Race Report: Spartan Race Chicago Sprint

The Spartan Race is always one of those things I saw other people do but didn’t think I could do myself. Much like marathons, and doing my own burlesque solo. Both of which, once I saw friends “like me” could do them, I decided I could too. Kelly has done a few Spartans and seemed to enjoy them, and I’ve been doing more strength training and weight lifting in addition to running, so I thought maybe a Spartan Race would be a good way to challenge myself.

As race day got closer, I got nervous. What the heck was I thinking signing up for this race? Looking at the obstacles rarely made me feel better … they all looked really hard. (Probably because most of what I was looking at was monkey bars, rope climbing – the most challenging ones.) Kelly didn’t seem nervous, which helped a little, but I was still convinced it was going to be awful and I would (want to) die.


So clean the night before – although I didn’t really wear any of these pieces all that much, which is why I picked them for the race.

The race site was practically in Wisconsin, so Kelly and I carpooled up for our 10am start time. We got to the remote parking, took a quick shuttle ride over and got through registration around 9:30am.  We applied sunscreen, I downed some Sport Beans, then we checked a bag, watched the obstacles that were right by the finish area, and headed to the start.

My nerves chilled out and I was feeling good getting into the start corral. I had a bottle of water that I mostly carried in my sports bra. I was able to refill at 2-3 water stations on the course. (I got a few comments whether I was carrying it in the back or front of my bra – either that was a smart solution, or that is a lucky water bottle.) We were worried it would be too hot, but it was around 80 with a breeze and we felt good. Thankfully the heat and sun never really bothered us.


On the bus / Clean before the start

Between my recollection of the course and the low-resolution course map I found on Facebook, these were the obstacles we went through, more or less in order:

Walls – The first few obstacles were walls of various heights. Actually, you had to scale a (relatively) easy wall just to get into the start corral. And then climb over, through (a hole) and under walls. Easy peasy until they got high! In those cases, Spartans help each other with a boost. There was also some kind of hurdle/railing things we had to get over, somewhat similar to going over a wall.

Cargo Net – There were two – one near the start which was vertical, and one near the end that was slanted like an A. You had to go up, over a rig, and climb down. Thankfully neither gave me trouble.

Inverted Wall – Kelly got up and over before I did, so I knew it was possible but it sure didn’t look what way! Or feel that way on my first attempt. I was actually able to get over without an assist, which surprised me.

Hercules Hoist This is similar to a move I’ve done a couple times at CrossTown Fitness – a weight attached to a rope that is slung over a bar, and you have to pull until the weight reaches the top, and then let it come down without slamming. I don’t know how heavy the weight was … heavier than any I’ve done at CTF. And the bar was a lot higher. You could brace your feet against a barricade, which helped.

Atlas Carry – Pick up a “medicine ball” (not soft like what we’re used to but like a big, smooth, round rock), carry it about 25 feet, put it down, do 5 burpees, pick it up and carry it back. It was really hard to pick it up, thankfully I got some assistance from fellow Spartans.

Rolling Mud Up and over a slippery mud hill then wade through a pool of muddy waist-deep water, then repeat 2 (or 3?) more times. The final mud hill was the biggest and steepest and had a rope assist, and the final mud pool had a wall that ended right where the muddy water pool started, so you had to submerge yourself in the water to go under the wall. Emerging from the water was awkward because the water was thick, and you can’t really rub your eyes since your hands are muddy too. Plus I didn’t want to lose my contacts. I was glad I had my bottle of water so I could rinse my eyes a little bit.

There were also quite a few creek crossings of various widths and depths. Some we could quickly run through or jump over, others we were standing water of various depths up to our thighs. And there was a long stretch of trail that was just mud. We actually saw a golf cart with a couple race volunteer stuck in the mud – of course, Spartans were pushing it out. I saw (and heard) lots of people slip and fall (luckily the mud was soft), but I think all those balancing poses in yoga really helped me stay upright.

Bucket Brigade – Literally fill a bucket with rocks and carry it around a short course (maybe 250 meters?) and then dump it out.

Sandbag – Throw a sandbag over your shoulders and carry it around a short course, maybe 400 meters?

Olympus This was like a sideways wall climb, but your feet could only brace the wall. Kelly and I ended up creatively assisting each other to avoid burpees … probably in a non-sanctioned way. But it was still hard.

Barbed Wire This. Was. So. Long. You have to pass under really low barbed wire. It was dry and not muddy, which was great although the ground felt hard and rough by the end. I tried doing an army crawl at first, then a kind of sideways crawl, but eventually I realized the “easiest” way to get through was a barrel roll. I hate being dizzy so I took my time. I feel like this was easily 100m long or so.

Twister This was the first failed obstacle. It was a variation of monkey bars with twisting handles.

