Everything you need to know to run your first Spartan Race


So...you want to run a Spartan Race do ya?

First, let's find out what who the Spartans were, and what their culture was like.

In his book, "The Spartans", Paul Cartledge dives into the culture of these ancient warrior heroes. They were raised and bred for battle and war. These warriors have been made famous by movies such as "300" and "300:Rise of an Empire."

What's interesting is how the Spartan "Agoge", got it's start. If you have seen the movie Fight club, you might remember Tyler Durden's character. He was completely fictitious, made up by the narrator, but highly influential and slowly became the front-running voice.

There was a man, or Tyler Durden type character in Sparta named Lycurgus. Lycurgus came at the moment of Sparta's darkest hour. He convinced or persuaded the Spartans to design and construct the education cycle known as the Agoge.

Cartledge writes: "This system of education, training and socialization turned boys into fighting men whose reputation for discipline, courage and skill was unsurpassed."

When boys were very small (age 7) they were removed from their homes and placed into the Agoge, where they were taught scholastic's, warfare, hunting, stealth, and athletics. Much like the Navy SEAL's, Delta Force, and other Special Warfare operators learn today. By the time they were age 12 they learned to fend for themselves. These boys were completely self-sufficient, unlike most 12 year old boys today, they didn't have Mt. Dew or Call-of-Duty.

Spartan's are tough

As you have learned by now, it wasn't easy being a Spartan, but it was all they knew, and when you grow up in a culture that is like that, it isn't as appalling or cruel. It's just the way it is.

Ask Joe DeSana the founder of Spartan Race, what he is trying to do, he will tell you. "We want to make better humans." 


People don't get better sitting on the couch watching Netflix, or smoking cigars and drinking fine wine. They get better by doing physically and mentally challenging things, and that is exactly what a Spartan Race is designed to do. Challenge you.

If you have made it this far, you are definitely Spartan material, because it's not for quitters or the faint of heart. 

How do you train for a Spartan Race?

This is probably the most frequently asked question by anyone new to Spartan Races. It's a great question too. How do you train for something you know nothing about? Good news! I've done one, and my training program will help you destroy these races.

First things first. The best way to train, is to train. Most people think they are going to breeze through these things like it's just another Saturday morning 5K. It's not. It will be challenging and physically demanding, so commit to doing it the best you can.

The 2nd best way to train is to do circuit training, and a mix of running. Multi-Modal training is also very helpful. I used these methods for mine, so I am not just feeding you some garbage.

An example of Multi-Modal training looks like this:

  • Warmup/jog for 10 minutes

  • Run 2 miles continuously

  • 3 rounds of:

    • 20 pushups
    • 20 situps
    • 30 Air-Squats
  • 3 rounds of:

    • 200m run
    • 10 squat jumps
    • 5 pull-ups
  • 5 x 5 Back Squat

    • Work up from light weight to heavy weight in 5 sets of 5 reps
  • Cool Down/Stretch 10 minutes

This might seem a little intimidating, but its really how everyone should exercise anyway. It builds muscle, keeps you lean, and enhances your cardiovascular system and increases endurance. It is the most well-rounded type of workout there is.

For the beginner, I would recommend working up to running a 5K using our 6 week Running Program. Also, I would recommend the 30 Day Exercise Program.

If you use both of these guides together, you will be able to run a Spartan Sprint, with minimal problems. There are other obstacles that you will need to learn though. I will go over those later on.

The #1 Exercise that you need to learn how to do are BURPEES. At a Spartan Race, if you fail at completing one of the obstacles you will be required to do 30 of them before moving on. They Are beastly, but if you can do these really well, you will be miles ahead of everyone else.


What kind of obstacles are in the Spartan Race?

There is a mixture of obstacles, some that you will never know about, but I will give you some of the most frequent ones that show up.

  • Over under Logs

    • These are just logs that are set up in a staggered manner. There are ones that you will have to climb over, and others that you will have to crawl under.
  • Water & Mud Pit

    • These are just pits water, that are extremely muddy. Usually they are placed right before the rope climb or in the rope climb pit. There will be more. Just be ready to get wet, and be ok with it. When I ran mine, it was 41 degrees outside and the water temp was in the 30's.
  • Hills, lots of them

    • Spartan Races are notorious for their hills. I would say 75% of the Spartan Race that I ran was uphill. This is why a good pair of trail shoes comes in handy. The majority of the participants were walking up these hills, due to the rain and mud. However, you can run up them if you train properly. The best way is to do lots of Squats, and take small steps when running uphill.
  • Barbed Wire

    • This can be intimidating because of the possibility of getting snagged by a barb. The trick is to get as low as you can. Hug the ground. Learn to slither like a snake. Best exercises to overcome this obstacle are Bear Crawls and Army Crawls.
  • Wall Climb

    • Unless you can reach a height of 8 feet or higher, I would recommend making a friend on the trail, or having a team with you. Unfortunately, I didn't have anyone I knew that would commit to running one with me, so I had to jump and grab the wall and pull myself up. You can do it too, if you have to.
  • Sandbag Carry

    • This is where you get to carry a 40-50# sandbag a mile or so, typically uphill. These aren't really that bad, especially if you have kids, because you are used to lugging them around. The best way to approach this is to throw it on your shoulders in a fireman's carry. It will balance the weight on your shoulders.
  • Bucket Carry

    • This is all about grip strength. You will carry a bucket a certain distance while gripping both sides of the rim. The best way to do this is to pick a spot in the distance, and carry the bucket to that spot. Set the bucket down and repeat. If you can carry it the whole way, go for it! Best way to improve grip strength. 
      • Throw a towel over a bar and hang on the towel and in a flexed arm hang.
      • Dead-lifts
      • Hanging Leg raises/ Toes to bars


