(Originally written for MudandObstacle.com)
The 2014 Reebok Spartan World Championship at the Vermont Beast featured a brutal course that left elites humbled and some participants and racing websites openly pondering if the course was just too hard.
But talk to the guy who won it, and it sounds like a different race.
“I expected it to be hilly and have some heavy carries. I was right about that, but found the rest of the course manageable,” says 2014 Reebok Spartan World Champion Jon Albon. “The sandbags were a catalyst to make the rest of the obstacles harder, but apart from that everything was manageable and spaced out.”
Maybe that’s why he’s the champ. Albon, a native of England, slayed the “manageable” Vermont Beast with an impressive performance that featured an epic battle over the course’s final few miles, as he held off a strong challenge from second-place Ryan Atkins. Albon completed the course in 3 hours and 23 minutes, beating Atkins by just one minute.
Albon took the lead at the first spear throw, more than half way into the race. During the second sandbag carry, he dropped back to third. “Part way into the sandbag carry, I figured my race was over. I could hardly pick the things up,” says Albon.
But Albon was able to track down Atkins, and passed him when Atkins missed the second spear throw. The seesaw battle continued as Atkins caught Albon at the race’s final obstacle, the monkey bars. From there, it was a footrace to the finish, which played to Albon’s running strength.
This was Albon’s only stateside race outside of the 2013 Spartan Death Race. To say he’s been successful at obstacle racing would be an understatement. You’d have to go back to 2011 to find the last time he was defeated in an obstacle race. Nearly all of his races have been in the United Kingdom and Norway, where he is currently living. The cold weather and difficult obstacles in those European races were great preparation for Vermont.
“[The Vermont Beast] was tough, but not as tough as other races I have done,” says Albon. “The obstacles were big but quite spread out. If it wasn’t for the hills and the double sandbag I may have been disappointed, but these made the race nails.”
For training, Albon says he does lots of running. He also does bouldering, cycling, swimming and cross-country skiing. And, he says, since moving to Norway he has begun circuit training at a Crossfit gym.
With the Reebok Spartan World Championship behind him, Albon now has to figure out what to do, both in a racing sense and in life. He’s been unemployed since recently moving to Norway to be with his girlfriend. He says that will now have to change.
He also says he’s been so focused on the Vermont Beast that he hasn’t really made plans for other upcoming races. Of course, that is sure to change. And Albon says he hopes to see some of his American competitors making their way to his side of the pond.
“I would love for some of the competitors to come to the UK to try some of our homegrown events,” says Albon, “especially in winter.”