by Carrie Adams

At Spartan Race HQ we are lucky enough to receive inspiring stories from all over the world of athletes who have faced adversity only to come back stronger and more determined than ever.  I recently received this story about eighteen-year-old Ella Anne Kociuba and I knew her story would inspire.  After a horrific injury she has battled back and her story of triumph and success is one you won’t soon forget.  Here is her story in her own words. 

ella2My names Ella Anne Kociuba, I am eighteen years old and currently attending a community college in Austin, Texas. I have big plans for the future (I hope to one day be the image of Spartan Racing and become a professional athlete/writer).  I would like to explain my story to you so that those who are struggling can see the light in even the darkest of times.

Throughout my young life I have been faced with chronic pain that caused me to have a new outlook on everything.  It quickly challenged me with the worst, but slowly developed me into my best. For years doctors could not tell me what was wrong with me or why my body was failing me. I can not stress to you in a few words the pain I felt, the nights I did not rest, and the moments I missed out on due to an injury that nearly ended my athletic pursuits.

I’ve been a competitive horse-back rider since a little one, and when I was thirteenella1 years old I was seriously involved with endurance riding (25-50 Mile cross country horse races).  I trained hard but one day I suffered a horrible accident.  My horse spooked and threw me off its back and Ianded hard on the sharp rocks below knocking me unconscious.   I was broken and crippled.  Doctor’s informed me that I had broken the L4 and L5 vertebrae.  I was monumentally depressed at the bleak outlook.

It became an endless cycle of doctors, treatments, back braces, and medications.  Everything seemed hopeless. Nothing was helping and I knew I was progressively getting worse.  The pain was unbearable.  I couldn’t function.  But, finally, after six doctor’s a specialist informed me that it was possible I’d never walk again.  Performing an experimental surgery and nine hours later, six rods and four screws aligned in my spine I awoke a new person.

The journey from that wasn’t an easy one.  It took me a year to recover the precious strength I’d lost and be ready to think about competing in sports again; something I was told I’d never do.  This was a mere five years ago. 

Since that day, I’ve pushed hard always keeping my head forward, eyes up, and overcoming any challenge in front of me. Because I truly believe that you can do anything if you give it your everything.

ellaI recently did my first Super Spartan race in Glenn Rose, Texas.  I performed well and managed to come out as first female in my heat.  It was one of the happiest moments ever for me.  Not only had I completed the Super Spartan obstacle race, and won my heat, but I had fallen in love with the sport and proved myself worthy. I welcome all challenges and I will perform to the best of my ability to each and everyone of them.

The Spartan Race series has brought such happiness to my life, it’s such a demanding sport that I have become so passionate about spreading the joy it gives you at the finish line. I hope to one day have a sponsorship and compete state to state in obstacle racing and help inspire others to never give up. If I had given up, I wouldn’t be walking. If I had given up, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. If I had given up, I wouldn’t of found what I truly love to do. And that is, Spartan Races! AROO!

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by James Horgan

maslow-pyramidWhy do we Spartan?  In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote a paper A Theory of human Motivation. In this he postulated the theory that became Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  At the bottom you have Physiological and Safety.  In a nutshell.  After the basic human functions are met.  After we are clothed, sheltered and fed.  After we are protected from the intrinsic dangers of weather, nature, and other people, we are free to explore other avenues of interest.  Which are the top two levels of Maslow’s hierarchal pyramid.  Self Actualization and Self Esteem.  This leaves one level in between, Love and Belonging

So why do we Spartan? 

For many it is a chance to belong, to subscribe, to participate in a group where simple participation is a badge of acceptance.  Finishing is a validation of accomplishment.  And for everyone, it is a chance to push one’s limits beyond the length of a given course or the weight of cold iron in a gym.

Cultures through the ages have had rites of passage.  An event that marks the transition from one state of development into another.  This is usually the point where a person develops that level of love and belonging.  That point where you are no longer provided for by the tribe but in fact contribute to provide for the tribe to become a tribe member.  In America, as a nation, we really don’t have a point where we recognize this transition.  Cultures and religions in our society do, but as a Nation we typically don’t.  We have markers which are recognized such as attaining a drivers license, the right to vote, or to drink.  But these are arbitrary, and set up by law.  With no real accomplishment by the individual except to attain a certain age.  

So why do we Spartan?

It fills a principle need in our lives to accomplish a goal, to have validation of that accomplishment by our peers.

