Discussion came up recently around everyone’s favorite Spartan Race venues. We’ve *ALL* had this conversation, no doubt. But when you sit down and think about it, it’s really not that easy to keep it to a list of just five. Everyone around the office has their own favorites for various reasons, just as racers do. So, in no particular order, here is what we came up with. Our Top 13 Spartan Race venues with some commentary thrown in for fun;

1) Temecula, Southern CaliforniaVail Lake Temecula SoCal Spartan Race

 

Cookie – “It has so many nooks, crannies, little hidden away trails that don’t present themselves unless you go looking for them. It has a lake. A glorious, shimmering, beautifully cold lake that beckons you with a mischievous grin carved across its face. Hills as far as you can see. Terrain? You name it, they’ve got it. So good that it’s the home of an HH12HR, Sprint, Super, and Beast in 2014.”

John – “This is one of my favorites as well. The location of my first Super ever. It was amazing. I remember coming around the hill at mile 7 or so in 2013 thinking I was close to the end only to be greeted by what was essentially a scramble hand over foot to climb up further. I couldn’t believe when Hobie Call finished that race in something like an hour and 13 minutes.”

Tony - “One of the most gorgeous venues I’ve ever seen to date. The hills, the lake, the beautiful weather, the luscious green grass that covers the festival floor. If you are looking for a venue to really soak it all in, this is the one. Not only is the race demanding of all you’ve got but the rest of the venue gives you that reason to stay, hang out and enjoy the most important aspect of it all, the people.”

Jason – My first Spartan Race in 2011. I had just signed on as digital marketer and found myself with a fucking hammer trying to finish obstacles before race time, and breaking down stuff and loading a trailer with Matt M at end. Great hills – my first vision of rugged ridgelines lined with Spartans making their way across the landscape. This was our first Super. It was so brand new. People were like, what the fuck is going on.

2) Palmerton, Pennsylvania

Palmerton PA Spartan Race Sprint Blue Ridge Mountains
Cookie – “For anyone that knows it, let me just say this. The sandbag carry. If you’ve experienced it, then your body will have just sent psychosomatic shivers down your spine. Ever seen grown men in tears because an obstacle has beaten them down so harshly? I have. It was at Palmerton, PA.”

3) Midway, Utah

Midway UT Spartan Race Beast Utah Festival Mountains
John – “Utah is stunning. I had never really been before the Beast there last year. The hills were my favorite, and most hated, aspect of that race. Going up I couldn’t stand them. Once at the top and pausing to take in the view I didn’t want to head back down. It was really hard to leave Utah and I look forward to it now.”

Holly – “This race is awesome! The location provides captivating views to all racers while they trek up and down the mountains.  This helps create a welcome a distraction while the steep inclines seek to wear you out.  This event embodies what a Beast is all about, and dishes out an intense challenge.  I’d have to say this specifica venue boasts one of the most beautiful locations in the US.  It’s truly breathtaking!”

4) Malibu, California

Spartan Race Sprint Malibu California Calamigos Ranch
Cookie – “How about that barbed wire crawl the goes up and around? And when that mist rolls in over the hills and the monkey bars become so wet that gripping them is a challenge in itself? Yeah, Malibu is everything you want it to be. It’s beautiful, but ugly. It’s a great course, but it’ll punish you. The air may be warm, but the water is oh-so cold. Malibu is a total contradiction which, on paper, shouldn’t work, but it does and it’s a superb race.”

John – “Whoever thinks they are going to show up for a ‘fun in the sun’ run is way off base. I don’t think I have seen the sun once in Malibu at a Spartan Race…and I loved every minute of it. The mud on the trails stole a guys shoe off his foot right in front me. The water was cold as hell, and the finish left you feeling like you accomplished something big.”

Tony - “When you think Malibu you think palm trees and sunshine. Someway somehow year after year, the weather has been anything but. However this venue is one of the most challenging and riveting ones you can encounter. The endless climbs will leave you breathless, especially when you get to the top of that cargo climb and look out at all the beauty that Malibu has to offer.”

