Beastly race requires beastly training

Fred McCormick

It takes hard work and dedication to slay the “Beast,” and plenty of upper-body strength as well.

But preparing to run 13 miles through mud, while crawling over obstacles was fun for a team of six members of Cheshire Fitness Club, who banded together to run the Spartan Beast in Winnsboro, South Carolina on Nov. 14.

Julie Harrison has been an instructor at Cheshire since it opened nearly a decade ago. Leading kick boxing, high-intensity interval training and other group workout classes prompted her last summer to take on the Asheville Super, an 8-mile Spartan race in Black Mountain. The race was so physically demanding that she decided to introduce an intense training program to members of her classes.

“We loved the Asheville Super, and we are already wanting to run it again next year,” she said. “As soon as we finished that one, Kriste (Little, a local marathon runner) and I were like ‘All right, where are we going next?’”

Harrison and Little completed the Asheville Super with Virginie Pomeroy. Afterward, the trio welcomed three more people to the team.

“You don’t necessarily have to have a team to run a Spartan race, but it is really helpful to have a partner,” Harrison said. “The reason people run races is because they’re fun. But they also give you motivation to work out.”

Everyone on the team takes Harrison’s classes, and all would meet on Saturdays and Sundays as well to work out.

The group built strength through its Cross Fit training to contend with the obstacles, many of which require upper-body strength.

“There is a method to climbing a rope. So you have to train for that to be ready for it,” Harrison said. “You really need to understand the method behind getting over many of the obstacles. That helps you train for them.”

The Spartan Beast in mid-November was part of the Carolinas Beast and Sprint Weekend. The weekend included a three-mile sprint.

“The three of us that ran the Asheville Super wanted to win what’s called a Trifecta Medal, which you earn for completing a Sprint, Super and Beast in the same year,” Harrison said. “But the six of us had to finish the Beast first.”

The conditions proved challenging for all six - Harrison, Little, Pomeroy, Tiffany Hancock, Hannah Nihart and Ana Comorotti. They finished the race in a little over four hours.

“It was so muddy,” Harrison said. “There were six miles where we could just not run because it was so slick. We were just slipping and sliding all over the place.”

Harrison, Little and Pomeroy earned their Trifecta Medal the following day by completing the Sprint.

Little, who had never experienced a mud run before the Asheville Super, has already started preparing to run more.

“The first time you run one, there are a couple of obstacles that you realize are going to be standard, but then you realize ‘Oh, I didn’t think about this obstacle and I need to train for it,’” she said.

Little is asking her husband for a spear and a bale of hay for Christmas, as well as gymnastic rings. She plans to use the items to train for future mud runs.

A highlight of the experience, Harrison said, was the camaraderie among group members. She anticipates more members of her classes will be interested in training for mud runs. She said training for her own mud run got her in the best shape of her life.

“It is a fun way to be held accountable for your workouts,” she said. “We had a great time doing trail runs, forming that bond with each other and getting each other excited through our group text thread.”

Little and Harrison hope to organize group training for the Asheville Super which will likely return to Black Mountain next year.

“Being with a team to prepare for something like this is great,” Little said. “Everybody helps everybody.”