By Christopher Rutz

Palm trees, cool breezes, and sunshine are not what most of the rest of the country are experiencing this time of year. With winter storm after winter storm blasting the Midwest, East, and West coasts most people are bundled up tight trying to stay warm. It was a welcome change this weekend for those that traveled to Florida for the Spartan Tampa SpecOps Sprint, the first ever run in Tampa. While the weather was a little wetter than most were expecting it was still much warmer than the rest of the country, and made even more so by the sweat, mud, obstacles and fire participants would soon be subjected to as they descended on Raymond James Stadium. 

The Tampa Special Ops Stadium Sprint race took place this past Saturday in beautifully tropical Florida. While most of the country was experiencing more snow and cold temperatures Florida’s Spartans, and many snowbird Spartans, were out in force to take on the course. Registration topped 6000 racers and Raymond James Stadium was transformed from a Buccaneer Den to Spartan battle ground. Unique obstacles in this Special Ops race included and ammo can farmers carry, a football toss into a barrel, a sand barbed wire crawl the length of the field, and a cammo net crawl. There was also a “gamble” in this race, which forces the racers to choose harder and shorter or longer and faster course options.  In addition, finishers were awarded a unique Special Ops finishers medal.

The mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn, was in attendance to help kick off the day along with many distinguished military service men from MacDill Air Force Base.  The day started out with the Elite heats under tropical winds and a quick rain shower.  The men’s race included six members of the Spartan Race Pro Team, Hunter McIntyre, Brakken Kraker, Elliott Megquier, Christopher Rutz, David Magida and Alexander Nicholas. Other top competitors included Isaiah Vidal, Brandon Dupont and Dennis Smith. Due to some misdirection on the course the men’s field split with some taking alternate courses to finish the race. Fortunately there was timing mat at the point of the misdirection so mid race results can be used for scoring. At this point in the race Brakken, Hunter and Isaiah were in the top three spots. When the elite men finished up their heat and it was realized that many did different routes it was decided to run again for the prize money. So with that 30 or so of the top Elite racers went back up in the Stadium to complete the course from the misstep. In the end the top placing went to Isaiah, followed by Hunter and then Brakken.

On the women’s side, they were able to stay on course and ran the race as intended. First place went to Cassidy Watton, followed by Spartan Pro Ameila Boone and then Kailee Whipple.  $7,000 in Prize money was awarded to the Top 3 men and women courtesy of Navy Federal Credit Union.

After the elite heats concluded the open waves took to the course. The weather was cool, for Florida, with sunshine and a breeze for most of the day. This was the first Spartan Race in Tampa and first one  ever run in a football stadium. For those thinking they would stay dry, they were wrong.  Spartan took advantage of the outside and created rolling mud. The challenge intensified with the Herculean Hoist, Atlas Carry (a concrete ball – 100lbs for men and 60lbs for women – carried a distance, a required 5 burpees, and then carried back), an inverted wall climb, an ammunition box carry, the ever-daunting spear throw (a challenge that dished out burpee penalties for many throughout the day), and the dreaded rope climb. Finally, with a triumphant leap over fire, racers victoriously crossed the finish line to receive their one-of-a-kind Special Ops medal and Spartan Sprint trifecta piece.

Not only were adults able to claim their Spartan victory, but a ½ and full mile kids race was also available for children aged 4 through 13. Small Spartans were sent out at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm, giving them the opportunity to take on a course designed just for them, and to earn a medal all their own.

While we are sure you are more than a little jealous of your fellow Spartans run in the (kind of) sunny state of Florida don’t worry. To join in on the next race go to spartanrace.com and sign up for a race in your area (or someplace warmer than your area…it’s your choice).

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