Last Saturday we conquered the sprint distance of the Spartan Race Orte in Italy. This race was recommended to us last year by the European license manager for Spartan Race, who said it was one of the best European races. After the amazing experience we had of Spartan Race this winter in Czech Republic, we were excited to pack up and head to Italy.
Orte is a small town just outside of Rome, and frequent trains between the two meant we could comfortably make Rome our base for the stay. Whilst this meant there plenty of beautiful sights for us to see in Rome, the best part of our trip was still the race for a few reasons.
One interesting aspect of this experience has been that Super heats raced throughout the morning, so by the time our elite Sprint heat was starting at 2pm, the course had seen some wear. No complaints here, but perhaps something for UK race organisers to consider if they want to make races tougher for the competitive heats.
So – here are my 4 standout moments from the 2016 Spartan Race Orte:
1. Excellent use of varied terrain
Whatever terrain there is in and around Orte, this race made use of it.
The race course looped through hilly woods, up a steep climb and through the old town with its cobblestone streets, past gardening plots and wandering goats, then back down into the woods and through a river. The river was especially a highlight because where other races might have you cross the river a few times, at Orte we were running through the river for about a kilometer at one point.
Also I know elevation (i.e. hilly-ness) of the Winter Sprint in Czech was an unprecedented highlight back in January, it has now been overshadowed by Orte which had even more elevation. We ran up stone stairs and up steep cobblestone streets to the old town at the top of a hill. It was painful but we were rewarded with beautiful views on our way down.
The race in general featured many gorgeous views, except maybe at the rolling mud obstacle, which seemed not to end. This brings me to my next point:
2. So. much. mud
A no brainer but worth saying for the people who complain about races not having enough mud. And though the dunk wall just before the finish line didn’t help to clean us up much, this race had a hosing down station next to the changing area. This was definitely a highlight because it meant V and I could clean up pretty well for our train ride back to Rome, and more importantly, we could wash our gear properly without soiling the hotel bathtub.
3. A different water & recharging station
At 5 of the 7k race distance there was a water station which, refreshingly, instead of offering energy gels, stocked bananas cut in half. My sensitive stomach was very thankful to be able to have a half-banana instead of a gel.
Although at the time I thought eating at all might have been unnecessary, it was a good decision when the last 2k took as long to finish as the first 5. See point 1 about varied terrain and steep climbs.
4. The extra-tough barb wire crawl
I’ve seen my fair share of barb wire and cargo net crawls, but Orte once again managed to surprise me. Firstly, the barb wire crawl was the penultimate obstacle before the finish line. Although it was long, it was shorter than some we saw in the UK last year, and it wasn’t an uphill climb. However, the ground was dug into vertical trenches which meant you couldn’t roll your way through so you actually had to crawl on your elbows and knees. Cunningly, the mud was mixed in with tiny stones so most people coming out from the obstacle looked like they’d lost a fight with a cat. On top of this, the last couple of meters were thicker mud, the kind you’d lose a shoe in, which made this obstacle that little bit more excruciating. Awesome!
5. The little loop before the finish
Who doesn’t get that spike of adrenaline when they start to hear the festival village? Who doesn’t speed up knowing they’re almost at the finish line now… Well, Orte brought us to the finish line, had us do a couple of obstacles right in front of it, and then sent us back into the woods for a final (uphill) loop. It’s at times like this that grit is forged and strengthened.
One final thing that actually took away from the whole experience was people cheating. This race was my first time in an elite heat. It dampened my enthusiasm to see other female athletes get help over obstacles or run off after doing 5 half-assed burpees. It was even worse to have to fight with the volunteer marshalls who were telling me to go midway through my 30 burpees – I actually got an eyeroll because I wanted to complete my penalty. Insanity!
This is what prompted V to write an article about race etiquette. Whether you’re running open or elite heats, I’d urge you to check out our race etiquette guide.