The Stairway to Spartan…

… was the first obstacle to encounter and sums up the race at the famous Johan Cruijff Arena pretty well: stairs, stairs, stairs and a lot of vertical meters to climb. The stadium is the home of AJAX Amsterdam since 1996 and can accommodate 50.820 spectators.

After starting in groups of eight people, I climbed the first obstacle. Running out of the arena from level two to the basement and then directly up to level seven my heart rate exploded, which I absolutely did not need at the Slack-Line. But this was only the beginning of the stairy way to Spartan heaven. 

As a photographer, I have seen thousands of athletes, complex race courses with ridiculous obstacles, faces filled with emotions – focus, effort and happiness through the camera. This time, the Sportograf Office suggested that I could also run, use the time to check up with the 14 photographers spread all over the course and feel like a Spartan. I declined.

And then accepted. Stating that I would probably be a lousy Spartan, my inner couch potato did not want to do 15 burpees at 23 obstacles. Luckily, the race went better than I anticipated. At Slack-Line I was getting ready for my first set of burpees, but managed the obstacle surprising even the applauding volunteer. Continuing through the obstacles and levels, Spear Throw forced me to do my first 15 burpees, the tedious combination of plank, push up and straight jump, which is hell for your heart rate, especially after sprinting. I have seen many people struggle at Spear Throw so I expected this to happen. Arriving at Multi Rig shortly after, burpees again. The two photographers at the obstacle were happy with the spot and even more happy seeing me fall at the obstacle.

The reason why we cover some of the obstacles at every race and some rarely is the athlete moving through it. You want to see your (handsome and smiling) face on the photo and we need to see your start number additionally to tag your name to the correct picture. At Multi Rig and Monkey Bars that works very well, but for example at Spear Throw it is impossible, because we cannot stand in front of you throwing the spear.

The worst obstacle for me was Chain Carry half way through the race. Luckily, I never had to carry a chain around my neck before, but I had no idea how to do it now. I carried it way to close around my neck, making breathing difficult, which is a terrible idea if you need to walk three storeys of stairs with it. 

Compared to that, Sand Bag Carry was much more comfortable and I had the time to enjoy the view over the stadium. An arena, what a glorious setting for a Spartan Race!

Passing my photographer colleagues on the way to Rope Climb, I noticed one LS (short for “Lichtschranke”, one of our automatic cameras triggered by a motion sensitive infrared sensor) was not working. I stopped, checked the battery and then tried to restart it. Hence the passing participants did not recognise me as Sportograf, they were not happy seeing me doing that. Out of breath and short in time there was no time for explanation. Sorry for the confusion, I promise I didn’t steal Marco’s camera.

Music at seven obstacles gave the race a more fun and entertainment charter than being to competitive, as the race operating officer highlighted before the start.Climbing through several obstacles, I finally made it to the A-Wall and Fire Jump. Followed by three Sportografs and four LS over the last obstacles, it was a pleasure to finish my first Spartan Race with the legendary Fire Jump.

Decorated with the massive finisher medal, I presented it proudly in the Hero Tent. After a short refreshment and changing, I continued to takes pictures on the A-Wall. This was so much fun because I could still feel the excitement in my chest by climbing over the obstacle, looking right into finish. Next time I’ll be prepared for the Multi-Rig. Arroooo!

Cheers, Jan

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