Health & Fitness

Calling all Spartans! The extreme race’s championship is coming to Tahoe

Spartan Race events include spear throws, wall climbs and a “gladiator” showdown.
Spartan Race events include spear throws, wall climbs and a “gladiator” showdown. Spartan Race


If, after that fearful cry in the movie “300,” people ever wondered whether they’d be tough enough to make it within the walls of the ancient city, they might be up for a real-life test this weekend in Lake Tahoe.

The Spartan Race, famous for its mud-covered competitors leaping over flames, will hold its world championships at Squaw Valley on Saturday, Oct. 3, and Sunday, Oct. 4, with 10,000 athletes from around the globe descending on the former Winter Olympics site to compete for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes. Those not quite in warrior condition can take part in a beginner-level race for charity.

The beginner course is more than 3 miles long with 20-some obstacles such as rope climbs and barbed wire. At the other end of the spectrum is the “Ultra Beast” championship for elite men and women – more than 26 miles and more than 60 obstacles.

The first Spartan race was held in 2010 with 1,500 participants. Since then the race has grown to 120 events around the world, with trademark obstacles such as spear throws and wall climbs and a culminating arena where “gladiators” try to knock participants down with pugil sticks before the finish line.

“Continuing to challenge our athletes is part of the Spartan DNA,” said Spartan Race CEO and founder Joe De Sena. “Bringing our world championship to one of the nation’s most spectacular and rugged backdrops will make for the most challenging event the obstacle racing community has ever experienced, and an unforgettable test of mental and physical strength.”

Jarret Assael, 46, just finished the Spartan Beast in Vermont, which drew about 6,000 people on Sept. 19. He knew he didn’t have a chance of placing in the race, but just wanted the feeling of accomplishment that came with crossing the finish line.

He also knew he would need to recover, so he planned some time off for after the race. He has spent about a week, with the help of some Motrin, doing stretches to keep his joints loose (he has had multiple knee surgeries from playing hockey over the years).

“You can’t really just go out and do one of these,” Assael advised would-be Spartans. “You have to be able to run at least 5 miles continuously at any given time.”

Assael said people need to make sure they’re training their bodies, but that they should also prepare themselves mentally.

“You have to realize that you’re going to be suffering and struggling at times,” he said. “You have to be ready to push through.”

One last tip: Pay attention to your shoes. You’ll need something with traction that drains water easily. Also, beware of loose clothing (or capes, for those thinking of dressing like an actual Spartan.) Assael has seen athletes participate in full quilts, black battle masks and other interesting clothing choices that can get caught in barbed wire or otherwise slow you down.

All his precautions aside, Assael is an advocate.

Assael did his first Spartan race after his fiancée, Devon Taylor, 37, turned him onto the events. They ran a sprint together, helping each other across walls and monkey bars in the kind of cooperative spirit Assael says is a big part of the culture of the event.

“For anyone who’s never done this, there’s nothing cooler than doing a Spartan race,” he said. “It’s amazing. It’s just a great way to challenge yourself.”

Those brave enough to try the race for the first time will catch a lucky break if weather forecasters are right. Rain can make the course tougher, but it’s supposed to be in the mid-80s this weekend at Squaw Valley.

NBC will broadcast the Tahoe event on Sunday, Dec. 20.

Spartan World Championship

Where: Squaw Valley resort, 1960 Squaw Valley Road in Olympic Valley.

Cost: “Elite beast” $190, noncompetitive beginner $75, spectator $20.

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