5) Bigfork, Montana

Spartan Race Bigfork Montana Spartan Sprint Founders Race
Cookie – “You could argue that Montana is the most beautiful race in America today. You could also argue that it’s the hardest Sprint, too. I believe it’s both. There’s something about running through acres and acres of mountains and dense forest that soothes the soul. You might see an osprey, eagle, deer or some other furry or feathered friend. This is the hidden x factor of the Montana Sprint. It’s a little bit special.”

John – “The Founders race was there this year and over 5,000 people showed up to race in Montana. If you’ve been you know why. It’s picturesque on every level. The course is a butt kicker too so if you want a solid challenge Montana is a can’t miss experience. Nicest people EVER.”

6) Washougal Park, Washington – Pacific Northwest

Spartan Race Washington Pacific Northwest Sprint


Cookie – “It will generally take around three or four hours for the barbed wire crawl to reach the point where it becomes like a sheet of glass. The barbed wire crawl – one of the most infamous ones on the circuit – goes upwards at a steep angle. Conquering this crawl is immensely satisfying and a joy that should be shared by everyone. Set in the hills just outside Portland dancing along the Oregon/Washington border, this is another course that boasts beautiful scenery, nature and more trees that you can shake a lumberjack’s axe at.”

John – “Home sweet home. I grew up out here. My family is all still in the PNW. The tall green trees, fresh clean air, and terrain that will keep you honest. Its surprising how many of our female Elites are from this area at first, then you run the course, realize how technical the terrain out in the Northwest is and you gain an understanding of why they are such talented athletes.”

Tony – “What an incredible venue this is. One of my favorites of all time. You arrive and everywhere you looks it’s just green, you’re surrounded by it. When you arrive you realize quickly that there will be a lot of ups and downs on this course, it is built partly on a motocross track of course. The wooded areas are what make this place come to life, birds chirping, wild life running all about. As you drive to the location you can even pull over on the side of the road and pick the freshest blackberries to eat. It’s a gorgeous location that will test you physically and treat you mentally.”

8) Burnet, Texas

Super Spartan Race Texas Sprint Burnet Austin TX
Cookie – “Arguably one of the flatter, ‘easier’ courses on the circuit, but don’t let that fool you into believing it’s one you’ll just waltz through without difficulty. The rocks and tree roots making running very technical and while the surroundings are very easy on the eye, it order to run safely, you spend a lot of time looking at your feet! The jewel in the crown of this site is the river that flows through part of it and water in any course is a surefire winner with any Spartan fan, especially when the course is actually navigating the river. “

John – “There is a reason we have been to this venue for 3 years in a row. Its EPIC. This last year we expanded to both a Sprint and a Super in the same weekend to the tune of 12,500 racers and over 5,000 spectators. The hill top with the cross that over looks the valley provides one of the most amazing views ever. I’m definitely looking forward to going back to Texas.”

Tony - “Texas has become my new home and with that this location has become one I truly cherish. The venue is incredible, held on a ranch that provides you with all types of terrain, from rocks, to grass, to wooded areas, single track trails and sand-filled stretches. Here you can find out what you’re really made of as the terrain will always keep you guessing.”

9) Fort Carson, Colorado

Spartan Race Sprint CO
Cookie – “The thing about Colorado is that the weather is a bit of a crap shoot and that makes for a great race. One day can be gloriously warm and the next the temperature drops 30 degrees and racers will find they’ve suddenly lost the ability to grip and the cold water in the rope climb obstacle steals your breath. If you manage to steal a second and let your eyes drink in the mountains in the distance, you’ll find that the view is very agreeable, too. “

John – “The place of my only DNF race in my life ever. The elevation of the race is 6000 ft. Think about that for a moment. The Rocky Mountains in the distance are incredible. The BBQ joints in the area are really damn good. I owe that place something. I’m going back.”

Tony - “Few things here, the venue is located on a military base, right from the get-go you know you’ll be in for a one-of-a-kind Spartan treat. You’ll be racing at altitude which means you’ll be testing yourself under some of the most demanding circumstances. Though you won’t be running up any mountains just being at 6,000 ft. of elevation will beat you down. My advice, come a few days early, get your body acclimated and prepare for one hell of a race. Be sure to visit the Garden of the Gods after the race is over, what a sight!”

