Gluttons for punishment: Spartan runners brave mud, barbed wire, obstacles in fast-growing sport

Posted: April 2, 2014 by kirisyko in Obstacle racing, SykOtic
Tags: , ,
ABOVE: The challenge and the camaraderie attracted to Keri Langille to Spartan racing. The races incorporate obstacles such as mud.

ABOVE: The challenge and the camaraderie attracted to Keri Langille to Spartan racing. The races incorporate obstacles such as mud. / Courtesy photo

Growing in popularity, obstacle races or mud runs have become the newest fad among the road race set, who now are adding climbing walls, barbed wire and fire to their training regimes.

Whether it goes by the moniker Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, Spartan Race or Superhero Scramble, this sub-sport has begun to draw tens of thousands into its fold.

Keri Langille of Great Falls is a dedicated Spartan Run disciple, having run in four Spartan races since June.

A competitor and dedicated runner, Langille nevertheless said her favorite part of Spartan Races has nothing to do with what place she finishes.

“It’s supposed to be fun. It’s full of camaraderie, full of support,” she said.

Intense and muddy, Spartan Races come in three levels — a three-mile, 15-obstacle Spartan Sprint; an 8-mile, 20-obstacle Super Spartan; and 12-mile, 25-obstacle Spartan Beast.

Langille, who has run since elementary school and counts beloved Great Falls coach Branch Brady as a mentor, discovered she has a knack for the Spartan Race, finishing in the top three of her 50 to 54 age group in each of her four races.

At a Spartan Sprint in Tampa, Fla., on Feb. 15, Langille finished 62nd overall out of 5,089 racers, was the third female finisher and first in her age group.

“I shocked myself,” she said.

Langille got hooked on Spartan Race because it’s fun, but she also is a tough competitor.

“I like to challenge myself,” she said.

Like Langille, Valerie Flaherty pushes herself, too. A disciple of CrossFit, Flaherty has found a home in the mud in the Spartan Race.

“I’m like a little kid — running, jumping, getting a little muddy and playing in the dirt,” said Flaherty, of Great Falls.

Last year, when she heard a Spartan Race would be held in Kalispell, she and some friends and members of her Crossfit gym entered as a team.

The race was the five-mile sprint, with obstacles placed in different spots on the course. Runners are not told which obstacles they will be negotiating ahead of time.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “There was some anxiety and surprise of ‘What’s around the next corner?’ or looking at a wall and going, ‘How am I going to get over it?’”

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