Dear Joe,

I wanted to thank you and your team for the Spartan Races.

I have been in the Marine Corps for over 19 years and done a couple combat tours. After my last combat tour I came back with some heavy PTSD, amongst a myriad of other issues. It has been a daily struggle for 4 years to grind through migraines, daily cluster headaches and back pain, TBI, and the PTSD. I ran my first Spartan in Temecula this year. I got the whim to run it when I was researching 5k’s on Active.com. I have never been the same since. It really smoked me physically, but mentally I was alive! For the first time in 4 years I feel like I am in charge of my body and spirit. 

I have run one since with one of my sons in Phoenix and I signed up for the Vegas Super, Colorado Sprints (both days), Montana Sprint and Hurricane Heat, and the Monterey Beast to complete the trifecta. The annual pass is getting its use from me! I ran the Phoenix Sprint with my son and broke one of my toes about halfway through. I refused to quit or show any pain. It wasn’t till we were done that I told my son, because I was actually thinking about coming back the next day. After 4 years of grinding with the daily debilitating back pain and headaches I felt like a broken toe was not that big of a deal. I keep getting asked by my friends who know about my daily physical pain, why I run Spartans. I tell them proudly that I run them because they make me feel alive and show my body I am still in charge.

Thank you so much. Please share as much as you want. The races and the experiences have been therapeutic.

Semper Fidelis, Lonnie

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On January 10th 2013, Brian Tanzer received a phone call that no son or daughter ever want to hear. Two days shy of his 92nd birthday, Brian’s father passed away. Not quite sure how he was going to tell his mother, Brian knew this news was going to hit harder than anything his mother had heard before. She had been suffering with emphysema for years and was actually in hospital with pneumonia at the time. The news was indeed too much to bear and three weeks later, she passed on, too.

“I knew I had to be strong for my family.  As was my typical for me, even as a kid, I found God and exercise to be my salvation. I prayed every day for God to help me turn my sadness and despair into strength and fortitude. Helping to take care of my parents for the last 4 years of their life was a great honor and pleasure. As a father of two wonderful daughters, I know that being a great parent takes a lot of energy and sacrifice. I wanted to do something significant to honor my parent’s memory, and all the sacrifices they made that helped me become the man, husband and father that I am today.”

“Everyone has moments sometimes when they question stuff or perhaps lose a little faith. There were times when my faith wavered, but my amazing wife and two wonderful daughters helped keep my faith strong. I think a lot of people have moments in their life when they question their faith in God. They become angry, want to blame someone or something, or, simply feel “abandoned” by God. Having these feelings is all part of our “walk” with God. We are faced with challenges, and our faith is always being tested. This is how our relationship with God is strengthened. Our faith may waiver, and we may slip and fall, but we have to get back up, stay strong and understand that life is not intended to be easy. We can’t just have faith when everything in our life is going well. It is during times of adversity that our faith in God must be strong.”

Brian found the Spartan Race blog not long after and read some of the stories some past participants shared. Stories of courage, defeating cancer, losing a limb, memories of loved ones, all channeled into acts of heroism and courage to overcome. At around that time, his work sent out an email challenging their employees with the Spartan Race in Vernon, NJ. Could this have been a coincidence, or was He talking to Brian and offering him an opportunity to do something?

Brian was a healthy man, but an accident in the days of his youth would cast a shadow of doubt over just how far he could push through this idea that was forming in his mind.

“My friends and I loved playing football, especially in the snow with no equipment. I was 15 years old when I had a collision with my older brother which resulted in a severe injury to my lower back.  After a visit to the ER and having no broken bones, I went home and was told to stay off my feet for a couple of weeks and to avoid contact sports. Being 15 and thinking I was indestructible, I went back to playing football, martial arts, and all the other sports and activities I enjoyed.”

“After 4 years of chiropractors and physicians telling me to limit my physical activity, I sought the advice of a surgeon who told me “I could fix your back, and you’ll be as good as new.” I had a severely herniated disc in my lower spine which was compressing nerves causing shooting pains, numbness and weakness in my legs. Following surgery and 10 weeks of rehabilitation, I was back to limited activity, and then within 6 months back to playing sports again. Since I had no aspirations of being a professional football player, I limited myself to touch football, but went back to all my other activities. As the years progressed the pain in my back continued to get worse.

