On September 25, 2014

Spartans battled it out up and down Killington mountain

It was a brutal course by all estimations. Those who finished the fastest ran up some of Killington Resort’s steepest peaks and didn’t stop until they got to the finish line.

A helicopter and drones scanned across more than 16 miles of rugged trails cut specifically for more than 12,000 Spartan racers who participated Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 20-21.

The Spartan Race series, founded in Pittsfield by Joe Desena and endurance athlete friends, is fast becoming a contender for the world’s largest obstacle racing company, catering to more than a million people annually  — both elite athletes and the masses.

Spartan races help to motivate non-athletes to get “off the couch” and work out again in a fun environment, as co-founder Desena has said time and again.

Being an “elite” competitor in this sport is not reserved for the wealthy, young, tall, ultra thin or strong, or any other “type” as many other sports tend to favor. Rather “Elite” and “Pro Team” statuses are attained by how well you place in Spartan courses and how many you do — acquiring points during an annual series of races.

But for most, it is simply a test of physical and mental stamina, which increases one’s self-esteem and creates strong bonds with friends and strangers alike.

But don’t misunderstand: not many of the 12,000-plus racers on Saturday and Sunday would call the World Championship Spartan Beast race at Killington Resort “fun” — it was the longest and hardest race in years, by the numbers.

Most participants were unprepared for the hiking and climbing.

In 2012, Spartan Beast was 13.84 miles with an elevation gain of 6,024 feet, according to one of the largest race teams, New England Spartens. In 2013, the mileage was 12.93 with 5,873 feet of elevation gain. And this year, the race was 16.22 miles with an elevation gain of 6,062 feet. (Others with GPS on the course claimed this year’s totals were even higher at 17.2 miles and 6,899 vertical.)

For the top elite racers, the race took 3-4 hours. But the average time for the open division was between 8-10 hours. Due to the length, many were forced to finish well after dark using glow sticks and/or headlamps, if they were prepared.

According to Spartan Race, the fastest time was set by Jon Albon of England at 3 hours, 23 minutes. The slowest time was 13 hours and 30 minutes.

Top three male finishers were Jon Albon (3:23:15), Ryan Atkins (3:24:19) and Cody Moat (3:30:50).

Top female finishers were Claude Godbout (4:17:20), Corinna Coffin (4:20:57) and April Luu (4:22:53).

With a 35-member team, Team Burgh had an average finish time of five hours, 32 minutes, placing second overall for a team. Team Burgh, out of Plattsburgh, N.Y. trains regularly in Vermont at the fixed course Shale Hill Adventure Center in Benson.

Matt Kingsbauer, a Rutland doctor, completed the Ultra Beast, or more than 30 miles Sunday.

But not all of the racers finished — many suffered injuries, some racers carried others out of the woods to safety and many stayed behind with their ailing friend/teammates. Cramping was a common occurrence. The camaraderie of the race is more fulfilling for many than their actual time. (And due to the crowds on narrow paths and obstacles, passing was not always possible anyway.)

Here’s what some racers had to say:

“It’s not about the glamour — it’s about the people — the ones that stand by your side for an entire 16 miles, willing to hold a ladder while in freeeezzzzing (emphasis necessary) cold water, those pushing themselves to the limits when the course should have been “impossible,” the spectators waiting on top of a beautiful mountain that no one could tell was beautiful on Saturday, the new friends and those you just happen to run into on the course again and again. It’s not the medal, the TV cameras, the glam. It’s the simple things — accomplishment, support and drive, the tired legs and random scrapes and bruises, the memories made and the things you learn about yourself out on the mountain that really make you think on Monday morning.”

Crystal Anne, athlete and trainer, Providence, RI. Spartan Beast finisher.

“Feeling pretty good. Loved the event and felt very prepared thanks to Beth at Killington Boot Camp for the physical and mental preparation and training. In addition, bootcamp was a place to connect with training buddies. It all made for a wonderful journey to Spartan. Also thanks to Karen Dalury at Killington yoga, where I  maintained my flexibility and sanity particularly the last week.” 

Diane Miller, owner of Killington’s Base Camp Outfitters and lifelong skier, Spartan Beast finisher.

“I ran with five other people and we stuck together the entire way. It made everything a little easier. I had a lot of anxiety prior to race day but I was able to complete the obstacles I was worried about. Also, at the end I still had gas in the tank. Now, I want to try for a longer race. I’ll never forget coming down that hill and hearing all the cheers from my friends and family. One voice, in particular, carried loudly over the rest, a fellow boot camper who remembers when neither of us could have completed a race.” 

Peter Bourque, Rutland athlete and Killington Boot Camp member, Spartan Sprint finisher.

“I had 35 bootcampers total (sprint and beast) finish for 100 percent completion. Over the past 3 years, I have had 70 complete the races and zero “did not finishes.” One of my biggest training goals is to get the campers to the point where they will enjoy the challenge of the race.” 

Beth Roberts, trainer and owner, Killington Boot Camp.

Cristina Kumka is a freelance correspondent for The Mountain Times.

By Cristina Kumka

Photos by Paul Holmes


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