Almost 3,000 years ago, the stadion was an Olympic event and signature race of the Games — a massive 200-yard sprint to test the speed, strength, and willpower of fierce competitors. Today, Spartan honors this ancient athletic feat with its own inspired version: The Spartan Stadion. In this race series, Spartan takes over some of the most famous stadiums in the world presenting a 3-mile course packed with 20 tough obstacles and hundreds of bleachers to run up. But the best part about this kind of race? It’s totally doable for everyone. Whether you’re a family of racers (kids included!), a veteran Spartan looking for a challenge, or an obstacle-course beginner, the Stadion is fast, fun, and action-packed. It will push your mental and physical grit like nothing you’ve done before. So find your race, take up a strength training program and read on for our top 10 things to know about racing a Stadion. (Bonus: includes training tips from our in-house pro and the surprising challenge that’s tough for most runners.)
1. Stadion is a Race for Everyone
Whether you’re breaking into Spartan Racing for the first time, or you want a race you can tackle with the whole family, Stadion is for you. Athletes of all ages and skill levels may compete in a Spartan Stadion Event, and Spartan even has a dedicated race for kids ages 4 - 13. “With the right training, there’s no need to be intimidated or reason excuses,” says Jonathan Fine, Head of Global Brand Communications at Spartan. “Prepare to step outside of your comfort zone and have some fun on the course.”
2. Stairs & Your Strength Training Program
Stadion races are set up differently from most other Spartan events because they thread together three miles of obstacles both inside and outside of the ballpark. So, you’ll be climbing hundreds of stairs during the run itself to get from one obstacle to the next. A proper strength training program offers a huge boost. “A newcomer to Stadion may not be prepared for the stairs,” says Fine. “Working on your legs and core during in your strength training program will be a plus because a lot of the climbs are mixed with weighted carries which can wear racers down fast.”
3. Stadion Races Move at a Faster Pace than Typical Spartan Events
By nature, the Stadion moves at a much quicker pace than a Spartan Sprint, which is technically the same distance. Although many of the same obstacles exist in both races (like the Spear Throw, Rope Climb, Multi-Rig and plenty of walls) there is less running distance between obstacles in a Stadion. In addition, there are functional fitness competitions sprinkled throughout the course where you complete challenges like Box Jumps, Air Bikes, and Rolling Epics. “The course will push racers both mentally and physically but if they aren’t afraid to fail and have been working on moderate cardio, and strength and conditioning the finish line is within reach,” says Fine.
4. You Get Backstage Access to the World’s Top Stadiums
Fine says one of the biggest draws to Spartan Stadion events is the venues themselves. Home to some of the top sports teams in history, and an architectural feature for their respective cities, these stadiums draw adventure enthusiasts alike for a backstage look. “Racers get unprecedented access to the ballparks and stadiums, from completing pushups in the visiting team’s locker rooms, to climbing the A-Frame Cargo Net on the warning track, to getting a behind-the-scenes look while racing down narrow corridors,” says Fine. Plus, once you’ve had your race-tour of the stadium and you’re rounding the corner to the finish line, you’ll close out the race with a gauntlet of heavy bags instead of the fire jump (the signature finish to other Spartan outdoor races).
5. You Can Kiss (Half Of) the Burpee Penalty Goodbye
No one likes “punishment” and the penalty for failing to complete an obstacle is a set of grueling burpees before you can continue running. Tough to do when you’re already winded, right? But the good news is that with all of the obstacles and fitness challenges crammed into such a short distance, Spartan asks a penalty of 15 burpees (as opposed to a standard 30, for all other races) for incomplete obstacles. So even if you feel clueless as to how to approach some obstacles technically, or you lose your grip and fall, the burpee penalty will be more digestible at a Stadion race.
6. Bleachers = The Toughest Hang Up for Most Racers
Because there’s a lot of stair running in a Stadion, it’s important to ensure your strength training program builds and conditions your legs, as a priority. Most runners get hung up on the stairs because they’re used to running flatter distances, but the good news is that you can mitigate it in your training. “The bleachers crush the legs, and I find a lot of runners getting fatigued as a result,” says Sam Stauffer, Spartan’s Head of Training. “A strength training program that emphasizes a lot of lunging and step-up patterns is the way to go. You'll want to master this in the gym before you hit the Stadion.”
7. Beginners Take Note: Endurance is Everything
If you’re new to Spartan, or even new to adventure obstacle racing, you might be worried about the wall climbs or monkey bars. But Stauffer says it’s important to know the biggest “obstacle” in any Spartan Race is cultivating your endurance. “Having a great base of endurance will help you a ton for your first race — the rest is technique and grit,” says Stauffer. “When it comes to training for a Stadion, a program that balances both functional movement patterns with endurance movements will give you the biggest bang for your buck.” Once you build a solid level of cardio, strength training should become your focus. “A Stadion event is going to challenge your legs a lot more than the wooded races. Having to tackle bleachers is the largest difference [between Stadion and other Spartan events], and it makes all of the difference. For most Spartan Races, grip strength and endurance are the limiting factors. For Stadion events, grip plays a part, but strength endurance of the legs is key!”
8. Train Smarter with 3-Way Conditioning
According to Stauffer, a solid Stadion endurance and strength training program means runners are training all three energy systems in the body. This means you are working an exercise program with:
· Quick bursts of movement that boost the heart rate and challenge you anaerobically
· Exercises that balance both quick bursts of movement/cardio with longer lasting moderate intensity work
· Workouts that challenge you aerobically, incorporating long distance cardio work like long runs or bike rides
9. Elite or Competitive Runners Can Level Up with Functional Training
If you’re a Spartan veteran and want to take your racing to the next level, tackling a Stadion is a fun way to check your progress and make gains. “It all comes down to owning movement patterns in all planes of motion,” says Stauffer. “The more masterfully you own your body movements and the better you can move, the better off you'll be in any race.” While he says anyone can run 1 - 4 miles per day to prepare for a Stadion and be just fine, those who incorporate functional training with a conditioning and strength training program will have the greatest chance of success and physical improvement. On the flipside, developing your mental game is also crucial. “The mental game is also a large proponent of your success,” says Stauffer. “Thinking of how you're going to overcome an obstacle and visualizing yourself doing it will do wonders!”
10. You Can Race a Stadion Worldwide
Spartan has 10 Stadion events planned across the U.S. this year in some of the most popular stadiums in the country including Citi Field, Fenway Park and Angel Stadium of Anaheim. But if you’re a travel enthusiast too, your Stadion racing doesn't have to stop in the States. Take it international with one of Spartan’s many courses around the world, from Amsterdam to Madrid to Abu Dhabi. Fine says Stadion events typically sell out and draw crowds of 8,000 - 15,000 people over the course of the weekend, so it’s an all-around good time.