More than 5,000 participants challenged their athletic abilities during the Citi Field Spartan Stadion 5K obstacle race on Saturday, Nov. 20.
The home of the New York Mets was turned into a rigorous racecourse with 20 obstacles testing the athletes’ strength, endurance and speed. The race, which drew runners of all ages, started at 7 a.m. with waves of 15 racers released every minute.
Testing the runners’ endurance, the trail led them through the stadium’s interior and exterior, up and down staircases. The obstacles — including a stadium stair run with sandbags, weighted burpees and rope climb — challenged the participants’ muscle strength.
Before reaching the finish line where racers received the coveted Stadion’s race unique and collectible yellow medal, they had to make it through “the gauntlet,” a jungle of swinging, heavy bags.
Founded in 2010 by endurance athlete Joe de Sena, Spartan Race quickly gained a massive following of pro and amateur athletes alike and now hosts more than 250 events across the globe.
Spartan offers six different races with varying degrees of difficulty. The 5K, 20-obstacle Stadion is fast and intense — perfect for beginners and experts alike. The most challenging one, the Spartan Ultra, is, according to their website, a “truly unique and brutal challenge,” merging the sport of obstacle course racing along with 50K courses and 60 obstacles.
Friends Dominique, Dan, Meghann, Erin and Lucy — all Ithaca College students — participated for the first time. Erin came up with the idea to run the Spartan Race.
“I wanted to run a Spartan Race, and I didn’t want to do it alone,” Erin said. “At first, they said no, [but] I convinced them to run today.”
The group prepared for the race by following the Spartan Race training plan and built their endurance with 5K runs.
When asked if they had a time goal in mind, they joked that they wanted to finish the race in less than six hours.
The Stadion Race was Jason Jeffrey’s third Spartan Race. The Brooklynite, who works out six days a week, ran two outdoor races in New Jersey and upstate New York. His goal is to run the Spartan Super and Ultra races.
“All my friends used to do it, and they were like ‘man, you have to do one.’ And I was like, ‘this is amazing.'” Jeffrey said. “So, I want to do more. And I’m looking forward to that.”
Tyler Spencer, the race director for Spartan Race, was elated to see the energized and positive crowd in the stadium after the COVID-19 pandemic halted all competitions.
“[The Spartan Race] is ripping people off the couch and getting them out in this wonderful environment,” Spencer said. “And getting to see people back at races has been fantastic for us. It’s just been a blast.”
Elite racer Miranda Kielpinski, who placed first, said it felt great to be back.
“I mean, winning is awesome, obviously,” Kielpinski said. “But I like the competitiveness and the community and the event and the vibes and good energy. It feels great.”
Kielpinski’s training schedule consists of running, cycling, rock climbing and circuit training. She said that the pandemic actually upped her fitness level.
“I just kept the motivation going,” the surfer from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, said. “I feel like a lot of these girls are very motivated. We have that in common to just keep hoping that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Isaac Lacey, who placed first in the men’s elite runner, also used the 2020 pandemic-related hiatus to focus on his fitness and improve his running skills.
The New Hampshire native has been calling Brooklyn home for the past 11 years, and winning his last race of the season in New York City was the “cherry on top” of a successful 2021 race season.
“I knew that [running] was something that was lacking to be competitive with these other top elites,” Lacey said. “So yeah, I was able to just really put in a solid year of dedication to improving my running and fitness. 2021 has been a good opportunity to kind of test that fitness at a bunch of races. And so I had a pretty good year.”
The athlete, who participated in his first Spartan Race at Citi Field in 2018, shared that in 2022 he wants to participate in the Spartan Ultra Race.
“It’s a great sport,” Lacey said, emphasizing the camaraderie among the athletes. “Ultimately, it’s a really great community. It’s always awesome to come out, and see a lot of friends and familiar faces I raced with.”
Anyone who wants to make a New Year’s resolution for 2022 and test their athletic abilities by finishing a Spartan Race for bragging rights and the unique collectible swag, including a special medal and shirt, can head over to spartan.com.