When he was 26, he received a diagnosis of failed back surgery syndrome. He noticed that the pain was much different to that before the surgery. A few years rolled by in which 20 epidural injections were administered to his spine. Not really providing any help or relief, his physician suggested a spinal cord stimulator. This would be a small device that delivered electrical impulses along his spine which were designed to “block” pain signals. Sadly, this didn’t work. He awoke the very next morning in such pain that he was rushed to hospital to have the wire removed from his spine at once.

“For some reason, the wire shifted during the night and left me unable to move my legs. When I left the hospital I vowed to never have another procedure on my back. The past few years I have discovered the incredible benefits of yoga. It has helped my pain and increased my flexibility. Although I still fight chronic pain, the more active I am the better I feel. I use my pain as motivation, and not an excuse to sit around.”

Utilizing this mechanical-free way of staying physically active gave Brian the motivation and the tools he needed in order to convince him to tackle his first Spartan Race.

“Several colleagues and I signed up, showed up and completed the TriState New Jersey Super Spartan. It was about 8 miles long and it took me about 3 ½ hours to complete. It was physically and mentally challenging, but when it was over, I felt a real sense of accomplishment. After the race, I noticed some people were walking around with a different medal than the one I was given. I asked one of my fellow racers what it was and he described to me the Spartan Trifecta, and what he did to earn this medal. As I walked away I thought to myself what a great “gift” to give my parents.”

Brian didn’t really know how this was going to come to fruition. At this point in the year, there were only 3 months left and opportunities to check off the list what he needed were scarce. The day following the NJ Super, he registered for the Sprint at Citizen’s Bank Park that was only 3 weeks later. After that, a trip to South Carolina proved to seal his promise to his parents.

“It was a long, cold 13 miles that took over 5 hours to complete. Given the cold temperatures and frigid water, there were a few moments during the race when my legs cramped up so bad it made it extremely difficult to keep running; I did have a secret “weapon”. All I had to do was look down and there was my wristband with an old photo of my mom and dad sealed inside. It was caked with mud and I could barely see the photo, but it was enough to keep me going. Someone was going to have to chop my legs off for me to stop. I was doing this for them, and I said to myself, I’m not going to stop because my parents sacrificed so much for me that it would be a disgrace to their memory if I just didn’t keep pushing forward. I have to admit, when that race was over, and I crossed the finish line I was cold, soaked and tired, but really didn’t care.  Sixty days prior I set out to complete all three Spartan races in 60 days as a gift for my mother and father and when the Beast was conquered, I had accomplished my goal. It was a great day!”

Reflecting on what he sees in his life and in his line of work, he knows that the physical, while easy to see on the outside, is also very important on this inside whether it be the body or the mind.

“Most people think fitness and health is about having a six-pack, big biceps and looking good in a swimsuit. Health and fitness is about much more than appearance. It’s about having energy and vitality, endurance, stamina, strength and flexibility –the complete package. As a nutritionist and fitness advocate I find it very disturbing to see the impact of physical inactivity, particularly on our youth. Playing outdoors and being physically active has taken a backseat to cell phones, video games and TV. There are so many kids who can’t pass a basic physical fitness test, and live in an environment where physical activity is not encouraged. I know I like to challenge myself by training with people that are half my age, rather than being complacent with being able to keep up with people my own age. I credit my fitness with helping me get through the many physical and emotional challenges I’ve faced.”

Brian now intends to honor the memory of his parents with a Trifecta every year. Not put off with the various horror stories, myths and legends about the venue of Mount Killington in Vermont, he embraces the idea that the event is there to try and break him.

“I’m planning on completing the Vermont Spartan Beast in 2014. I’ve heard about how incredibly difficult and challenging the course was last year for the World Championship, but I never let anything stop me from accomplishing my goals before, so I’m not going to start now. I’ll be 46 years old in July, so I’m not sure how many more “good” years I have left. I have no plans to slow down any time soon, so as long as my mind says yes, I’ll figure out how to get my body to follow!”

Thankful for what Spartan Race has done, Brian has become a new man. New in that he now has a channel, a conduit to which he can aim the gamut of emotions with him into a positive.

“Spartan Race has been a great way for me to turn my pain and sadness into strength and fortitude. Life is challenging, and there are so many obstacles along the way. We must meet those obstacles head on, as doing so makes you stronger and able to push forward. We’re all going to stumble and, on occasions even fall down. What matters is how quickly you get back up and push forward. We must surround ourselves with those we love most and treasure each and every day. At 45 years old, I’m not sure how long I can keep racing.”

