By Pete Williams
Al Harrington, like any NBA player, has some time on his hands these days. With the NBA lockout nearly two months old and labor peace nowhere in sight, pro basketball players are looking for something to do.
On Sept. 24, the Denver Nuggets forward will compete in The Spartan Race at Wolfe’s Pond Park on Staten Island. This is the eight-mile Super Spartan Race. I admire Harrington, 31, for attempting it, but having done the 3-mile version of The Spartan Race in Virginia in June, I’m skeptical of any 6-foot-9, 250-pound guy getting through it, world-class athlete or not.
The Spartan Race, which debuted in Florida this year and returns to Miami on April 23, is one of the tougher events in the ever-growing obstacle mud run category. There’s a lot of crawling under barbwire and other tight areas, climbing through and around obstacles, carrying huge rocks, and doing 30 Burpees for being unwilling or unable to complete challenges.
I can’t imagine navigating the Spartan Race balance beam with Harrington’s size-17 feet. (Thirty Burpees for Al there). In Virginia, where the event was held at a paintball site, a sniper took aim at us during one obstacle. Al would provide a huge target. And I’m guessing Burpees are a lot tougher being 6-foot-9 than 5-10.
I’d be most concerned with an event that provides literally a thousand opportunities to twist an ankle or throw out a knee. Maybe Harrington doesn’t have to worry about playing basketball anytime soon, but what if an unlikely settlement is reached?
Then again, it can’t be any worse than risking a knee or ankle over the course of a basketball game.
When you spend two-plus hours on the ground and in the woods, poison ivy is likely. I acquired the worse case of my life at The Spartan Race. Fortunately, a cycle of prescription steroids knocked it out quickly. Would Harrington be allowed to ‘roid up? Does it matter in a lockout?
“This competition is definitely outside – way outside – my comfort zone,” Harrington said in a Spartan Race release. “But I’m hoping to inspire people to focus on finishing despite the obstacles before them. The Spartan Race is all about doing one’s best. Sure it’s great to win, but just as good to know that you came to play, played all the way, and didn’t hold back.”
Harrington will have no trouble leaping over fire, a staple at The Spartan Race. If he can make it to the end, his size and jumping ability will come in handy. Athletes must climb over a six-foot wall, seven-foot wall, and eight-foot wall, all greased from previous competitors. Most of us struggle. Harrington can probably leap over them.
As for the guys dressed as extras from the movie 300 who guard the finish line and swing giant mallets at the athletes, I’d be worried if I was them. What Spartan wannabe is going to challenge a guy as big as Xerses?
Heck, when Harrington completes the race, he should don the red cape and loincloth and guard the finish line himself.
Spartan Race organizers say 20 percent of the field doesn’t finish. I’m predicting a Harrington finish, some pain for the guys guarding the finish line, and some sore knees the following day.