by Carrie Adams
At last year’s Texas World Championships, elite racer Elliott Megquier was ahead of fellow elite Alec Blenis by about 100 yards. Reaching the traverse wall towards the end of the race ahead of Blenis, Megquier fell almost halfway across and began his pentalty burpees as the crowd looked on. Blenis reached the wall seconds later and also fell halfway through. Even though Megquier was halfway through his set of the mandatory 30 Blenis finished his first and edged out ahead of Megquier, snagging a top five finish. Burpees have meant the difference between a cash purse and a lonely car ride home, but for most of us, they’ve just mean a lot more pain on race day (and the several days following.) Despite the burpee hangover, our runners keep coming back for more despite the harsh Spartan penalty that are also often featured in our Spartan WOD’s. Let’s explore the Spartan burpee…
Meet your maker, Spartans. The burpee is a feared, abhorred, and often bringer of tears and pain at Spartan Races. Sometimes the difference between a non-podium finish or a giant cardboard check. At Spartan Races, we operate with a different set of rules than most races. You don’t get to opt out of obstacles, oh no. Don’t want to climb that 8 foot wall? 30 burpees. Failed the monkey bars you say? 30 burpees. Want to bypass the low crawl, drop and give me 30 (burpees, of course). Didn’t quite make it across the traverse wall? Yeah, that’ll be 30 burpees. They’ve been a part of Sparta for a while, our Winter Death Race crew got real good at them last year, they did over 3,000 for their over 24 hours of effort. We even had a founders Buck Furpees day! Read about that HERE.
The spear throw, a prime location for those relegated to doing burpees. A fan favorite, it’s usually near the end of the course and the finish line. Spectators swarm the fences to watch as Spartans advance cautiously, knowing how high the fail rate is on this intrepid obstacle. Weighing the spear in their hands, the techniques vary but it often ends the same way… the thrower watching in horror as their mis-thrown spears bounce off the straw targets, fly recklessly off to one side, or the worst, when they almost land but fall dejectedly to the ground. It’s always the same reaction. The Spartan’s face falls and their head drops, knowing that the burpees are now imminent, and off they go to begin their, what else? 30 burpees.
What’s proper burpee protocol? Not all burpees are made alike, but for starters, watch this video that demonstrates proper burpee form. As Hobie Call has often pointed out, burpee form tends to degrade over the course of a race as athletes fatigue but a few landmarks hold true to executing a proper burpee and we’re going to give them to you so that you can perfect yours in time for your next Spartan Race.
1. Chest to deck. When you drop to the ground, you must execute a full push up with your chest touching the ground.
2. Press out of the push-up jumping your legs underneath your body so that you are in a squatted position.
3. Stand up, extending the hips, and jump off the ground with hands overhead.
Repeat 29 more times.
This 30 burpee penalty is often repeated several times over a Spartan course with finishers often comparing burpee statistics at the end.
“I did 150 burpees!” says one, “Oh really? I only did 90.” Yes, in Spartan we say things like, “I only did 90 burpees today.” Regardless of number, burpees numbering more than about seven are just a suckfest. That might be why we love them oh so much. So, don’t expect them to go away anytime soon from Spartan Race courses.
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