“In memory of my loving mother and father.  Thank you Spartan Race!”

See you at the finish line…

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In 1984, the Olympic games were held in the glorious summer heat of Los Angeles. Records were being broken, Carl Lewis was grabbing four gold medals on his path to becoming arguably, the greatest ever Track and Field athlete and British athlete, Daley Thompson, would go on to set a new Decathlon record.

Away from the podiums, medals and headlines, a lonely figure in the inaugural women’s marathon would go on to provide dramatic images that would flash across the screens of the world for a very long time. Her name was Gabrielle Anderson-Scheisse and she would soon be making history.

The Idaho based ski instructor, although clearly living in America, was born in Switzerland and so represented her country. As no slouch or stranger to long distance running, as her achievements would prove. She won both the California International Marathon and the Two Cities Marathon in Minneapolis the previous year and was also a record holder of the Swiss 10,000 meters and the marathon, too.

The race started without incident in Santa Monica on what was a muggy August morning. Keeping good pace throughout the race, towards the end she started to be affected by the heat. Turning in from the streets into the tunnel that would lead to the stadium briefly afforded Gabrielle – “Gabi” – a little respite, but with the stadium containing the heat and not allowing for wind and ventilation, the temperature increased dramatically inside.

Gabrielle’s body was overheating badly and having missed the last aid station, she was literally running on empty. The last 400 meters – one lap of a track circuit – took her almost six minutes.

Her body was screaming out in pain. Her left arm flailing at her side and her right leg unbending at the knee, she was veering from lane to lane as she stuttered and staggered to keep upright. Now closer to stumbling to that of running or even walking, she rounded the last corner of the home straight with her torso badly lurched over to her left.

Medics repeatedly tried to assist her, but still showing the mental capacity to understand that if one of them touched her, she would be disqualified, she waved and shooed them away, even moving away from them when they tried to get close. All medical and aid staff were deliberating what to do, but noticed that she was still sweating. Realizing that if she was still perspiring, she still had fluids in her, they shadowed her approach to the finish line, making sure to not be near her, but close enough in case something terrible happened.

The winner of the woman’s marathon – Joan Benoit -had already finished some 24 minutes earlier, but in that moment, 70,000 were on their feet willing and urging Gabi home. The collective will of each person gasping in shock at the resilience of the single figure approaching the finish line.

Gabi continued to limp and lurch, occasionally holding her head, touching her white cap that covered her heavily sweated hair. As her steps became slower and ever more painful, she eventually made it across the line to fall into the arms of three waiting medics that rushed her straight to a unit where she could be treated for heat exhaustion and possible dehydration.

Miraculously, she was released from hospital after only two hours of intravenous hydration and cooling with ice packs and was on her way back to the Olympic village, completely unaware of the fuss she had created. The next day, she was being interviewed on TV, oblivious to why so many people were making what she considered a huge fuss.

She says, “Generally, I wasn’t happy about all this press. I thought it was not appropriate. I didn’t think it was that special, and I couldn’t understand why the press was so fascinated by it. By her standards, with no sense of arrogance, more one of humble understanding of how it all works, she says simply, “you try to at least finish your event.”

However, over the years the retired runner, but still active cross-country skier and mountain biker, has learned to understand why she is seen as someone who made an impact in so many people’s lives. Her unrelenting fight – that “Spartan” willpower – as it were, captivated millions across the world.

“I think people are always fascinated with something out of the ordinary,” she says. “If they see that it’s not that easy but still we fight through it, even if we don’t win, it shows the spirit of the Olympics. It’s not all about just winning. It’s also about being able to compete against the best in the world.”

“When that happens”, she adds, “Anything can happen.”

Sign up for your next Spartan Race and we’ll see you at the finish line…

credits: sp.beijing2008.cn, runninginlate20s.blogspot, webdevil.


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Dear Joe,

John Bruno Grimaldi’s Story: a true Spartan in my eyes!

Bruno is a loving husband to my oldest sister Kelly, and father to 2 year old Dean. He works as a Diesel Mechanic at Yard Trucks in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Not long after Dean was born, on October 30, 2011, Bruno was initially diagnosed with testicular cancer and underwent surgery and one round of chemotherapy. This treatment course took place at Cooper Medical Center in Voorhees, New Jersey, where the Grimaldi’s lived at the time. Bruno and Kelly were thrilled to learn that the cure rate was 90%.