A Spartan race fills one of our basic human need’s love and belonging.  To this end it frees us to explore and attain the next level of need.  Self Esteem.  For many, starting a Spartan race is a huge accomplishment.  For others finishing it is.  Still others improving over a previous time is their goal.  The sense of accomplishment is no different for any runner regardless of their personal goal.  We Spartan because there is a group of obstacles in front of us which we can see, we can manage, and we can over come.  To our left, to our right, in front of us and behind us there are other people who must accomplish the same task’s.  Regardless of gender, ignorant to age or ability, unimpressed by level of fitness; the obstacles are there.  The obstacles stand stoic and unfeeling.  They do not judge you.  They will not mock you and they will not compliment you. Wether you breeze through the obstacle or fail in your attempt the obstacle is there, you chose to meet it.  Some will succeed others will not.  Everyone will try.  In the end it is the sense of accomplishment in our attempt that fills our self esteem.  It is a well we can draw from in our daily life.  It is something that cannot be taken away, it cannot be diminished.  It cannot be cheapened or diluted by others.  At the finish line we all are deserved of the title Spartan.

The pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid is Self Actualization.  Becoming, who you are.  Philosophically and Theologically this can be debated as to how this is attained or even what it means.  It is the by product of challenge and the accumulation of self esteem, where we are confident to seek out new challenges to make us a better person.  We see this all the time  at Spartan race’s.  “I have never, ever done anything like this in my life! ” “It was awesome.”  ”It changed the way I look at myself”  ”I can’t wait to do another”  This list goes on. People get fit to do a race, and it becomes a habit.  They identify things in their life that are bad for them, that are destructive.  They start to notice people or activities that don’t support the positive changes they want  to make for themselves.  They gain the strength, the energy and the confidence to move forward and stay moving.  By running a Spartan race and getting involved in the tribe of Spartans people change.  Not everyone.  But most.  Not everyone is ready to make change.  Others are.  Not everyone is ready to except the challenge but everyone need’s the invitation to try. You don’t need to be the best runner, the best jumper, the best climber or the best anything.  You do need to try to be the best at being you, because being the best you is the only best you need to be.

And that is why we Spartan.

Originally posted in the Massachusetts Spartan’s Street Team Blog.

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by Carrie Adams

Noel-HannaOn a Monday morning, most people are settling into work behind a desk, looking forward to weekend plans and just trying to make it through the day. Noel Hanna, 44, isn’t most people. I received this email from him this one Monday morning last year:

“At present I am sitting at Everest Base camp in Tibet with 4 clients who are hoping to reach the summit. I have already been to the summit 3 times from both sides of the mountain.”

He then politely offered me a phone number where I could reach him between “2000hrs until 2300hrs my time, if I needed anything. Noel’s days often begin this way, and that’s nothing new to the Northern Ireland native.

Recently, Noel Hanna had an ambitious goal. He set out to climb the highest peak on all seven continents. On December 22, 2009, at the summit of Mt. Vinson in Antarctica, he reached his goal and earned himself a World Record for the effort. In addition to his Mt. Vinson assent, Noel scaled Everest, Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro and the Carstensz Pyramid. He’s seen the world from the highest peaks on all seven continents, but he never stayed to admire the view. Instead, he raced down to sea level by running, skiing, biking, or kayaking over hostile terrain at top speeds. In the process of completing his goal, these peaks, he and his wife Lynne Hanna, an accomplished mountaineer in her own right, raised over 130,000 euro for UCF, the Ulster Cancer Foundation – Northern Ireland’s leading local cancer charity. You can read about his amazing, record-breaking journey on his website7Summits2Sea Level.  He attempted and completed another ascent just this past year. 

Noel’s no stranger to danger or challenge. We’re talking about a guy who’s been chased by headhunters in Papua New Guinea and survived being on the anti-terrorist squad of the RUC police force. His experience on the police squad gave Noel the thrill of challenge that he craved.

That craving for adrenaline led him to adventure races like the Eco Challenge along with endurance running like the Bad Water 135 and the marathon Des Sables. It was during that time of adventure and endurance racing when Joe Desena approached Noel about creating a new kind of challenge. “Make it a race that would break all who took part. That was a given,” he recalls.

Alongside eight other ultra-athletes, he helped design Spartan Race.  The race that would challenge anyone who took part, that would push the runners into new territories of endurance and strength, and would set the race apart from any other event on the planet. And Noel should know, since he’s had a pretty lofty view.

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by Carrie Adams

carrie_kenn1This story is special to me, because as a female endurance athlete, single mother to two daughters, AND a Spartan employee, promoting the women who come to our races and encouraging more to take part means a lot to me!  Spartan Race is one of the fastest growing active racing organizations in the world. We are more than just your average “mud” run we are an international obstacle racing organization that promotes athleticism, an active lifestyle and bringing together a community of people across the globe. A community of people comprised of some pretty amazing women and girls. 

