The Mountain Times

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Calling all adrenaline junkies:
The Spartan Beast is here to challenge the world’s best

5- Spartan Race 14

KILLINGTON - Hurdling fire pits, throwing spear, climbing rope, navigating across water and, of course, running trails: Spartan obstacles can be as painful as they are unpredictable. Still, an estimated three quarters of a million participants will cross a Spartan finish line in 2013 taking part in the 63 events worldwide.
This year's event will culminate with the naming of the world's top male and female obstacle racers. On Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 21-22, Killington will host the Vermont Spartan Race World Championships where thousands of top athletes from around the world will compete for a piece of the $250,000 purse which will be awarded to Spartan top finishers.
This is the third year Killington Resort has hosted Spartan courses. Options for racers include a Spartan Kid Race, a half mile course for ages 4-9 and a mile course for ages 10-13; a Spartan Sprint, roughly 5K of trails and obstacles; the Spartan Beast, a half marathon of trail running and Spartan obstacles; and the world's only Ultra Beast, longer than a marathon of trail running and obstacles.
In 2001, Joe Desena from Pittsfield, founded Spartan Races with seven other extreme athletes. One of the goals was to 'rip you from your comfort zone' the Spartan website states.
"We will not spell it out for you… There is fire, mud, water, barbed wire, and occasionally Hell on Earth," organizers state. "There will be obstacles to catch you off guard. Curve balls, so to speak. Get over it. We're here to rip you from your comfort zone. If you need a road map for each step of the way, then maybe this race isn't for you."
Unlike ironmans or triathlons, racers will not get a course map to study. While there are some obstacles that seem to be "Spartan staples" - a slippery incline wall, cargo net climb, barbed wire crawl, a mud crawl, spear throw, fire jump and gladiator pit - many are venue-specific inspired by the particular challenges of local terrain.
Uncertainty is central to the Spartan mentality. Desena often comments about his desire to challenge the comfortable monotony of the status quo, and he does this successfully through his Peak Race series. Too often we spend our waking hours trying to find and stay comfortable: We look for short cuts, gadgets, and processes to make things easier; we believe there are defined limits to our abilities, mental and physical, and we become conditioned to those distinction, Desena perceives. It makes us feel secure, but it comes at a cost too high for Desena and judging by the exponential growth of Spartan races, many share his sentiments.
"We've forgotten that we're animals," Desena said in a 20011 interview with The Daily Item. "We climbed, jumped and crawled. It's only the last 100 years we played basketball and football. All the sports that seemed so natural and normal have only been around for a short time… People touching dirt, mud, running through the woods, climbing - that feels natural, feels right."
Spartan races, although the toughest on the planet for the elite classes, also seek to make obstacle racing accessible to a variety of levels, this effort is perhaps most evident in the kid and teen divisions, which are designed to inspire health and fitness at early ages with a variety of scaled down obstacles. The Kids Fit Foundation is the host of the Killington Jr. Spartan (the half mile course for ages 4-9) and Varsity Spartan races (one mile course for ages 10-13.)