After the diagnosis, Bruno’s determination to get into a healthy lifestyle took place. He was not much of a fitness junkie or an enthusiast on healthy eating, but he had to start somewhere. Bruno began to walk, which lead to a run, then took it further and signed up for Spartan Races, Warrior Dash obstacle run and a 5K army/community run. The Grimaldi’s changed their diet and physical routine to jump start their new challenges. Bruno and Kelly worked together to set new goals and accomplish them.

In the winter of 2012, Bruno and Kelly moved to their new home which is currently in Warrington, Pennsylvania. Bruno’s physical appearance and need for a good workout only grew over time. Kelly and Bruno continued to go for runs and work out at LA Fitness together. Thankfully, Bruno was continuing to follow up with Dr. Kennedy, a Medical Oncologist at Aria Health in Pennsylvania. On December 9th, 2013, the Grimaldi’s received the news that Bruno was that 10% and his cancer was back. This time, the cancer had traveled to the lymph nodes in his lower back. With no hesitation, Bruno was ready to start his journey once again, knowing it was not going to be easy. Bruno began his first of four rounds of intense chemotherapy on January 6th, 2014. Each round of chemotherapy consists of five consecutive days of treatment for roughly 6 hours each.

Unfortunately, because of the intense treatment Bruno was undergoing, the trip they had planned to visit family in San Diego and to complete the SoCal Spartan Race on January 25th was canceled. However, four days before the race, Bruno decided to try and climb their hanging rope in their home. He easily made it to the top and once his feet hit the ground he knew he had to attempt the race. This diagnosis was not going to stop him! Bruno and Kelly decided to take their trip to San Diego and they both completed the race. This Spartan Race was an absolute challenge for both. Bruno understands that time will wait for no one and he needs to be the force that drives himself forward! Everyone can learn from this one man that moments must be cherished and the only way to live life is like climbing rope, the only way to go is up!

Thanks,

Jackie Gribbin

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Michael Mendoza wasn’t always the rippling torso of sinew and muscles that he is now. One fateful day, only 30 yards into a 10k that he’d signed up for and not trained for at all – despite his lethargic attitude to life – he realized that taking his body for granted was a dangerous thing to do. His life was going to change immediately and it all began with his diet. He explains…

“Going vegan was definitely not an overnight process, which is why it bugs me that so many people think they can guilt someone into going vegan. Look, I knew that we tortured animals, but I could have really cared less. They were our food, so who cared if they were ethically treated before slaughter, right?

Vegans and animal rights activists just have way too much time on their hands! Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely an animal lover, dogs, cats, and anything on the endangered species list, but not our food supply.”

Michael explains that he got to where he is by what he calls his “Matrix Effect”. He decided to take that  pill and see just how far the rabbit hole led him. Having already started an exercise regimen with healthier foods and leaner meats, the thought of giving up meat never crossed his mind.

“I was pretty successful in losing a large amount of weight when a book called “Skinny Bastard,” made its way into my hands. I laughed at the notion of vegetarianism but read it anyways. After reading the book, I was horrified and in disbelief. I didn’t want to buy into the fact that our food supply was really tainted. I didn’t want to believe that the government could allow any of these practices to go on. I did more research and eventually adopted a vegan diet. I lost even more weight but reverted into vegetarianism. Years go by as a vegetarian and I had gained a substantial amount of weight back.”

Michael didn’t know another vegetarian or vegan (or “v*gan”, as they are commonly referred to in text) at all by this time. This eventually changed due to social media and he met many others with the same philosophy online. Noticing that many of the vegans he saw online were athletes, he decided to give it a try and go vegan. He bought the book “Thrive” by Brendain Braizer – a successful vegan triathlete – and took his advice.

“I followed his program and had this energy that I never had before. I was able to go faster and further with this new diet. I was running 10k’s and half marathons for fun! I dropped a lot of weight and was in the best shape of my life. All thanks to social media.”

“Another thing that happened was that I learned compassion for animals. I gave up leather and anything related to animal products. Being vegan does open your eyes to the fact that you really don’t need animal products to survive. Heck, being vegan is why I have all this energy.”