10) Killington, Vermont

VT Killington Beast Spartan Race Sprint WC
Jason – Killington is called the Beast of the East for a reason. One of the best views in New England – one of few places untarnished wilderness surrounds you in a 360 panorama. I love seeing all the Tri state folks – thinking this is a regular type of event – laying down and crying on the side of the trail. All sorts of people suddenly leaving the ‘fun run’ world and facing sheer freezing survival on the side of an inhospitable and uncaring mountain. This is where people come to hear the call of the wild.

Cookie – “Killington is Mecca. There’s a reason why it is the home of Spartan and there’s a reason why it’s considered the hardest Beast and why the Ultra Beast is set there. It’s hard. It’s painfully, frustratingly, will-this-never-end hard. You will swear, in much the same way I did, that you feel that the course spends more time than is geographically possible going up. Why does it feel like you are always climbing? The laws of physics go out of the window in Killington. Just suck it up and enjoy inclines that will make your legs scream for mercy, your lungs burn, but the whole time, nourish your soul.
The densely wooded areas are a delight for nature enthusiasts, so keep an eye out for critters and birds. Famously, there’s THAT lake that you’ll be expected to grapple with in one form or another, too.
Make no mistake, if you like what Spartan is doing and you want to experience the race of all races on the schedule, no list is complete until you’ve done the Vermont Beast at least once.”

Tony - “There’s a reason we use Killington, VT for the World Championship race, not only is it set in the backyard of the original Spartan HQ but it’s also one of the most beautiful mountains in all of Vermont. Do not under estimate the Vermont Beast, it is unforgiving, it will laugh at you as you try to crawl up it’s Black Diamond slopes. Oh, you thought you’d be running this race? Think again, you’re more likely to be crawling on your hands and knees with a 75lb sandbag on your back so long as Norm Koch has anything to do with it. Come prepared. Come hydrated. Hopefully, we’ll see you at the finish line.”

11) Wintergreen Resort, Virginia 

Wintergreen Resort Spartan Race Super VA

 Tony – “Wintergreen Resort is set on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the resort rises from approximately 600 feet above sea level in the valley at Stoney Creek to an elevation of close to 4,000 feet on the mountain. You may have heard murmurs throughout Spartan Nation that the Spartan Super crafted by Race Director Norm Koch is one of the most difficult races in the circuit. If you’re looking to prepare for the World Championship in Vermont, there is no better location than the VA Super to test your mettle. “

12) Marseilles, Illinois  - Chicago

Chicago IL Spartan Race Super Spartan Sprint

Tony – “Arguably one of the most unique Spartan Supers out there, set on an all terrain park where typically there are Jeeps and ATVs tackling the relentless hills this location has recently become home to a permanent obstacle training facility that features many unique obstacles not found anywhere else. When you think Illinois, flat typically comes to mind but that is not the case here. Some way some how this location has some of the most varied terrain of any Spartan Race out there.”

13) Miami, Florida

Spartan Race Miami FL Florida Super

John – “Florida is one of my favorite states. I love the weather there. Miami is as beautiful as they come. It’s a flat course but don’t think for a minute that means it will be easy. The technical aspect of the trails requires some real work. Nice thing is that you get to jump in the water while on course…a few times.”

Holly – “This is the perfect event for the urban Spartan who loves to remain close to the city while still escaping into nature for a challenging event.  With skyscrapers looming in the distance, this course tackles technical root and shale filled trails.  The Florida heat mixed with an onslaught of staple Spartan obstacles makes this course a great challenge!  The best part?  It’s hosted in the perfect vacation destination.”

 14) Atlanta, Georgia 

Spartan Race Sprint Georgia Atlanta GA

Holly – “The Georgia Sprint is the perfect race to give your endurance and elevation skills a test.  While not a flat course, the hills are much more conservative than many of its counterparts, and this combined with the Sprint distance makes this event is a great way to gain confidence towards tackling the longer events which boast greater elevation gains.  The venue is absolutely gorgeous, and although it can be rather cold since this event is held early in the year, it just adds to the overall awesomeness and challenge of this race.”