Spartan Chicked is a movement I began last summer to educate, motivate, and empower women and girls to begin and continue active, competitive, supportive, and fitness driven lifestyles. 

BD2_7586Currently, 32% of Spartan Race competitors are female and we are looking to increase those numbers in 2012 with efforts focused on our female demographic and encouraging participation in our 32 global events. With Spartan Chicked gear and some big ideas for 2012, expect to hear a lot about the Spartan women!  30,000 women raced with Spartan in 2011 and that number is expected to double in 2012!

Spartan Chicked is a movement open to women of all athletic backgrounds from competitive to just beginning a journey of health and well-being. Competitive female athletes like Xterra racer Jennifer Tobin, 2011 Spartan first place female, professional adventure racer Danelle Balangee, Olympic hopeful Lindsey Scherf Georgia Spartan Sprint winner, and Canadian National team member Claude Godbout, Spartan Beast second place finisher have all graced Spartan courses with their feats of athleticism and performance. Check out the special edition Spartan Chicked video that details the movement and some of the amazing women.

Our nearly 700,000 FB fans are represented by 30% female fans and Spartan Race TV and Radio Show regularly feature female Spartan stories and special interests and every Tuesday is dedicated to Spartan Chicks on all our digital platforms highlighting our amazing community. Spartan Chicked has a dedicated blog that is regularly updated by Spartan Chicks!

clip_image013The Spartan Chicked campaign targets young women and girls to show them that being strong, capable, and pushing ourselves is fun and fulfilling. We are here to inspire a nation to get off the couch, take care of their bodies, and ultimately challenge themselves to push through obstacles and overcome adversity.

Our Spartan tagline is “You’ll Know at the Finish Line” and we want as many women as possible to get to experience that feeling of achievement through one of our races!

We will be featuring the amazing Spartan women on our blog and telling their stories.  So look forward to more from our Spartan Chicked community!

Are you a Spartan Chick?  Two things. 

1. Become a part of our closed network on FB: Click HERE and request to join.  No boys allowed!  We share fitness tips, nutrition information, motivation, support and everything in between. 

2. If you want to share your own Chicked story, email carrie@spartanrace.com

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by Carrie Adams

Growing up in Peoria, IL, Andy Weinberg, 41, always loved the water.  He swam competitively in high school and college, and when he did his first triathlon in high school, he fell in love.  At the time there weren’t many people doing them, and after college Andy spent a couple years really hitting the triathlon circuit.  He burnt out with swimming after a few years and decided to focus on running instead.  Admittedly never “super-fast,” he trained consistently and did 11 marathons in one year alone.

Then, after running into a hometown acquaintance at an event who told him about ultra-marathons, Andy caught the bug.  He has now completed over 40 ultras, mostly 50-mile and 100-mile distances.  Through the challenge of running extreme distances, Andy learned what it felt like to push himself and succeed.  Of course it wasn’t long until he had to try an Ironman, a double Ironman, even a triple.

andy1Weinberg met Joe DeSena through mutual friends in 2005 where they completed the Vermont 100.  When Andy came back to Vermont for an all-night snowshoe, the two soon found themselves talking about how racers can become “soft” because they always know what to expect.  “An ultra isn’t an easy race, but when you know it’s 100 miles, you can train for that.  You can prepare for that,” Andy said.  He and Joe spent the night talking about a new kind of race.  A race in which participants wouldn’t know when it would start or finish, or even what the race would consist of.  In other words, a race that no one can train for.  Racers would simply need to summon the courage and show up.  So the Death Race was born.  Andy began putting on races in Vermont with Joe and three years later he moved his family to Vermont to teach and race direct full time.  (By the way, he biked the 1200 miles from Peoria to VT in seven days, mainly because his friends said he couldn’t.)

The Spartan Race is born out of the same spirit.  The Death Race is the most extreme and designed for only the most extreme athletes but Spartan isn’t a walk in the park.  It’s there to attract serious athletes who want to compete.   Andy says, “Spartan Race is unique because the team involved, the whole company is athletes.  They run races, they’ve traveled the world, they know racing and they know athletes.  Most of the other obstacle races can’t say that.  And Spartan events are races… not parties.  It’s about going as hard as you can.”  On a personal level, Weinberg feels that Spartan Races play a role in preventing illness by inspiring people to get off the couch and get active. “Our nation is at its absolute worst place.  Childhood obesity and diabetes are both preventable as long as you make good choices.  You just have to get out there and exercise a bit.  Why not let Spartan help you get there?”

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