Spartan Stadion race review in a nutshell: you don’t have to be super fit to feel fit. We climbed over all the walls, swung across all the monkey bars and clambered up all the ropes to see how difficult it is to complete the Spartan Stadion course at Twickenham Stadium.
As it turned out, it’s not all that difficult, especially if you have at least a basic level of fitness. We have seen many people who wouldn’t fall under the ‘fit gal/guy’ category proudly wearing their two-piece finisher medals around their necks – and holding their pints of lagers in their hands, which were handed out to all the finishers at the end.
Not surprisingly, the chime the medals make as people walk was the first sound that we heard as we stepped off the train in Twickeham; it felt like we wandered into a field full of cows, their cowbells ringing as they roamed. It seemed everyone in the city was participating in the race and was extremely proud of completing it.
The race itself was a pretty straightforward obstacle race ordeal: there was a roughly 5-kilometre long race course with 20 obstacles littered around the Twickenham Stadium, these obstacles ranging from 4-feet walls to monkey bar frames to paracord crawl sections.
For this reason, we decided not to do a traditional review; if you did one of these type of races before, you will know what to do. Instead, we will list what we found was the easiest, the hardest, the most fun, the most boring and the best overall obstacle at the Spartan Stadion race, along with the gear we recommend for the race, should you want to try it yourself in the future.
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Spartan Stadion race review: training, warm up and nutrition
Although the Spartan Stadion is not a difficult race, it is not easier than similar obstacle courses either. It is recommended to follow the guidelines we set out in our Spartan Race training article before the race and to warm up properly in the morning, not long before the race.
There wasn’t an awful lot of space to go for a pre-race jog in the Twickenham Stadium but there was a dedicated cardio area for anyone who wished to do some warm up. Many people decided not to so the warm up area was pretty deserted, we recommend checking it out, it makes a whole lot of difference on the race itself and gets your heart rate going as well.
Talking about heart rate: you should definitely take a running watch with you to the race. With a running watch, you can track your heart rate as well as the calories you burned, the distance you ran and much more. Let it be the simple yet effective Polar Ignite or the rugged Garmin Fenix 6 Pro, as long as it tracks fitness activities, you should be okay.
Pro tip: there is most usually no ‘obstacle race’ setting on running watches, so instead, choose the ‘trail running’ option. This setting is less likely to mess up your VO2 max readings, because trail running takes into account that you have to climb over obstacles throughout the course.
As for nutrition, the Spartan Stadion is a short race so don’t worry about eating or drinking anything during the race. Make sure you drink plenty of water before the race and try not to eat anything too heavy an hour pre-race.
After the race, you’ll be given a bag of snacks and a pint, but if you would like aid muscle regeneration, you might want to take a protein bar or even some protein powder (in the shape of a protein shake) within half an hour after the race has finished.
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Spartan Stadion race review: the easiest obstacle
There were a few less than super challenging obstacles during the race: most notably the 4-feet walls, a hurdle every participant cleared without an issue. But if we have to pick one, we would say the Gladiator Gauntlet was pretty easy to tackle. Even the organisers classifies it as “easiest obstacles you could find during a Spartan race.”
The Gladiator Gauntlet is a rig from which 20 or so heavy punchbags are hanging. This was one of the last obstacles on the course, right before the inverted wall, and you could basically run through the bags without altering your course much, in a straight line.
Spartan Stadion race review: the hardest obstacle
As you walked into the stadium, there were a few obstacles on display, not inside the stadium, but outside, so spectators can have some fun as well as the participants. One of these was Hercules Hoist; and what was fascinating about it is to see how many people struggled with it.
The concept is simple: there is a sandbag attached to a rope, which is fixed to a pulley high up on a rig, and all you have to do is to pull the rope until the bag reaches the top point. The bag seems inconspicuous enough, but in reality, it is a bit of a challenge to pull it all the way to the top.
The Hercules Hoist comes after the rope climb and almost at the end of the race, so your arms were a but stiff by then. The rain also made the ropes more slippery, making it extra challenging to pull the sandbag up.
Spartan Stadion race review: the most boring obstacle
Skipping rope is not a boring exercise in itself, but when you put in the context of an obstacle race, it gets less than inspiring. Skipping is a very good stationary cardio exercise and it is an especially good exercise to get bigger calves. We can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone trying to lose weight fast.
