Adventure racers will be following in the footprints of Henry VIII as the Spartan Race series gets underway this month. Around 10,000 are expected to descend on Pippingford Park, former hunting grounds favoured by England's most notorious king.
Dan Tuffnell, director of Spartan Race UK, said the course of the race, covering steep hills and challenging natural obstacles, would be 'brutal in places'.
“We have merged our race design with the undulating terrain so that racers come out sweating, steaming and maybe cursing, thinking: ‘Who designed that?!’ In places it can be brutal, in other places it can be the most beautiful place in the country.”
Spartan races are aimed at a range of abilities from beginners to hardened endurance athletes. All grapple with fearsome obstacles that test their physical stamina and mental toughness. Obstacles are kept top secret on purpose to surprise racers, but they may tackle 15-foot rope climbs, slippery 7-foot ramp scaling, spear target-throwing, carrying sandbags up steep hills and barbed-wire mud crawls.
Would-be Spartans may also have to scale 25-foot-high cargo nets and leap through fire.
Time penalties are common, punishable by a compulsory set of 30 burpees, meted out irrespective of gender. And, contrary to some people’s expectations that Spartan Race events are all just about male testosterone, in fact over 45 per cent of Spartan racers are women.
The first race, the August 30 Sprint, a 5km race with over 15 obstacles, the August 31 Super, over 13km with over 20 obstacles and October 11 The Beast over 20km and over 25 obstacles.
The events are expected to draw a total of around 10,000 racers, plus another 5,000 spectators. A festival village will create a community atmosphere, with refreshments, and Junior Spartan races for youngsters aged four to 13 years.
At Spartan Race’s first event in Britain in 2010, held at the British Army training facility at Bassingbourn Barracks, Cambs, just 1,000 trailblazers took part. This year, 25,000 UK racers are expected to finish a Spartan Race event.
Spartan Race is supported by its title sponsor, the global fitness brand Reebok, and Run For Charity, which helps competitors maximise the money they raise for charity.