, Newburyport, MA

August 9, 2013

Up and over obstacles

Port architect will run in his fifth Spartan Race tomorrow

By Jim Sullivan

---- — It takes a certain type of person to run a Spartan Race. Newburyport architect Scott Brown is one of them.

“Call me sick, but I like to get banged up,” said Brown, 40. “This obstacle racing stuff has become kind of a full-time hobby. They have these events kind of all year around, so you really can’t stop. You’ve got to keep going.

“I can’t wait to get out there on Saturday. It’s been a year since I’ve been in Amesbury and I’ve been thinking about it all year.”

Brown will be running his fifth Spartan Race at Amesbury Sports Park on Saturday and plans on running two more before the year is up.

An intense, competitive man by nature, Brown ran track and played soccer in high school. He runs on average 30 miles a week and competes in road races regularly, often finishing in the top 5 percent. But none of that prepared him for his first obstacle course race, the Warrior Dash in Amesbury in June of 2011.

“I had just come off my soccer season, so, naturally, I thought I was in pretty good shape,” said Brown. “I couldn’t imagine failing any obstacles or anything like that. So I was pretty confident going into this Warrior Dash.

“But, for a few days beforehand, it rained really, really hard and the course was a muddy mess. I just remember getting to the top of the hill and into the woods and thinking; ‘What is this?’ Because it was really the first sort of technical trail running I had done and it was absolute madness.”

Brown was confronted with a muddy cacophony.

“They had taped off areas for trails and everything was mud,” said Brown. “Thousands of people had run before me so you’re running downhill and running over slippery roots and rocks. Everything was slippery. (But) that was only 3 miles of light-duty obstacles. It was nothing like the Spartan Race.”

The Spartan Race, a 3-mile race/ordeal with military style obstacles including rope climbs, barbed wire crawls and a fire pit returned to Amesbury in August of 2011 and Brown was ready to go, or so he thought.

“It brought me to the breaking point, which is nice,” Brown said of his first Spartan. “You get to the top of the hill and the madness starts. You don’t know what to expect because they are trying to get you out of your comfort zone. It was almost like a battle zone up there, this field with barbed wire and muddy trenches. It was a little bit surreal.”

Brown says it is the burpees, four-count squat thrusts, that separate the Spartan Race from most obstacle-style races. If a runner fails an obstacle, he or she must do 30 burpees and it’s something that brings everyone together on the course.

“There is a sense of camaraderie there,” Brown said of the atmosphere. “We all have to do the same stuff. The burpees sort of bond us together. It makes for great stories. Everyone wants to talk about it after.”

No fan of the burpees, Brown has even gone as far as to build replicas in his yard of obstacles that he has failed to prepare, including a spear throw, a rope climb and a transverse wall.

“I’m not going to fail these again,” said Brown. “It’s all about getting faster and proving that, despite being 40, you can still be pretty good. Each bruise and scrape is all a sort of individual trophy to an extent.

“But I really do them because I’m competitive and I find them incredibly difficult. It takes a lot of effort to become really good at them. I’m naturally an intense person so it is kind of a good fit.”

Once this weekend is over, Brown will begin preparing for the Spartan Beast in Killington, Vt., in September.

“That’s a whole different level of insanity I’ll be going through in September,” said Brown. “So that will be fun.”

For more, go to