But there wasn’t just one tipping point or moments of clarity that Michael puts this down to. He was around 300+lbs, smoked occasionally and drank all the time. He recalls how what he consumed on a daily basis wasn’t good. “My diet was also pretty horrendous. I never ate a single meal without meat and drank at least three cans of diet cherry coke every day.”

“I was at a party and a few friends were talking about a 10K they entered. I had run a 10K for a college final once before, and I was still confident about it. I jokingly said that I was able to run a race, and everyone just laughed at me. To prove them wrong, I signed up for it.  It was a scorcher and well over 100 degrees outside. I met all my friends and we headed to the starting line. Keep in mind, I had zero training and did not prepare for this run at all. They shot that gun and we all started running like rats abandoning a ship. I had a good stride until about 30 or so yards. My lungs started to hurt, my legs started to ache, and I could barely breathe! I took a look back at the starting line and seriously thought about heading back in shame.

300 pound guy trying to run six miles? What was I thinking? I decided the shame of turning back would be too much to handle, so I pressed forward. I decided that I would finish this God forsaken race even if I had to crawl to the finish line.”

As he was bent over double, gasping for air, he was passed by a lady that was in her 70’s. The full horror of his own physical fitness was now washing over him like a cold shower. The alarms were ringing and life was slapping his face from left to right and back again. Time to wake up, Michael.

“She looked like someone that I should help cross the street and here she was passing this guy in his 20’s?! This was ridiculous! So I gave all that I had and passed her up. It was a back and forth race for miles with this lady who should have been knitting at home, not competing with me in a race that I was obviously losing! I finally gave up! She passed me and I was embarrassed. I started to hyperventilate and seriously thought I might die that day. But Like I said, I decided to finish even if I had to crawl across that damn line!”

He eventually finished the race in what he considers to be the worst shape of his life. Sweaty, drained of energy and feeling utterly humiliated and beaten down, it took Michael 1 hour and 52 minutes to cover the 10k. Feeling so drained, Michael had to rest for a few hours before he considered himself good enough to drive home, such was the level of his exhaustion.

“Ever since that day I knew that I needed to get into shape but never really knew how. I was so lazy and eventually lost the passion to get fit. A few months later I took a trip to Europe. My life forever changed since then.”

Some of Michael’s training would include things like uphill sand dune sprints

“In the States I was huge but there were others that were equally large around me. In Europe however, I was the biggest guy in the Continent! It didn’t take very long to realize why! My first day in Venice Italy, I went to a local shop and ordered a pizza and soda. It was such a tiny slice of pizza and the smallest soda I have ever seen! I laughed and thought I must have ordered in the over-priced tourist area!

Later on for dinner, I went to another restaurant and ordered some ravioli. Oh I was super excited! I mean, I’m in Italy eating Italian. Awesome right? Nope! Here comes the waiter with my bowl full of ravioli, 4 pieces. 4 freaking pieces! It was the Twilight Zone here!”

Reverting to type, Michael resorted to what he knew – American fast food. Going to Burger King and McDonalds, he knew he would be in familiar territory. Sadly for him, he soon found that there wasn’t a “Super Size” option for him to fall back on. He quickly understood that he would “either starve or go broke.”

“Slowly but surely I started realizing that these Europeans didn’t have tiny portion sizes, but we Americans had gigantic portion sizes. I also figured out another thing, my feet were killing me. I was walking everywhere. In California, walking was for people who didn’t have cars, not for everyone else.

I came back with a new outlook on life. There was a Starbucks about a quarter mile from my apartment that I would drive to. I never took my car again and started a portion control diet with exercise.”

In regards to training, Michael was a rudderless ship. Not really knowing what he wanted to do, or even how to do it, he was all over the place.

“I started this popular diet called “Atkins.” It was great! I got to eat tons of bacon and eggs and didn’t have to worry about anything. Well, that didn’t last long. I didn’t lose any weight and I felt horrible. I started researching different programs and eventually found one that I liked. It was superset lifting with 33% protein, 33% carbs, and 33% fats. It told me to stay away from fruits and not to do any cardio. I cheated and ate fruits and started to run.”

His vendetta was consuming him. He had a score to settle with 10K of asphalt. He wanted to be able to run a distance that he considered a man of his age should easily be able to do.

