by David Magida, Spartan Pro Team

Before the race began, competitors were all smiles. Eager to take on the course at Wintergreen Resort in Virginia, participants had no idea what they were in for. Hours later, when they finally finished the hardest (and steepest) Spartan Super in race history, the only smiles were those of relief.

Race Director Norm Koch gleefully told me before the race that this course was going to be the hardest Spartan Super ever and I laughed at him. After the race, I told him that he’s a, “sick and twisted man.” The eight mile course included 8,600 feet of elevation change, countless ski slope climbs and descents, a barbed wire crawl from hell and some fun wrinkles. A great deal of the course was off-trail through waist high grass and bushes that both impeded running strides and hid the hazardous rocks and holes that downhill racers fear so much. The mile-long descent down the mountain through a rocky riverbed spread out the competitors, as did the new log flip obstacle and of course, the seemingly endless log carry.

But what really shook up the race was the dark horse competition that arrived on the start line. Enter mountain runner and former professional cyclist Matt Novakovich. First of all, the guy lives in Alaska, so he’s automatically the toughest guy I’ve ever met. He looks like he lives off a diet of nails and caribou jerky. He also ran cross country at BYU and gets the majority of his climbing ability from hours of daily training at a 40% incline on a specialized treadmill in his garage.

Novakovich took over the race after the first descent, pushing all racers to their limit on each climb. He and Hobie Call raced side by side for the first ¾ of the race before Novakovich took off to win in a time of 1:50:14. That marks the first loss in a Spartan Race for Call this year, who finished in 1:55:51. Spartan Pro Team Member David Magida crossed the line in 3rd place with a time of 2:01:30.

On the women’s side, relatively new racers are beginning to dominate. Elise Fugowski continued to make her mark on the racing circuit with her second consecutive victory. Previously the winner of the Sunday heat at the Pennsylvania Sprint, Fugowski cruised to a finishing time of 2:22:51. She was followed by Debbie Moreau (2:26:32) and Kristen Zielinski (2:30:54). Zielinski was also a double podium finisher in Pennsylvania.

The event also featured an appearance by Olympic Steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti, who did not reach the podium but left the race with a profound respect for the sport of Obstacle Racing and its athletes. After the race Famiglietti said, “That was the toughest race I’ve ever run,” and added, “Any road racer or marathoner who refuses to run a Spartan Race is just scared.” He plans to spread the word. Spartan Race is no joke.

Adding to the gravity of the day was the re-emergence of Operation Enduring Warrior. After 10 harrowing hours on the course, the team of men and women donning gas masks and including several Wounded Warriors and a team of community athletes crossed the finish line. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

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