15) Tuxedo, New York

Spartan Race Sprint Tri-State NY Tuxedo

John – “This was my first year in Tuxedo. It was incredible. The ski hill is no joke either. The soft ground is hiding boulder after boulder waiting to roll your ankle if you get careless. Still it’s a great test of your endurance and honestly the Spartans that showed up there were top notch. I cleared every spider-web on that course with my face Friday night pre-running it. Everyone is welcome.”

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Would it be fair to assume that having the opportunity to get something extra is a good thing?

Say, you expect ABC, but all of a sudden, D, E and F are there, wouldn’t you want to try those, too? Well Spartan Race believes that offering just that little bit more is something that all Spartan racers would like to embrace, and as such, we’re adding dates to already existing venues.

In September, when we come to Chicago, we’ll have a Super and a Sprint over that weekend. In October when we visit Carolinas, there’ll be a Sprint and a Beast. 

But that’s not all. Sacramento has a Sprint as well as a Super and we’ve also added another date to the event in Dallas. There’ll be a Beast and a Sprint for you to get your teeth stuck into. Go on! Take a bite!

Here are the updated races:

Chicago – September 27th – Super
Chicago – September 28th – Sprint

Carolinas – October 25th – Beast
Carolinas – October 26th – Super

Sacramento – October 25th – Super
Sacramento – October 26th – Sprint

Dallas – November 1st – Beast
Dallas – November 2nd – Sprint

If you needed more options to fulfill your Trifecta, then this will help you. Perhaps you’re even aiming a little higher? Some of you are going for Double and even Triple Trifectas! We can only stand back and admire the tenacity and focus you seem to possess. AROO!

With the addition of these extra races, you can now convince family and friends that feel they might not be ready for a Super or a Beast, to try out a Sprint. Once that mud and water hits their legs and the dirt goes under the fingernails, they’ll understand what you already know.

Why not run with these first timers and guide them along?

Click on any of the links above and sign up today for extra races and the opportunity to not only get more race time under your belt, but more medals, more mud and perhaps best of all, the chance to run with someone and finally introduce them to something you could never explain with words.

Sometimes you just have to get under that barbed wire or up that rope to truly understand. Of course, there’s one sure fire way of “getting it.” You’ll know at the finish line.

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by Pat Guyette, Spartan HQ Staff

Since mid-2011, Spartan Race’s main military partner has been the Air National Guard.

A countless number of our obstacle racers are military veterans and thousands of them are Airmen.  We could not be more proud to align our brand with such a courageous group of Americans!

If you are a Spartan Race finisher, chances are you have been face-to-face with ANG’s logo, as you were attempting to successfully complete the traverse wall obstacle.  Some of you, whether racing or spectating, have competed in the Air National Guard Pull-Up Challenge – the most popular festival challenge at our events.  All of you, have undoubtedly said “thank you” in one way or another to our military for keeping us safe.

If you’ve enjoyed the challenges a Spartan Race course offers, you might be surprised to find out that most of these challenges correlate to and help prepare you for real life situations. None of these challenges are more real or more humbling, than what Darrin Kesler encountered in his most recent deployment in Afghanistan.

The following is the transcript of an interview I had with SrA (Senior Airman) Darrin Kesler, who is a TACP recruiter based in Peoria, IL.

PG: I’d like to start off by saying thank you for serving. A huge percentage of our athletes are veterans and we have a great appreciation for our armed forces.

 

DK: No problem. My pleasure.

PG: Great. So, where are you based out of?

DK: Peoria, IL Air National Guard Unit.

PG: Is that where you grew up?

 

DK: Yes I grew up right here.

PG: I’m interested to know, at what point in your lifetime… what was the defining moment where you said to yourself  ”I want to join the military”…

 

DK: I was working as a welder for Caterpillar. I had already went to college and done that. Working at Caterpillar became really monotonous and I missed the team-like atmosphere that you have in school and playing football your whole life, and so I just decided one day that I needed a challenge, and went to a local recruiter and he said  TACP would be the thing for me.

PG: What is a TACP?