“I calculated a full 3 miles around my whole apartment block. It wasn’t easy at all but I was completely motivated. My first run was similar to that 10K I did months before. After about 30 yards in, I was done, but pushed myself to keep going. Days that I wasn’t attempting to run, I started to lift. I was way too embarrassed to hit up a local gym, so I used my apartment gym instead. Luckily we had a decent amount of weights and exercise equipment. I didn’t know what I was doing so I just followed a workout plan.”

The difference in his body wasn’t something he noticed at first. Not overly concerned with how he looked, moreover how he felt, he eventually saw that, over the months, his body was changing in a positive way.

“After months of running, months of eating healthy, and months of dropping pounds, I ran 6 miles without stopping. I didn’t even really notice that I had reached this level of “athleticism.” It was everyday work for me and I had never taken notice.”

There was a quote that I printed up and went like this, “Unless you’re giving 100% every time, you might as well stay at home. So that’s what I did, gave it my 100% every time I went out! Granted, you’re going to have good days and bad days, but I never limited myself.”

“What really made me realize the difference were the compliments from friends and family at how much weight I had lost. I honestly did not notice much changing, it was only till my friends said something that I was able to really look at old pictures of myself, and notice the change.”

But as every Spartan Racer knows, there is an area that every single person has, regardless of strength, stamina, build, body shape, age or mental fortitude. A common bond that we all share and one that we all have to push past in order to make it worthwhile – the comfort zone.

“Yes! Getting out of your comfort zone!”, Michael laughs, “the hardest thing for me was getting rid of the people who were negatively influencing me and hanging out with those who would positively influence me. You cannot get into shape if you’re hanging out with people who do nothing but drink, smoke, and eat horrible food.”

“I put friendships, nightlife and fast food on hold. I told myself that it was a temporary inconvenience and that it would be worth it in the end. Boy did it pay off. I seriously felt like a whole new person afterwards. Accepting that everything I knew about food was completely wrong was hard but necessary. Admitting being wrong about a lot of stuff was tough but was the first step to recovery. Once I accepted that I had no idea what I was doing, I was then able to move forward and learn about food and fitness.”

Offering advice for those open to what he experienced, Michael is quick to lay out some pointers, should anyone want to follow his example.

“It is hard and boy is it tough! If it were easy, everyone would be in shape! You have to want it bad and be willing to struggle for it. Once you get to that point where you have that, “nothing is going to stop me,” mentality, you’ll be successful! Most people quit at the first sign of a struggle and wonder why their “diet” doesn’t work. If there is a wall, you climb it. If there is a ditch, you jump over it. If there is a lake, you swim across it. That’s it. That’s the secret! For every object that gets in your path, you have to overcome it. And that is how you will succeed.”

Obstacles are not there to prevent your progress. They are opportunities to show what your mind and body can do.

Sign up today and we’ll see you at the finish line.

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Spartan Race is pleased to announce the official signing of Isaiah Vidal to the Spartan Race Pro Team. After aiming for this goal for some time, the son of Marble Falls, Texas was clearly elated at having reached what he was aiming for.

“You can’t accomplish goals by doing them half ass. Look to the Lord and you will find the strength he gifted you with. When I first started my road into Spartan I never had the intention to become great at the sport, because I was merely doing it for fun. When I started to realize that I was beating my body from racing, riding across the country, becoming a 2 x Spartan Death Race finisher, I needed to flip the way I viewed OCR into what God wanted me to do it for. April was one of the major reasons why I began competing and started to use my athletic talent to the best of my own ability, together following our coach, Jim Warren, from Center 4 Champions training methodically to beat the best among the OCR community. It has taught me to represent the Lord and to be a model for young adults and children. 

“When I get scrapes, cuts: the answer I get from most people is that I’m crazy. In reality it doesn’t matter what anybody thinks, because I’m being the athlete I was risen to become. There’s a-lot of people that don’t have this view when hitting an obstacle in life, one starts to question the issue by saying ‘why did this happen?’, ‘why-why-why.’ Spartan Race has taught me to not complain about any issues, but to have the wisdom, the courage to overcome the obstacle themselves when presented. It has brought out a unique athlete in me that now I want to share with my family and fellow companions.”

Despite already having established a strong name for himself, Isaiah admits that he believes he hasn’t really got started yet. Training every day, he’s very much in agreement with his mentor Yancy Culp that he’s “barely scratching the surface” of his running ability. An ominous thought, given the powerhouse that he is!

