The name “Spartan” alone carries a legacy commonly associated with fearsome, disciplined warriors, soon becoming synonymous with endurance, strength, and the pursuit of physical greatness. Spartan warriors are remembered to have completed legendary feats, surpassing the limits many ordinary people struggle to reach. To this day, the Spartan name is still being used with near superhuman feats, and this time, it has arrived in town for brave local Spartans to conquer.
The Spartan Downtown Challenge 2018 is the first inception of the Spartan Singapore urban obstacle course. Hosted in conjunction with OUE Downtown on 23 June 2018, Spartans stepped up to conquer the first ever road obstacle course, right in the heart of the city. That day, I was invited to test my mettle against the course, and what an experience it was.
The Spartan Downtown Challenge featured two obstacle courses: one for adults, and the other for children aged 4 to 13. Both test the strength, speed, power, balance, and stamina of Spartans-in-the-making. The adults’ obstacle course had six obstacles over 200 metres, which initially looked quite demanding, but felt rather easy to clear once you’ve tried it.
The kids’ obstacle course is essentially a smaller, simpler course which featured six obstacles, comprising balance beams, breeze bottle carry, Hercules hoist, a slip wall, and a wall climb. The full course stretches to a distance of about 300 metres, and it is a proving ground for young Spartans who aspire to eventually compete in full-fledged Spartan races.
Attempting the adult course reminded me a little bit of what I went through in Basic Military Training (BMT), albeit easier. For one, the course is far shorter, had much less obstacles to clear, and I was not weighed down by a heavy rifle and combat gear. It was time to see what effect one-and-a-half years of stagnating in shift work – coupled with a severe lack of training and exercise – had on my body. Mentally, I was ready, but I was sure as hell that even this short obstacle course will get me winded before the end.
The starting point was quite simple: a chest-height wall to leap over before the first obstacle, and it was reminscent of a giant monkey bar rig, except that it was inverted towards the challenger which made it quite the test of upper body strength. A jump up, climb over, back down, and the obstacle is cleared.
A short jog to the next obstacle, an inverted wall, was far easier than the previous one. If you’re anywhere close to semi-athletic and have an idea of how to scale walls, climbing over this wouldn’t pose a challenge at all. Easy.
The third obstacle is something straight out of a playground: one low wall to leap over, one to crawl (or roll) under, and the last, a window to leap through. I’m sure you’ve seen countless parkour videos of people stylishly vaulting; one hand on top of the wall, with legs splayed to the side, gliding over skillfully.
Well, I obviously cannot do that, but I tried to achieve something of a similar effect. The more adventurous individuals may – although I advise against it – leap through headfirst, at your own risk of looking cool and possibly face-planting into the tarmac.
The next was the easiest of the lot: hoist a 40 or 60-pound sandbag, and do a shuttle run to-and-fro. Lift with the knees, and you’d save yourself a lot of back injuries.
The final gauntlet – a 5-metre rope climb – was the toughest and most daunting obstacle of the whole course. Having done the same obstacle in BMT, the climb was familiar, but still difficult. To make it tougher, the height of the rope was much taller than what I trained on back in BMT. I conquered it without too much difficulty, but the lack of shin protection or cover led to a huge rope burn and eventual bleeding on my left shin. To this date, the scar remains to remind me of the ghastly obstacle.
If you fail to complete any of the stations, you have to perform a simple forfeit consisting of a set of 5 burpees, and you can proceed onto the next. What that means is that you can also finish the entire Spartan course just doing burpees, but that wouldn’t be fun at all, would it?
Overall, the entire course was rather short, and fairly manageable for most amateurs. Most can opt to go for a second round, or a third if you’re up for the challenge. It’s a deceptively simple course, however, after my second round, my arms were dead tired from the sheer emphasis on upper body strength. It’s a far cry from the actual full-length Spartan Races, but it does give most beginners a nice gauge of what to expect. I went for three rounds but had no more strength to climb the rope on my last round.
After my little endeavour, special guests from the cast of Ah Boys to Men – Tosh Zhang, Maxi Lim, Joshua Tan, and Noah Yap – along with Allan Wu, took to the Spartan course with their attempt to conquer it, and a fine run from Allan Wu had him being one of the fastest to complete the entire course.
All competitors who completed the course were awarded
Furthermore, Spartan merchandise such as shirts, tank tops, towels and accessories, were also sold on site. Various miscellaneous booths and activities were also present, such as protein supplements and sports gear. For hungry participants who craved for a healthy refuel, the OUE Social Kitchen opened its doors to all Downtown Challenge Spartans, where families had a go at making pancakes. Adults and children alike learnt how to craft the finest pancakes under the guidance of OUE Social Kitchen’s resident chef. For participants who opted not to have pancakes, OUE Social Kitchen also served up a delectable spread of healthy bites like chicken burritos, brunch parfait, and organic apple cider, all throughout the day.
The OUE Spartan Downtown Challenge was definitely toned down a lot compared to the original Spartan races, but it is a fun family event for people who are up for a good physical challenge, or to have a nice workout on obstacles one can’t usually find elsewhere.
I’ll definitely be looking out for the next instalment of the Spartan Races, what about you?
Photos by Francis Tan of the DANAMIC team.