It gets a little less glamorous when you have to do it with 15-20 other people, in a half-lit basement style area, halfway through the Spartan Stadion race. Even worse, you have to fiddle around with a rubber band, which you have to put around your ankles to stop you from skipping with one leg at the time.
Spartan Stadion race review: the most fun obstacle
If there is one obstacle that looks fun to do and is something something you don’t often do, it’s the Spear Throw. We wish you had to do more than just one throw.
You don’t even have to throw the spear far, the distance between the barrier and the hay bale, which you have to throw the spear into, is probably around 3 metres. The spears are attached to a rope, so the drill is as follows:
You get to the barrier, pick up the end of the rope, pull the spear out of the bale, pick it up, aim and throw, job done. We haven’t seen anyone failing the obstacle, nor did we see anyone not enjoying the process either.
Spartan Stadion race review: the best overall obstacle
One of the most difficult type of obstacle during the Spartan Stadion race was the swinging type ones. Every adult agrees that they used be able to swing like monkeys when they were a kid, but as an adult we tend not to swing all that often anymore, so our shoulders are not used to the motion.
Taking this fact into account, we were really surprised how much fun doing the Multi-rig was. This is basically a monkey bar-type obstacle, but instead of the bar, here you have to swing holding rings that are attached to the rig via a small rope. Thanks to this, you can build up a lot more momentum, unlike on the monkey bars, where you have to rely only on your arms and you grip.
It is not an easy exercise, don’t get us wrong, but it is not only challenging but also fun to do. And what more can you possibly ask from an obstacle race hurdle?
Spartan Stadion race review: recommended gear
Although there is a section on the Spartan website about gear, we have our recommendations as well. In general, wear close fitting clothing and don’t worry about layering too much, since you will be doing physical activity.
Running tights and long sleeve base layer work the best, as well as flat-sole running shoes. The Spartan website recommends trail running shoes, and probably they come handy in other Spartan races, but not on the Stadion, where you navigate between rows of chairs and climb up concrete stairs.
Here is our top gear recommendations.
Spartan Stadion race gear: Saucony Type A9
Although we recommended the Saucony Type A9 racing flats for non-beginner runners before, they are perfect for a race like the Spartan Stadion. Thanks to the minimal cushioning, the sole of the Type A9 is thin so you are more in contact with the ground.
The thin sole can also come handy on obstacles like the Z walls and the A Frame Cargo. The Saucony Type A9 will work your calves a bit more; it doesn’t have much of a roll, but you won’t need to roll all that much anyway. 20 obstacles on a 5 km race means there is an obstacle in every 250 metres.
The Saucony Type A9 is also light so it won’t weigh your feet down either.
Spartan Stadion race gear: Gore Wear R7 Windstopper Tights
The Spartan Stadion race was in November, so the air was a bit chilly and there was also some wind and rain. You want to keep your muscles warm, especially your tights and for that purpose, nothing works better than running tights.
Gore’s Windstopper tights are perfect for the purpose: they are weatherproof – not waterproof, mind – as well as being tight fitting, keeping your muscles all oxygenated and warm.
If you are feel self conscious about wearing tights, you can always chuck running shorts on top of them.
Spartan Stadion race gear: Garmin Instinct smartwatch
Constructed to U.S. Military standard 810G for thermal, shock and water resistance, the Garmin Instinct is built for the Great Outdoors, for explorers who aren’t afraid to get muddy and get their hands dirty when out in the wild.
And although you won’t need the digital compass or the built-in GPS for the Spartan Stadion race, the ruggedness of the Garmin Instinct will definitely come handy throughout the obstacle race and beyond.
Spartan Stadion race gear: dryrobe
We can’t leave out dryrobe from the recommended gear list: we have seen it everywhere on the Spartan Stadion race day. One can describe dryrobe as an oversized dressing gown-towel-hybrid that’s also waterproof and very, very warm.
The dryrobe can function as a raincoat, but one that keeps you insulated, not just dry. It is ideal for swimmers and triathletes as well. There are even pockets on it to store your valuables in it, should you want to have your phone on you all the time.