 

DK: A TACP stands for Tactical Air Control Party. They facilitate the use of airpower through the Air Force and Army. They are going to be the liaison between the Air Force and Army to direct air power; whether it is for calling in an airstrike, or for recon purposes, or surveillance purposes, anything like that. Anything with a plane in the sky we are going to direct the ground commander how to use that power.

PG: Spartans train really hard to get ready for their race as does the military to get ready for war. What are the fitness requirements to become a TACP?

 

DK: Right, yes. We have our own minimum standard to get into the career field and that’s called the PAST test, physical agility and stamina test. Things that are required are a mile and a half run in 10 minutes and 47 seconds, 40 pushups in two minutes, 48 sit ups in two minutes, and then there’s a 6 pull up minimum you have to meet, palms facing out, no kipping or anything like that. And then there’s a ruck march. If you aren’t familiar with rucking it’s essentially putting a book bag on your back with about 50 pounds and walking a 15 minute mile pace for about 4 miles.

PG: I don’t know if you are aware, but the Air National Guard is our Pull Up Challenge partner in every festival.  It’s the same rules, palms facing out, no kipping. That challenge is to see how many pull-ups you can do in one minute, so my question to you is how many pull-ups can you do in one minute?

DK: I can probably do about 20. 20 correct pull ups, if I cheat I little bit I could get about 30 or so, but 20 good ones.

PG: In the Air National Guard you can work part time and work other jobs while stationed domestically right? So what are Air Guardsmen’s main duties while stationed domestically?

DK: We have tons of career fields. So from working on an aircraft turning wrenches, or you want to fly on an aircraft, those opportunities are available. Or if you want to be a policeman or a firefighter, we have those opportunities available also. Maybe you want to work behind a desk and do you know logistics, intelligence, course readiness, personnel, we have all those kind of jobs also. So in any direction you are going in the outside world we will have something that correlates. Maybe not exactly, but something that’s going to be interesting for you to do for 2 days a month.

PG: So a really wide scope of jobs.

 

DK: Right, yes.

PG: So is it pretty safe to say that whatever their job is now they could find a similar position in the Air Guard?

DK: Something similar, yes. Like if you are out working in fashion design or something we probably we won’t have something for you there.

PG: Yeah, you guys buy all your clothes from one supplier right?

DK: Yup, it’s already pre-determined, so…

PG: Now, you recently got back from a deployment?

DK: Yeah, I got back in April 2011.

PG: Where were you deployed?

DK: I was in eastern Afghanistan.

PG: Obviously war is very real and it’s an integral part to protecting the rights and freedoms of the civilians of our great nation. During your deployment, when did the reality of war first really hit you?

DK: Pretty much as soon as we got there. We had to go to what’s called a COP, a combat outpost. We had to take helicopters, that was the only way to get there. So upon arriving they said “Hey there’s a mission going on here, and we are pretty much dropping you guys off and we don’t know if it’s going to be a hot LV or not.” And of course coming there for the first time, you really only know what you see in the movies, and it’s definitely different than that. When you are initially landing in the enemy zone there, it really gets real for you for a minute there.

PG: And what were your interactions with the locals like while you were deployed?

DK: Yeah we would talk to the locals. That wasn’t my main specific duty, but while out on patrols I always enjoyed talking with the kids, helping them out, and giving them stuff, and just seeing what they had to say. They were always asking questions. They were pretty smart, you know, I remember talking to one specific kid, and they don’t really keep track of age in years over there, but he would be like what we could call 7 or 8. And he was doing college level algebra, in his head, because he didn’t have a pen or paper. So one of the most wanted items there is a pen. Every kid wants a pen because a pen is a sign of wealth. So all the kids are wanting “Pen, pen, pen, pen”. Pen or chocolate. So they’re always asking for “a pen or a chocolate”.

PG: So did you always keep pens with you?

DK: Oh yeah. And you would get swarmed. Once you gave out one pen or one chocolate you’d get literally swarmed by kids. Once one kid comes out thirty kids come out. It was a good time, we had some fun.

PG: Awesome, so I see some similarities in that story to Spartan Race. Spartan Race is all about creating friendships and utilizing teamwork by helping out others on the course that you may not know, when they are in need. Can you tell me about your experience in Basic Training and where you see the similarities with running a Spartan race in terms of teamwork and bonding while going through a challenging experience?

