Spartan Beast Edinburgh 2017 Review

The weekend before last saw the Reebok Spartan Race come back to their regular stomping ground of Spittal Farm, in the Pentlands just outside Edinburgh. It was a similar format to last year with the Beast race on the Saturday and the Sprint on Sunday, but with one major addition – the Ultra Beast! This was the first time the Ultra took place in Scotland however, as I had a volunteer pass for the Beast, I didn’t feel like forking out the ~£180 for the Ultra. I knew a few people that took part in it, but as I didn’t do it myself, I won’t discuss it any further here – one for next year!

Upon arrival at Spittal farm, it was a familiar setup in the main staging area, but with a few significant changes, one of which was the relocation of the Atlas Stones and as well the addition of a brand new obstacle called “Twister” close to the finish line.

It all started well as registration was very efficient with hardly any time spent queuing when collecting timing chips or at bag-drop and after the obligatory group photo, we proceeded to make our way to the start area. Usually this is the time at which a motivating speech by some muscly fella dressed as a Spartan riles up the troops, however this time, much to the disappointment of one of my female friends, he was replaced by a very bored sounding, quiet voice from a speaker on top of a stand, trying to get us to respond to “Who I am (????)” with “Aroo”.  Instead of the usual bloodthirsty shouts of “I am a Spartan, Aroo, Aroo, Aroo!”, the response was puzzled faces and mutterings of “worst speech ever”. I always do a warm up myself so it didn’t bother me, but after the strange remote voice from someone sitting in a distant toilet stopped, the race started out of the blue and off we went. Luckily enough it was mainly running for the first stretch of the race which acted as a warm up, however, I think most people would agree that a mini-warm-up and some inspiring words would be a big improvement – thankfully though, it was all uphill (pun intended) from that point onwards!

Without going into the details of every obstacle, the main points are as follows:

·        The bucket carry was, of course, tough, but easier compared to epic bucket brigade of 2016 which I will never forget. The easier bucket carry was evened out by what appeared to be even more “carry awkward shit for ages”.

·        The weather: it is Scotland, no further comment…

·        Loads of people were choosing burpees instead of the carries – this was really annoying because there were people I easily passed earlier on the course and judging by their speed, I was approx 20 – 30mins ahead of one group, then after finishing the bucket carry, I ended up passing them again…what kind of sorcery is this? The penalty for failing or skipping an obstacle should be equal to, or harder than the obstacle, not the easy option! It’s all or nothing in this game folks, if you skip obstacles when the going gets tough, this sport isn’t for you – do a running only race instead, it’s cheaper. You know who you are non-Spartans!

·        The memory test was a cool addition: there was a big board with a collection of a word, plus 7 digits to remember based on the last 2 numbers of your bib number. I was expecting to be asked to recall these at the next obstacle but ended up needing to memorise them for approx.  1 hour.  During the first 5 minutes of repeating the code over and over in my head, I was prepared to head-kick the next person who talked to me, but luckily enough, my grumpy face put them off until my code was ingrained in my brain. Result: PAPA-293-2073 and no burpees (or head-kicks).

·        By far the hardest thing about this year’s course was the never ending hills of sogginess…

·        The twister obstacle was a very welcome new addition…it’s basically a series of 3 horizontal bars that can rotate, with small handles spiralled around each bar to grab onto. There’s definitely skill required for this one and I got stuck halfway across and ended up with a set of 30 burpees. That evening I saw a video of Tristan Steed successfully doing it backwards so that’s definitely worth a try. I was later told not to treat it like monkey bars, because if you swing too much you will move away from (instead of towards) the next handle. High level bent arm strength is the key for this one.

My stats:

·        25.5 km (15.9 miles) distance

·        A whopping 2 km (1.25 miles) Elevation gain

·        4:42:18 official time

·        70th place

·        2 sets of burpees (spear throw and Twister)


Overall, other than the few hiccups at the start, it was a well organised and fun race, with the right amount of difficulty and suffering. As I hadn’t run in over 5 weeks due to injury, I did hold back a little so I’m pretty happy with my own performance and areas I could improve on for next time are:

-        Improve my carrying strength and endurance as I was passing people running, and then they would pass me on the carries.

-        As obvious as it sounds, do some actual trail running training!

A review of the following day’s Spartan Sprint race is coming soon so watch this space!