps on the tough stuff. The New York Mets stadium transforms into a Spartan playground, as you run up and down the bleachers, bear-crawl your way around steps, climb wooden walls, jump rope and carry heavy jugs of water. If you’re a Spartan newbie, this is the perfect race to get a taste of the obstacles. Plus, for a little extra motivation, music blasts throughout the stadium and a live stream of the course plays on video boards.
[caption id="attachment_55980" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo: Courtesy of Spartan[/caption]
Date: June 10, 2017
Race type: Sprint
A short drive from New York City, this race takes place in Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center. Kevin Donoghue, a Spartan elite athlete, Spartan SGX coach and head trainer for the Daily Burn Spartan program, says the Tri-State Sprint is one of his favorite races because of the unexpectedly tough course — and it also happens to be in his hometown. (He tackled his very first Spartan race here, too.) “Tuxedo is a small ski mountain, but it has a lot of steep climbs and descents, both of which have super technical footing,” Donoghue says. “Much of the course consists of bounding to, from and over rocks and tree roots.” You can also expect to swing on ropes, jump over a heap of smoldering charcoal and fire, lug sandbags on wagons up slopes and then bring buckets of dirt back down. Basically, your average Saturday.
[caption id="attachment_55981" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo: Courtesy of Spartan[/caption]
Date: July 8-9, 2017
Race type: Super and Sprint
While people probably recognize the Poconos as a go-to for skiing and snowboarding, hitting the trails for a summertime Spartan also provides that core-scorching, lower-body burn. That’s because of some serious elevation: Blue Mountain is 1,600 feet tall with a 1,082-foot vertical drop. But those inclines and declines aren’t the only things you need to prepare to conquer. Because the race is in the thick of summer, Donoghue says, “The heat can be as much of a challenge to overcome as the ruthless technical steep terrain.” Crazier yet, the course has “the most consistently soul-crushing sandbag carry,” he says. Don’t let the heat deter you, though, Donoghue says, as plenty of water-based obstacles will cool you off. Put your best foot and face forward, too. NBC Sports televises the Spartan elite men’s and women’s competition from this very event.
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[caption id="attachment_55982" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo: Courtesy of Spartan[/caption]
Date: July 29-30, 2017
Race type: Super and Sprint
You’ll get serious bragging rights once you complete this rugged race, set in Mount Mitchell, the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains. Scenes from the blockbuster movie The Hunger Games even features some of the course. So may the odds be in your favor. Donoghue says the course is a great mix of mud, water, thick woods and rocky terrain. “Circulating up and down dense forests continually forces the athletes to navigate through slippery streams with unpredictable depths — and at times, unpredictable bee hives,” he says. You’ll also carry anything from sandbags to crates as you trek the clay-filled course. Keep an eye out for blackberry and blueberry shrubs, as well as wildflowers.
[caption id="attachment_55983" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo: Courtesy of Spartan[/caption]
Date: August 26-27, 2017
Race type: Beast and Sprint
Lovers of the Pacific Crest Trail get to witness breathtaking views of the Continental Divide in this epic Spartan event. You’ll start this race at the highest point of the course, as Breckenridge is 9,600 feet above sea level. Whether you sign up to do three or 13 miles, you’ll run through single- and wide-track descents and climb steep terrain, all at high altitude. Other Spartans recommend racers wear headlamps to help guide them through the forests during this run. And while you get a free beer at the finish, we suggest celebrating your victory even more, with a delicious variety of micro brews at Breckenridge Brewery. It’s just down the street from the venue.
[caption id="attachment_55984" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo: Courtesy of Spartan[/caption]
Date: September 9-10, 2017
Race type: Super and Sprint
The Michigan International Speedway, home to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, is a unique setting for this Spartan circuit. While the course is on the flatter side, it’s obstacle heavy, leaving room for more heart-pumping burpees if you happen to miss one. The entire speedway spans more than 1,400 acres, while the track itself stretches two miles with 73-foot wide turns. You’ll feel like a first-place winner as you navigate the track, tug on ropes to jump over walls, do monkey swings and carry sandbags through the challenging stations. And just imagine the glute scorcher you’ll experience running up and down the 12,000-seated stadium.
[caption id="attachment_55985" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo: Courtesy of Spartan[/caption]
Date: September 16-17, 2017
Race type: Ultra Beast, Beast and Sprint
The birthplace of the Spartan race! We hope you’re game for surprises, because this course is known as one of the most challenging in the world thanks to steep uphill climbs (we’re talking Black Diamond ski slopes) and off-trail descents. Of course, that’s not the only thing to prepare for, Donoghue says. “The race is in the early fall, but in Vermont, that can feel like November,” he explains. “The weather can change from 75 degrees and sunny to 40 degrees with wind and rain at the drop of a hat.” As you brave the elements, you’ll crawl in dirt, carry logs and jump over five-foot walls. “If that’s not enough, you also have to swim in a lake and climb up a rope ladder to get out of it,” Donoghue warns. There’s also a series of ropes under a bridge, which forces you back into freezing water. The good news, though: You’ll nail it all with a beautiful backdrop of the Green Mountains.
[caption id="attachment_55987" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo: Courtesy of Spartan[/caption]
Date: September 30-31, 2017
Race type: Ultra Beast and Beast
This iconic venue is home to the Spartan World Championships, so there’s plenty of competition to drive you to the finish. You start at a surface elevation of 6,224 feet and climb toward 9,900 feet. (That means you’ll want to improve your VO2 max and get those glutes and calves in gear.) While it’s not the most technical course, the long climbs and descents provide a hefty challenge, Donoghue says. Suit up for mud crawls, jumps, swims (yup, maybe a few), spear throwing and much more. Once you earn that medal — which will probably feel like Olympic gold by the end — cozy up at Squaw Valley Resort, the host of the event. Home of the 1960’s Winter Olympics, it has amazing accommodations and pretty epic scenery, Donoghue says.
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[caption id="attachment_55991" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo: Courtesy of Spartan[/caption]
Date: November 4-5, 2017
Race type: Super
You’ll reach new heights in Mountain Creek as you battle outstanding ascents. Vernon peak has a summit elevation of 1,480 feet, giving you plenty of opportunity to show your strength and stamina. Another location with unpredictable weather, it adds to the element of surprise in this race. What shouldn’t shock you on the course: pulling ropes to lift rocks, climbing wall hurdles, crawling under barbed wire and swimming in mud pits.
[caption id="attachment_55992" align="alignnone" width="620"]Photo: Courtesy of Spartan Race[/caption]
Date: December 9-10, 2017
Race type: Sprint
Just 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Castaic Lake State Recreation Area is SoCal’s gem for hikers and mountain bikers… and now, Spartan racers. Swinging on monkey bars, tugging ropes attached to large rocks and carrying buckets of gravel make up a few of the obstacles, while tackling 1,500 feet of elevation creates a cardio challenge. You can also expect to jump into the lake at some point during the race, as well as spot peaceful trails with stunning views of green mountainsides and calm waters. You might have already seen Castaic Lake on TV, as it’s been featured on The Amazing Race and Fear Factor.
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