The Reebok Spartan Race concluded its 2015 season at Lake Tahoe, CA, with the Spartan Race World Championships, and Army National Guard Captain Robert Killian (middle in above photo) crossed the finish line first to earn the $15,000 grand prize. On a chilly, 40-degree Saturday morning, elite obstacle course racers lined up to climb, crawl, jump, and power their way through the 14.75-mile Spartan Race Beast, the official World Championship Course. 

Killian, who is based in Colorado, crossed the finish line in about two and half hours. “It’s awesome. It’s the first time I’ve been a world champion at anything,” says Killian. “I couldn’t believe it, it was amazing.” A high school and collegiate track runner, Killian has done a few triathlons and won the 2010 military division of the Ironman World Championships, but his training diversified after joining the military.

“We do a lot of obstacle course training and ruck marching with weight which correlates with building quadriceps and upper body strength,” Killian says. “In May, I did a competition called Best Ranger, similar to Spartan Race, where all the rangers come together to do a 72–hour race without sleep or rest. That’s one of the biggest things that helped me train for this year.”

The 12-year serviceman shared his main training goals heading to the Spartan Race’s first-ever Lake Tahoe course. “The things I focused on most during training was uphill and downhill climbing, because many guys have trouble going down a mountain which is where you can create, lose or make up a lot of time,” says Killian. “I set up gymnastics rings and a Herculean Hoist (a pulley system for lifting heavy weights in the air) in my garage, and I have my own spear, so I was practicing that.”

As for weightlifting, Killian, who ran four previous Spartan Races in 2015, favors circuit training. “I’ll go from chest, to biceps, to triceps, to legs. I’ll do circuit training 2-3 days for 45 minutes a session,” Killian says. “I do moderate weight with higher reps, not super heavy. In the military, we do a lot of pushups and situps and work our core a lot.”

Spartan race womens

In the women’s World Championships race, Zuzana Kocumova, of Czech Republic, finished first. Kocumova won the European Spartan Race Championships and competed in the 1998 Olympic Games in cross-country skiing. “I used to be a cross-country skier, but now I run, ride a bicycle, climb rocks, do burpees, and I dance a lot,” says Kocumova. “I like moving and here you can use every type of movement in life.” A cross-country skier since age three, Kocumova does all of her training outdoors, and this race was her first-ever in the U.S., and fourth in 2015. She described the difference between Spartan Race in Europe and America. “The European Championship was longer than here and the weight is heavier,” says Kocumova. “The monkey bars are not as difficult in Europe. There were no balance obstacles today but in Europe there are usually balance obstacles, and I like those.” The functional athlete wasn’t really phased by the change in altitude, the mountain peaks were nearly 9,000 feet high. “I was here a week before the race so I felt quite well at this high altitude,” Kocumova says. “I enjoyed running today.”

Killian and Kocumova each take home $15,000 and a bunch of other prizes, and the 20 top athletes in each gender also received prize money. Overall, these two athletes finished faster than expected for a course as tough as the “Tahoe Beast.” Representatives from Lake Tahoe contacted the Spartan Race organization offering to host the event. “The race has gotten so big that Tahoe called us,” says Spartan Race CEO Joe De Sena. “They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, so we brought the event out here and we’ll see if it stays here. We hope it does.“

The 2016 Spartan Race season starts next week, and De Sena advises getting your tickets as soon as possible. “2016 is the year of the sellout,” he says. “I think we start shutting our doors and saying ‘Sorry you can’t get in this race anymore, it’s sold out.’ We’ve never done that, but the reality is people are going to have to start signing up early. We’ll be at about 160 races around the globe, and it’s a big machine to control.”

De Sena says he wants Spartan Race to be part of the 2024 Olympic Games. “I want to make this is a legitimate sport and our goal is to motivate people, rip them off the couch, and get healthy again,” he says. “Right now we change a million people’s lives a year, but I’m talking about changing a billion people’s lives. I’ve got to make this a legitimate sport anybody in any country can feel comfortable doing because it’s legit and only the Olympics can deliver that.”