Spear Throw Tried twice, but couldn’t get a spear to stick in the hay, so, fail.

Rope Climb – Even though I successfully climbed a rope – three times! – this past Friday, I could barely get off the ground this time. I was tired, the rope was slippery with everyone else’s mud, and this time, the rope wasn’t secured at the bottom.

Rings I tried. I failed. I thought maybe I could get it since the rings swung a little bit, but I couldn’t get a grip.

Slip Wall Shaped like an A. Grab a rope and use it to climb up one side, then climb down an inverted ladder the other side.

Fire jump & finish!

I started and ended the race feeling good, but it wasn’t all great throughout. After the first couple obstacles, my elbows were starting to hurt. I should have warmed up my arms somehow. And barely halfway into the race, I was starting to question if I could finish. I wasn’t feeling quite faint, but I was feeling like I could quickly get to that mental state if I kept pushing too hard, so I asked Kelly if we could walk between obstacles instead of run. We still had a long way to go and I was questioning if I had it in me to keep going and finish, but I didn’t want to leave Kelly. We signed up together, did burpees together (virtually), drove up together, and planned to run the race together. I got through the next obstacle – the Atlas Carry – and then thankfully, the obstacle after that was the Rolling Mud. Immersing myself in the cool (albeit muddy) water was actually refreshing. That helped a lot and I went on without questioning if I should stay in the race.

The last true obstacle (the Slip Wall) was completely blocking the view of the finish line. And when I got to the top of the wall, I turned around the go down the ladder without looking ahead. So when I got off the obstacle and saw that we had arrived at the fire and finish line, I was SO HAPPY and also SO SHOCKED that I made it. I was doubting myself in the days leading up to the race, race morning, and during the race. But I did it. Holy cow. I could not have done it without Kelly and some of the other friendly helpful Spartans on the course. (Kelly never doubted me by the way.)


Not so clean post-race

The total distance for the Sprint was 4 miles, and our finish time was 2:02. Probably a personal worst for Kelly, sorry about that. If we ran between obstacles, maybe we could have done a 1:30 finish. Oh well! It was fun and I finished without hurting myself, so I reached my goal.

Of the 22 obstacles on the course map, I failed 4 of them – much better than I was expecting! The penalty was 30 burpees. I’m not good at counting reps, and no one was monitoring the burpees, so …

After finishing, we got our free beer (Coors Light), Kelly bought some swag for her kiddos, we picked up some other free food samples and then headed back to the shuttle. (There were showers but we didn’t want to delay getting on the road too much.) When we got back to the parking lot, I washed my hands in a portable sink by the port-o-potties so I could remove my contacts, and we wiped down with some of the free shower wipes they had at the finish (pro tip: grab at least two) and changed into our finisher shirts, clean shorts, and flip flops, and got on the road.


So, would I do another Spartan Race? During and immediately after, my thought was … hell no. However, all runners/athletes know that’s never true. That was the hardest race I’ve ever tackled (doing a marathon seems so much easier now, although I was properly trained when I did it), but I think with better training (more sessions at Junior Ninja Warriors and/or a CrossFit gym), I would feel stronger tackling the obstacles.

It was certainly a fun experience, a well-done event, and the other Spartans were great. I highly recommend it to anyone who is up for the challenge! Even if you think you can’t … if I can do it, so can you!

I was provided with free registration for me and a friend, but all opinions are my own. 

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10 Comments on “Race Report: Spartan Race Chicago Sprint”

    1. If there was a spot to put down my water during an obstacle (or burpees), I did, but in most cases, it came with me (in my bra or I carried it). It went through the muddy water, and the barrel rolls under the barbed wire. I was glad to have it with me in the barbed wire because I had to take a couple breaks. I was able to rinse the bottle cap at the water stations but since I was mostly covered with mud, getting the bottle totally clean was futile.

  1. Congratulations Maggie! I’m a baby and had a hard time with the warrior dash so I’m not sure this is ever on my list! Ha!

  2. Congrats!! I’m so glad to hear this ended up being a good experience for you! Obstacle course races intimidate me, and out of the major franchises, I believe the Spartan Race has the reputation of being the most serious, so a Spartan Race in particular sounds especially tough. I’m glad the weather cooperated and you had a fun time!

    1. Yeah, I don’t know why starting with a Spartan sounded like a good idea … it’s amazing what we’ll do when something is free!

      One of the trainers I worked out with at On the Go Bootcamp did the 12-hour “Hurricane Heat” (didn’t know that was a thing). I can’t believe people do a Spartan and are like … how can we make this harder?

  3. Congrats Maggie! I am definitely intimidated by Spartan races! It seems like there was a lot of teamwork and people helping each other out so that is nice ! And good job for sticking with it when you were thinking about quitting! Having a friend there is good motivation!

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