  • Rope Climb

    • This is my favorite obstacle. The ropes are usually thick, wet, and muddy by the time you are ready to climb them. Grip strength is key on these, and using your legs to assist and hold you is extremely important as well. Mastering your technique will be key in conquering this obstacle.
  • Spear Throw

    • The majority of people fail this obstacle. The trick is not to overthink it. The tip is weighted and the rear is attached to a chain so that you can pull it back after it has been thrown. This is all about technique. I would suggest watching some YouTube videos of primitive man throwing a spear. The other thing you can use is a rake, broom, or other twisted on handle. Twist it off of the head of the rake, and use it as your spear. Get comfortable throwing it.
  • Fire Jump

    • This is pretty basic. There is a fire pit at the end of the race right before the finish line. All you have to do is jump over it on your way to victory. 
  • Hercules Hoist

    • The hercules hoist uses a pulley system. One end of the rob is weighed down by 50# or so, the other end is the end you use to hoist the weight to the top where the pulley is hanging. Most of the men and women that struggled with this one were the slim runners, or triathletes. You can sit down and pull with your upper body which really helps. Work on upper body strength, especially the "pulling" muscles.
  • Net Climb

    • Self explanatory, you are climbing a net, and so are other people at the same time.
  • Structure Climb

    • This is the same as the net climb, except you are climbing up a structure, not a net.
  • Tire Flip

    • There will be large tires laying flat, you have to flip them until you reach a certain distance. Squats, and Thrusters are what is needed for you to excel at this obstacle
  • Wall Bouldering

    • This is the most technical of the obstacles in my opinion, it is the only one that I failed. I couldn't quite make it without falling. It is a flat wall with limited holds for your feet and hands. They are strategically placed on the wall, you have to navigate to the other side of the wall without falling. The trick is to hug the wall as close as possible. Remember, the holds are muddy and wet. I would find a rock climbing gym or a rock wall to practice "bouldering."
  • Gladiators

    • There may or may not be gladiators waiting to beat you down. Fight back as best you can. The will be swatting you with their gladiator sticks.

There are more than likely other obstacles than the ones that I have listed above, and they are always coming out with new ones. There will be a lot of balancing, hanging from bars, climbing, jumping, running and crawling. 

Go into it knowing that it will be challenging but also extremely rewarding. They take care of you at the end too. There will be food and drinks galore awaiting your arrival, and you will be met with someone placing a medal around your neck.



Learn how to workout and:

  • Create habits that Last
  • Track your progress
  • Achieve your goals




How much does it cost?

It depends upon what type of race. Super, Beast or Sprint.

It also depends on what start time you want, and upon whether you have a Discount Code, and how early you register.

If you time everything right and get a early bird registration with a Code at checkout you will only pay around $85-$120. You can however end up paying upwards of $200. Go to http://www.spartan.com to register for a race.


Register for a Spartan Race Now and Use these codes:

15% OFF Spartan Race - MUDRUNGUIDE15
10% OFF SpartanRace – FINISH10
$10 OFF SpartanRace – SPEAR10


Am I going to die or get seriously injured?

Not likely, take it slow when you have to, do your best, follow the safety guidelines. Get good at BURPEES . Remember, if you don’t complete an obstacle you get to do 30 of them!!! Yay BURPEES!! Don’t know what a BURPEE is Here you go, Click Here.

Do only elite athletes compete? 

NO, anyone can do it. All shapes and sizes. Never judge a person by the way they look, they might surprise you.

I don’t do a lot of exercise, can i still do it?

I highly suggest you get on a workout program. It is not for beginners, or someone just getting off the couch. It will be tough if you don’t have any sort of conditioning, or strength training.  It's time to get moving.

What kind of gear do I need?

  • I would have a pair of trail running shoes, and regular running shoes. The trail running shoes will help you if it is muddy and hilly like most Spartan races are. Here is a link to the shoes I used. (I used these shoes to run a half-marathon, which was all road too.) Here is a link to all kinds of trail running shoes. (I recommend SCOTT or Salomon for tough terrain.)
  • Long sleeve lightweight shirt (In case it is cold). Just remember you will warm up when you run
  • Shorts, I used swim shorts similar to these SWIM SHORTS they were perfect.
  • For the Sprint distance you won't really need to carry water, if you don't want too. In fact most people will go as lightweight as possible.
  • If you are doing longer distance you will need food and drink. I would suggest a camelback, protein bars, and some gels. Believe it or not though, a bottle of pedialyte would help too.
  • Be prepared to run in all sorts of conditions. When I went to do my race it was 75 degrees the day before. The day of the race it was 41 degrees, and the water was freezing. What would a Spartan do?

SPARTANS! What is your profession?

In 300, King Leonidas Meets Daxos and the other Arcadians

Do I have to run alone?

No, it would be great if you can get a team to do it with you. I did mine alone, because I couldn’t get anyone else to do it with me. It would have been much cooler to share it with someone, especially since a couple of the obstacles will be easier with another person helping you.

Another cool thing about doing a spartan race, is when you sign up you can create a team, and also do fundraising. If there is a charity or cause that you are trying to raise money for, this would be a great way to do it.



what happens at the end?

Like I said before. They take really good care of you at the end. They will be waiting with your Medal, T-shirt, some protein drinks and bananas. You will be welcomed into the Spartan culture. Do your best and have fun!



Are there any other questions that you might have about a Spartan Race? Let me know in the comments below.


- Stephen

photo credit: Spartan Race Sprint (London) 2012 LSR12M0080 via photopin (license)
photo credit: JohnCrider Day 101 - Spartan Medal-029.jpg via photopin (license)
photo credit: DeveionPhotography How much longer?? via photopin (license)