“Being on the Spartan Pro Team is going to impact the way I compete against even the finest OCR athletes in the circuit. Training & living in Colorado, while still focusing on my studies will completely change me overall as an athlete.

Looking forward, Isaiah aims big, but remains humble in what he sees long term.

“Live each day as if it was your last is the mentality of greatness. I don’t plan to back down or become bitter against my competition. I plan to toe every start line and race like it was my last. This continues to be an epic journey and I want to say thank you to my family for all of their support. Thank you to all my sponsors, Spartan Race, Neogenis Sports, Pacific Healths Labs, LIFEAID, Training Mask, ATP Extreme, Leonidas OCR and, a big shout out to my coach, Jim Warren, from Center 4 Champions keeping me from plateauing! Thank you all for believing in me. I pray and thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to live up to my potential through him.”

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Robert Mathews of Sahuarita, Arizona was serving his country when he suffered an injury that cut his career short. Happy, but missing that certain something, he discovered Spartan Race. We caught up with him recently and spoke to him about his story.

“Well it ain’t long, but ill share it. Without the gore! 2006 my squad got ambushed. Those who made it, were still hanging on but not by much. I was transported from Iraq to Germany in the process received transfusions and surgeries. They tried to repair the damage, but the bullet ripped out my bicep, tore my tricep, and cut all my nerves. “

In 2007, he was sitting at Walter Reed when a huge wave of doubt and depression hit him. He considered himself “washed up.” “A young one armed handicapped person”. He was resigned to the fact that his military career was over and a hard-to-get civilian job would be on the cards. It was then that he met a man that turned his attitude around. A Delta Force guy with one arm that was in an identical situation.

“This was badass he achieved my ultimate military goal!  He told me, “If your mind is weak, your body is” and we start doing one armed pushups against the wall. My mindset was transformed! Shortly after I did a soldier ride from Phoenix to Las Vegas. I got married, and had kids. I continued to serve until 2010, mostly teaching my craft to young soldiers, when I started to encounter a lot of flax and BS. It was a consent struggle, so I retired.”

From there, we fast-forward to last year. Robert realized his kids and wife deserved the best of him. They were his priority and everything thereafter was secondary.

“Deep down on the most primal level the best of me is an endurance beast, a fighter, someone who pushes the limitations and doesn’t quit. Not doing those things suppressed a lot of me. So I moved to Arizona, where being retired I do a lot of outdoor survival, biking, camping, running and my HOA has a pretty bad ass gym. I’ll admit, I miss having two arms, but in the gym adaptation is key. Keeps me thinking on my feet.”

It was then that the Arizona Sprint came barreling around the corner into view. The first test of his character and will power. All that time spent honing his fitness would now be tested.

“The Sprint was fun, but I’m going to have my revenge on some obstacles. The sand bag hoist for sure, because as adaptive as I am, I couldn’t figure out a one armed way! And for sure the rope climb and that damn spear throw! After knocking out the Sprint, I have wrapped my head around a few ways to accommodate, adapt and overcome, but a sure bet is to master the one armed burpee. I’ve also wrote a four phase beast training guide and it started today actually.”

Was the preparation for something alien to him enough? Where the physical side can be ready, did the idea of the course, covered by a cloak of sinister mystery, worry him or was it something that he thrived upon? Robert explains that the prospect pumped him up and it was something he thrived upon.

“Trust me I trained for the Arizona Sprint like a beast. I aimed for number one.  I stepped up to the starting line feeling hard as woodpecker lips. I could taste it, but you know, winners are everywhere, finishers to me means something different. We all train to win, but only one individuals gets number one spot. Few train to finish. There are billions of people in this world and how many medals have y’all handed out? Exactly! Quitting gets easier over time it’s a hard path to change. You want to witness intestinal fortitude? Watch a person who fight and never gives in. That’s hardcore, that’s the person I want to be. I’ll try and maybe I’ll make it, maybe I won’t, but I’ll try it again and again until I get it right.”

But then, out of his new experience, he found something that excited him even more than the Sprint. Hovering into view was something he could relate to on a military-style level. He had found what he believes could be his “happy place”.

“Then I received word on the Las Vegas Twelve Hour Hurricane Heat. I immediately told my wife to skip getting me anything for Christmas, because if I can get a chance I’ll save up and go to it. Which leads me to today! As soon as the sign up was released, Robert signed up. Actually they should run the course with one arm tied up, I’d kick some ass then!”

