Spartans don’t give up, the man trying to catch his breath is told by a tough guy. Alvin Thomas gets curious with the people lying face flat on the Azaiba beach.
It’s like the set of a sci-fi movie: scores of people lying face flat on the sands of the beach in Azaiba while several others crawling or lumbering towards the safe and flat ground.
No, I am not describing a still from the zombie apocalypse television series ‘The Walking Dead’, but rather the scene from the training grounds of the world-renowned Spartan Race.
And why wouldn’t they be exhausted? The participants are taking part in one of the most challenging training sessions they have ever had.
Spartan Race, organised in Oman by Spartan (a US-based company), is a series of obstacle races held across 25 countries, of distances ranging from 5km (Sprint) to 20km (Beast). The training regime starts with stretching. “How hard can it be,” you ask. Well, stretching is just the start of things to come.
The almost-Spartans then shuffle onwards to the high-intensity training grounds on the beach. What happens then is beyond belief; it’s military-grade tough. And it doesn’t matter if you are young or old, fit or unfit, or simply exhausted.
It is almost 8:30am and the sun is already glaring down, upping the temperatures to a sultry 38-degrees-Celsius. The high humidity isn’t helping either.
The training starts with coaches Steven Bartle and Risto Dimitrov motivating the participants to give it their all. They are then asked to run towards the trap points where they have to fall flat and crawl towards the exit.
Following that is a series of Ss that aims to test their agility, before they are made to repeat the gruelling course again.
Any mistake and the offender must undertake a 10-pushup penalty!
But if you’re thinking that Spartan Race is only for the strong, then think again. About 35 epilepsy patients –kids and adults alike –are taking part in the training.
From the founder of UB-Cool (an adventure-booking platform based in Oman) Medina Ilyasova, we learn that the free-training session is organised by the company in association with the UFC Gym Oman.
“We are doing it to raise epilepsy awareness in Oman. We want to educate people about this illness while taking part in Spartan Race.
“Our message to the people is: we can do a lot more than what others think.
Soon, I am interrupted by Risto. “Why are you standing there with a camera,” he asks me, before turning his attention to another participant.
“Are you ready to be a winner? Spartans don’t give up when they are tired,” Risto tells one man who is seen catching his breath while on his knees on the sand.
When I talk to the Macedonian-born coach Risto (the mixed-martial arts coach at UFC Gym Oman) about his training, he says: “I am tough with these guys; they are going to take part in the toughest race in the world.”
“I own them,” laughs the coach.
Leeds-based coach Steven says it is a hot day for such rigorous training.
“I think we had a fantastic turnout today,” he says.
“We are going to be putting forward more programmes over the coming few weeks. Today was just a feeler for people; giving them an indication about what the training is all about.
Talking about supporting the epileptic patients, Steven says: “We are here to support everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are and how fit you are. It’s all about giving it your best shot; everybody works within their own limits after all.”
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for them to come down and take part. Hopefully, the turnout in the coming weeks will be better,” he adds, before running back to give the participants another dose of training action.