KUALA LUMPUR, March 17 — It was only about two kilometres into the course and my heart was already pounding, my hands were muddy and my body was soaked in sweat but yes, I was having the time of my life.
The Sprint series at the Semenyih Eco Venture Resort and Recreation last Sunday was my fifth Reebok Spartan Race, after completing my trifecta series last October.
But it always feels like it is my first time each time I take on an obstacle course race (OCR).
Reebok Spartan Race first came to Malaysia in 2015 and its courses, regardless if it is the Obstacle Sprint (5+ kilometres/15+ obstacles), Obstacle Super (13+ kilometres/20+ obstacles) or Obstacle Beast (20+ kilometres/25+ obstacles), seem to get better every time.
Here are three takeaways from the recent event in Semenyih:
A more challenging course
The course at Semenyih is very different from the others. There were gravel slopes all the way up just several metres from the start of the race. The hill seemed to be never-ending, until the course took us to a trail route, which led to further gradients!
At some point, which was barely two kilometres into the more than eight kilometres-long course, people were already suffering from cramps and sitting by the side of the trail. Obviously, this course is not meant for those who had not trained.
Unlike its previous courses, the one in Semenyih had a 60 metre-long lake which was over two meters in depth, that runners had to swim across. This was the first time Reebok Spartan Race Malaysia had such an obstacle.
Previously, there were streams that runners had to cross but nothing above knee high. But of course, the organiser provided adequate life vests for everyone and stationed crew on the lake to ensure the safety of participants.
The Sprint series is also getting longer. In 2015, when Reebok Spartan Race first came to Malaysia, it held its first Sprint series at Setia Alam, which was about six kilometres long.
It got longer in the second Sprint event held in Putrajaya last October, a day before the Beast race. It was more than seven kilometres then, and this time at Semenyih, it was almost nine kilometres long.
But I am not complaining as it gives you better value for money. I wouldn’t want to pay more than RM200 and complete the race in an hour.
In terms of parking and organising the entire event, Reebok Spartan Race Malaysia did a splendid job in Semenyih.
After receiving a lot of complaints for the Super series in Klang, held last March, it was obvious this time round the organisers had taken note of all the complaints and stepped up.
There was plenty of parking spaces at Semenyih’s Nirvana Memorial Garden for a parking fee of RM5.
Food trucks were adequate, toilet booths were everywhere and there were enough shower facilities at the end of the race to wash up as opposed to the previous races where runners had to wait several minutes for their turn.
Proper gear and food before the race, or else…
When participating in OCRs, participants must be wary of their running gear. Running shoes and cotton clothes will only make the experience a bitter one.
A proper pair of trail running shoes will give you the grip needed when running down slippery slopes. They will also allow for better traction when walking in those extra muddy terrain.
There were incidences of people slipping and falling down but, as observed, there were no serious injuries besides some showing bruises here and there.
As for clothes, wearing compression clothing will enable you to run “lighter” as they do not absorb water and mud. I personally don’t wear gloves as I prefer using my bare hands when climbing and swinging on those rings.
Food and water are another two essentials that must not be neglected. Make sure you fuel up before the race because there won’t be any snacks available at the water stations.
In Reebok Spartan Race Malaysia’ website, runners are encouraged to carry along a hydration pack for the Beast course.
Patience is the key to ‘winning’
I noticed one of the runners shouting: “Is this Spartan Race or Spartan Crawl?” at one of the obstacles last Sunday.
Yes, it is a race, but unless you are a racer in the elite category, you are not winning any cash money for coming in first.
Everyone gets the same medal, a finisher’s tee and a packet drink at the end of the race. Spartan Race is all about camaraderie, meeting new people and helping one another to the finishing line.
I, however, noticed that Malaysians showed the highest spirit when it came to helping a fellow racer. One of them even came down a hill he had just climbed to help another racer who was having difficulties.
We might not give way at traffic jams, but the spirit of unity is seen among us here...
The course at Semenyih may be perceived as dangerous as some were overheard saying “it is very easy to sprain your ankles walking through this uneven surface with this sandbag” and “what if I fall down, I am surely going to break something.”
Who says Spartan Races are meant to be a walk in the park?
To me, these sort of races teach me to manage risk in my daily life. We all face obstacles and challenges in life, it is how we manage them and keep moving forward that is the key to “success.”
Of course you could opt to perform the 30 burpees instead if you think an obstacle is too much to handle, but why not give it a try before giving up?