As he walks over to the emcee, Spartan Race veteran and all-round nice guy Chris Davis smiles the smile of someone who has just survived a brutal beating. He points at the mountain that looms over Blue Mountain Ski Resort and shakes his head, “that thing is the Killington of Sprints!” Davis is making a reference to the Vermont Beast that many racers will tackle later this year at the second annual Spartan World Championships. And indeed, the Pennsylvania Sprint has long been regarded and argued as being the hardest Sprint on the circuit, something all too evident as many racers new to the Reebok Spartan Race series were to discover.
The Blue Mountain course features an incline so long and so steep that it requires a ski-lift in order for most people to scale it’s face. And competitors from around the country – and a small contingent from Slovakia – spent months training for a race that would prove an incredible test of endurance. The fact that the course was “only” 4 miles set a beguiling false sense of security.
The Elites set the standard very early on. Spartan Pro Team athlete Hunter McIntyre blazed through the course in an incredible time of 41m 53s, with his Pro Teammate David Magida coming in a close second, only 19 seconds behind him. Andrew Hostetler took third place on the podium with a time of 43m 42s.
In the ladies Elite wave, Kristen Zielinski powered through with a time of 56m 08s, coming ahead of Gracie Wikie and Cassidy Watton who took second and third respectively.
In the open heats, stories of how Spartan Race not only changed people’s lives, but brought them together as a community. A
group of friends since high school and through work calling themselves “Team Lionhearted” came together from Reading, Philadelphia and various parts of New York in order to help their friend Louis Valencia get off the couch. Together they stormed the finish line and high-fives were the order of the day. “You *CAN* do it”, being the simple message Louis gives to those contemplating a race.
Ben Braverman, in active service with the Pennsylvania National Guard, decided to wear all his equipment – weighing in at over 40lbs – with the simple explanation that, “you train how you fight. There’s no point in my training without the weight and getting used to movement without what I would have to wear”.
At 9.30pm, some five hours after she started, Annie Wills crossed the finish line with her husband Andy by her side. After seeing him complete the Vermont Beast, she decided to train long and hard to do a course together with him. Setting about a regime that would see her train four days a week every week for four months, Annie lost 7 inches from around her hips, and dropping three dress sizes in the process. With pure grit and determination, she completed her first Spartan Race. There was not a dry eye in
the venue when they crossed the finish line. Amid cheers and applause from all the staff, volunteers and remaining racers, the couple from Houston, Mississippi kissed under the finish line. Exhausted and completely drained, but proud. It was a true moment of Spartan togetherness and how something can become greater than the sum of it’s parts.
Next up on the tour? Two days of Super Spartan madness in Illinois. See you at the finish line.