DK: Sure yeah. I guess an example that correlates pretty much hand in hand is the obstacle course in basic training. Having the background that I have, I’m fairly athletic and like to think that I’m in shape and can do all of this stuff. So I’m starting out on the course and passing people and I’m running and doing my own thing. Come to find out there’s parts on the course where you need assistance. You know what I mean? You know you can’t climb this wall or you can’t do that all by yourself. So I learned real quick that this is a team exercise as opposed to an individual exercise. So, it seems like exactly how Spartan Race is. I was watching videos yesterday, and I remember the wall. People covered in mud and trying to get up that wall and they can’t get over by themselves, so whoevers on the other side has to lend you a hand to help them over. It’s the same thing.

PG: Spartan Racers have to overcome 20-30 obstacles on the course. What was the biggest physical obstacle you had to overcome in the battlefield?

DK: The hardest thing that we did was, we had a mission where we had to climb this mountain that was supposed to take two hours and ended up taking nine and a half hours. We were supposed to be up there for only 2 days, which of course got extended. So we didn’t really have water for one and a half to two days. So that was one of the harder things, you know, ten of us sharing and combining resources, to save enough energy for the trip back down in the coming days.

PG: At Spartan Race courses we have aid stations, and it never fails, every time we always have suggestions that there needs to be more aid stations out there. More water, more food for energy. It kind of prepares them for the real life experiences like you were thrown into, where you just have to kinda, dig deep.

DK: Dig deep, and push it through.

PG: Are you excited to run the Midwest Spartan Race with your fellow airmen October?

DK: I am. I didn’t get to do it last year so I’m excited to do it.

PG: Last year it was 3 mile sprint, and this year it’s a super, so its 8 miles. Should be a great challenge for you guys. Do you know we are notorious for a 400ft plus barbed wire crawl, sometimes up steep hills. Are you ready for that?

DK: I didn’t know that, but I’m up for the challenge.

PG: Obviously you missed your family and friends while deployed, but what is one small thing you have while home that you may have taken for granted and missed while away?

DK: Shower.

PG: Hot shower?

DK: No, just a shower at all. Like a working shower. Not pouring Dasani bottles over my head or a baby wipe shower, you know?

PG: Do you have any kids?

DK: I do, and I’m surprised you can’t hear her crying. Yeah I have one, she’s 5 months

PG: So she’s a little too young for our Jr. Spartan…

DK: Yeah a little bit but she’ll be doing it for sure. She’s a motivated one. She’s in her bouncy seat right now trying to jump as high as can be.

PG: What’s her name?

DK: Mallory.

PG: And she’s 5 months, so we’ll be on the lookout in about 4 years for Mallory’s name on the leaderboards for the kids event.

DK: You got that right.

PG: So I just have a couple of more questions, I don’t want to keep you all day. What would you like to say to Spartan Racers who are on the fence about joining the military, and why the Air National Guard is a great choice to consider?

DK: Well, for the most part, Spartan Race is a great challenge for one day or a weekend. They get to challenge themselves, and enjoy challenging themselves, for however long it takes them to navigate through the course. Then it’s over. The Air National Guard will challenge you every single day.

PG: The Mid-west Spartan Race is an 8 mile course, with 25 or more obstacles. Any predictions on what your finishing time will be?

DK: Oh I don’t know. What’s a good time? I know that one guy that does all of them and wins them all, he’s pretty much a beast. What is a good time for him?

PG: Hobie Call, yeah, he’s an animal. Each course is different but he usually finishes supers in 40-60 minutes, a good 5 to 10 minutes faster than his closest competitor.

DK: Well it may be a stretch, but I’ll set my sights on that range. I have a feeling though, that I’ll be stopping to help out others on the course, so that may slow me down a little bit.

PG: Thank you very much for your time, and again, for helping to defend our nation.

DK: My pleasure, and I’ll see you in Illinois in October.

If you’d like to find out more about what the Air National Guard has to offer, check out www.goang.com, or call 1000-To-Go ANG to talk to a local recruiter today.

 

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