Popular obstacle course race incorporating military traditions of the Spartans arrives in China

By Du Qiongfang Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/13 18:48:40

Beast mode!

Many people have seen 300, the 2006 American film that fictionalized the Battle of Thermopylae within the Persian Wars. Years later, the movie's muscular Spartan soldiers have inspired the Spartan Race, an obstacle course that incorporates the ancient military traditions of the Spartans and holds over 130 competitions in 30 countries and regions across the world every year, attracting over 8 million competitors, sohu.com reported in February 2018. Debuting in the mountains of the state Vermont in the US, the Spartan Race offers three core races each escalating in distance, obstacle count and challenge level: the Spartan Sprint is 5 kilometers and 20 obstacles; the Spartan Super is 15 kilometers and 25 obstacles; the Spartan Beast is 20 kilometers and 30 obstacles, according to information on spartanrace.cn. The courses are riddled with signature obstacles such as mud, barbed wire, walls, rope and fire. Competitors who complete all three can join the elite Trifecta Tribe.

The Spartans of Shanghai

"Spartan Race is a great event where you can compete by yourself as an individual or you can do it with your friends, teammates and classmates. Some of the obstacles are a bit challenging, the rest is just super fun, where you feel like a child again. It's a huge playground for both adults and kids, because we also have Spartan Kids. To me it is the best sports event on the planet," said 33-year-old Venezuelan Richardson Manzol, the 2018 Spartan Race Ambassador in China.

Manzol, who has been in China for seven years, is a big fan of sports. Since he was little, he has played soccer, baseball, running and skiing. He has also been skating for the past 15 years.

The first time he heard about the Spartan Race was in 2016 when his friends participated in the US version. He traveled to the US just to do the race there. He returned to China and did another Spartan Race after it was introduced to the country.

In Shanghai, he was lucky to meet the founder of Spartan Race, Joe De Sena, who showed great interest in Manzol's team of eight. "It was a very special race to me, because this is the kind of thing I like to do. I like challenges. I like all kinds of obstacles and climbing like a monkey. Doing the race is just like being free in the jungle," Manzol said.

In 2017, Manzol partook in more Spartan races in China. He did the Spartan Sprint in Shanghai, the Spartan Super in Beijing and went to Malaysia to accomplish the Spartan Beast, completing his eligibility to join the elite Trifecta Tribe.

Manzol shares his Spartan experiences with his friends before and after each race on WeChat and other social media. By answering his friends' questions about the Spartan Race, he is de facto promoting the race everywhere and all the time.

"I was showing everybody my passion for the Spartan race," said Manzol, who was chosen as one of the five Spartan Race Ambassadors in China earlier this year because of his passion for the race. His job is to promote the race and teach others what the race is about and motivate them to try new things.

A very personal thing

"I take the job as a very personal thing, because I have been doing this for a long time already. I have been introducing the race to a lot of people in Shanghai. I want everybody to challenge themselves, and to try something different. I want to show them that this is actually something anyone can do, any size, any age, any condition. I'm trying to show them that this is possible and you can do it," Manzol said.

"I want to change people's lives toward a healthier, more sporty and more fit lifestyle,"  Manzol added. "Now that I am an ambassador, I have more information, more knowledge and more chances to reach a wider community in China to motivate them to do the race."

Manzol thinks the biggest result that people who participate in the Spartan Race will receive is not only a medal but an experience of the heart. "They will be full joy and happiness from having done something awesome. They will have the feeling that they have achieved something incredible and amazing," Manzol exclaimed.

"I take it as a personal challenge. It is also a way to show others that anything is possible, even though it looks hard. They can try and they can achieve it. So my goal for this year is to do as many races as I can, to complete at least three trifectas," said Manzol who explained that three trifectas means nine races including three Sprint races, three Super races and three Beast races.

Core training

Thus far this year, Manzol has completed five Sprint races in Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, and two Super races in Shanghai and Beijing.

"Spartan Beast was challenging because it's a long distance; 21 kilometers. The race venue was very challenging. It had hills and stones, rivers and lakes. But I enjoyed every obstacle," Manzol said.

Manzol's most unforgettable Spartan experience was his very first race in China, in 2016. "At least four of my friends didn't properly train before the race. Two of them didn't even know about the race, but the day before the race they signed up. We finished it together as a team," Manzol said.

"The obstacles that I enjoy the most are the monkey bars. But it's also the obstacle I don't like so much, because if you are doing the race, your hands are wet and you are very tired. Or you do some obstacles with your upper body, then you do the monkey bar, it's too difficult for you to have a good grip. You may fall because you are tired on your arms or the bars are wet," Manzol told the Global Times

Manzol suggests to people who want to participate in the Spartan to train properly first. "Core training is the most important, because with a strong core, you can overcome many obstacles like rope climbing and the monkey bars," Manzol said.

Another important type training is running, because the Spartan races include a lot of running between the obstacles. Weight lifting training is also helpful. "People who don't train first then try to go too fast get injured. But if you train, you know the techniques and have less chance of getting injured," Manzol said.

As to safety measures people can take during the race, foremost is to know the obstacles by reading the guidelines and rules. "You must understand what you are doing, then you are safe," Manzol said.

Richardson Manzol, the 2018 Spartan Race Ambassador in China Photos: Lu Ting/GT

Spartan Race medals Photos: Lu Ting/GT

A woman in training Photos: Lu Ting/GT

Richardson Manzol does push-ups. Photos: Lu Ting/GT





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