Spartan Race Fenway Park: A Review


And we're back again with How Much Can My Body Take: The Chronicles, my adventures in stupidity.  When we last left our misguided leader, I had just tackled the 11-mile Tough Mudder race in Frederick, MD.  Before that, it was the Insanity: Fast and Furious workout DVD, the Mid-Atlantic Spartan Sprint and a giant game of Zombie Tag.  This time, I check in with a review of the my most ambitious adventure run to date: a 2.5-mile race through historic Fenway Park.

One of the trademarks of the adventure run is mud.  They get messy.  Tough Mudder, Warrior Dash, Rogue Run, Spartan Race, Run for Your Lives – they all prominently feature slop and getting dirty is just as much a part of the experience as running.  Yet with the considerations of the venue, it didn't seem that mud was going to be in the mix. So the race’s designers got creative.

The race took place on Saturday, November 17, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, part of the centennial celebration of the baseball park.  How the race organizers were able to convince the Red Sox to allow the event, I do not know.  What I do know is that this was a very challenging race and the most fun of all those in which I’ve participated.

Racers were broken up into "heats" of 10 runners released at one-minute intervals.  The race technically started before the clock did – 10 burpees served as a nice, organized warm-up before the festivities began.  Once the gun was actually fired, runners scampered up ramps to the upper deck, alternating going on hands-and-knees and hurdling trip wires.  Along the way, participants jumped over short three-foot walls; we also had to scale a series of picnic tables and the standard six-foot walls.

After another short run, we had to grab two five-gallon water jugs, and carry them down a flight of stairs, then back up the stairs.  A gallon of water weighs roughly seven pounds, meaning you're carrying about 70 pounds for the 100-yard stretch.  Once the high-post of the stadium was reached, runners had to scoop up a 75-pound concrete stone, carry it 10 feet and place it atop a shelf; return to the starting point, perform 15 burpees, then retrieve the stone and carry it back to the start.  Ever lift 75 pounds in a deadlift?  It's not as easy as it sounds.

The fun part of this race was the scenery.  Rather than taking place in a desolate farm in the middle of nowhere, it was in one of the most memorable venues in all of sports.  The run covered the whole park – up the stairs, down the stairs, around the bleachers, through the concourses, running through the aisles of seats.  Except, sometimes, you'd turn a corner and run into an obstacle, like #8, where runners had to jump onto a rowing machine and complete 500 meters in under two minutes.  If you weren't sweating yet, you were now.

Next station was a stop for 20 push-ups.  Then a nice tour across the top of the Green Monster—the stadium’s legendary left-field wall--followed by a rope climb.  Almost immediately after that came the Hercules Haul, where runners had to lift a substantial weight—maybe 75 pounds?--with a pulley system to a height of 15 feet.   That was followed by a series of ladders that climbed over the pillars supporting the stadium, finishing with a cargo net climb.  After a short run through the concourse, racers had to throw a spear to stick into a bale of hay, a Spartan Race staple.  Next up was a horizontal rock-wall-type structure.  Then runners had to throw a baseball into a barrel from about 10 feet away.

Oh, and did I mention that each failed obstacle resulted in 30 burpees?  Each obstacle in its own right seems challenging. But if you fail one and have to perform the penalty, these seemingly simple obstacles are no longer so simple.  All told, I had to do 90 penalty burpees: I failed the rope climb, spear throw and wall climb.

A short run, with O-U-T obstacles: over a wall, under a wall, through a (hole in the) wall.  Then one of the more creative obstacles: 50 jump-ropes with a 10-pound skip rope in place of the jump-rope.  The result: incredibly tired shoulders.  Master that, and it's time to target the lower-body: strap a rubber band around your ankles, and hop-hop-hop up 10 flights of stairs.  Exhausted yet?

Another round of O-U-T, then hands-and-knees under an obstacle.  Step out from the concourse in the outfield bleachers of beautiful Fenway.  Soak it in for a second, and it's time to grab a 60-pound sack of sand, throw it over your shoulder, and carry it up and down six bleacher sections, each with 40 rows to a section.

And now it gets fun.  Runners get onto the warning track part of the field for the home stretch.  Scramble over a 10-foot wall.  Perform 30 burpees "just for fun" as the guides explained.  Then take on a cargo net right in front of the famed Fenway scoreboard. Take the turn towards third base and perform 10 box-jumps, despite your legs screaming from pain and exhaustion.

Last obstacle, as always: take on Spartan warriors armed with pujile sticks determined to stop you from finishing with ease.

And at the end: collapse.

So what made this one so special?  First, it was the scene.  Fenway is an awesome venue and taking in every foot of that stadium – both as a baseball fan and as a racer – was a dream.  (And I'm not even a Red Sox fan!)  Second: the creativity in the obstacles.  Most mud runs have a series of obstacles that are to be expected: a mud crawl, some walls, getting dirty, maybe running through a stream, etc.  In addition to some of the stand-bys, this race also featured things I would not normally expect, including the rowing machines and jump-ropes.  I loved the way the venue itself was utilized, as you covered the entire stadium, running stairs, traversing concourses, climbing over parts, under others, and finally, ending up on the field for the final sprint to the finish.  And it turned out to be a great day for a race, about 45 degrees and sunny, little wind and a picturesque sunrise as the day progressed.

The race was very difficult, but it was the most fun I have had in one of these races.  This is what other runs should aspire to be.