Robert is clearly a fighter. Someone who thrives on the challenge and the pressure of a battle and while he will always aim for the top spot, it’s not the winning that is important to him. It’s the fight and the effort that count as a higher value to him.

“In the most cheesiness line ever, I won’t quit. Y’all have to carry me on a shield haha! It’s a wonderful start in the world of endurance racing. This is the me I want to be for my kids and wife. It’s a long road, but my goals are easy. To be an endurance athlete that can show people in their darkest moments that you don’t let a wall stop you, you tuck your head, grit your teeth, speed up and blow through it. Win, lose or draw, there isn’t room for quit. My job in the military showed me time and time again the body can go so much further if your mind acceptance is there.

Pain is weakness leaving the body, and you’ll never be more alive than when you’re cold, wet, hungry, bloody and beaten, both mentally, physically. Once you have felt the worse, and been thru hell, nothing is that bad afterwards.”

Reflecting on the tag line of Spartan Race – “You’ll know at the finish line” – Robert sees a heavy parallel with what he experienced in the military. While perhaps not of the same punishing weight of responsibility, that undefinable “something” was something that he’d already experienced.

“My military started as a grunt and I was told that when you’re standing on Victory Hill and they give you that blue cord, you’ll know. They were right and as cheesy as it sounds, after they hand you that medal you know. I can’t tell you to this day what it is, but you’ll know, when you burst through that finish line, people can be inspired and it’s easy to say, “that’s great the gimp did it, I can do.” I’m glad, but do it. Hell yeah I say do a Spartan, but start today. Lace your shoes up, sling a kettlebell, do a burpee and then tomorrow do two. It isn’t hard, it’s that easy! No excuses.”

Looking forward, Robert now has his battle plans drawn up and knows what he needs to do in order to get to where he wants to be. A personal battle with not just fitness and physical strength, but honing and sharpening his willpower and inner strength. Nothing, it would appear, will stand in his way.

“So in short I’ll attend the Twelve Hour Hurricane Heat. If not that, then maybe a Beast, collect some shiny medals and eventually search out a sponsorship once my race profile fills up. Locally I attend 5k’s and 10k’s. Hopefully adding marathons and century rides in this year! I will get there. It takes time and at 30 I’ve just begun! Long term is to become a hardcore endurance athlete, to continue to push the limits of mind and body! I refuse to let a non-functioning limb keep me from attempting my dreams, or have anyone tell me I don’t belong, or hold me back. I’m going to dominate my life, nothing or no one else. Me!”

Focussing that rage and harnessing the positive aggression he has into what comes next is now second nature for Robert. He knows what is allowed and what he will accept, but one thing is definitely off the menu.

“Quitting. Quitting is the one thing you can’t take back! You don’t get a redo, plain and simple you quit! I’d rather carry you and shoulder some pain and help, then let you quit. My wife and kids deserve the best of me and I have to tell her thanks for letting me pursue my dreams. There’s also the small matter of her putting up with me and these wild, ‘hey I’m going to do a Sprint, a Beast, a whatever’ moments I have. All I can do is my best and never give in.”

“It isn’t in me, it’s not for me. I’ve been shot, blown up, beaten, bloody, and left for death! There isn’t much that can hold me back, and after all that, quitting isn’t an option and it shouldn’t be for anyone. You’ve been through worse, so what’s a little mud? Get out there and STFU!”

Sign up now and we’ll see you at the finish line…

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Jo Pearson doesn’t recall very much of her life before she turned 27. It’s not that she suffered a terrible accident or violent traumatic experience, it’s simply her coping mechanism.

“All the days I spent before that life-changing year are cloudy memories that I have stored in the recesses of my mind.  I’ve locked them away from others and myself because they are just too painful to remember and they do not bring any light or love to the life that I lead now”, she explains.

Deciding to change her life has not just made Jo a new person on the outside, the one within shines a thousand time brighter, illuminating her outlook and focus.

“The life I have now is one worth fighting for – it is one filled with joy, success, love, energy, zeal, and passion.  However, it also one that forces to me to suffer at times, to feel the pain of defeat and the frustration of setbacks, and to feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.  The old me would have cowered at these type of tribulations and hid among the darkness.”

That new found radiance has permeated her attitude and zest for life, but also her mentality of how she approaches life.

“That woman that cowered is gone.  I have evolved into a warrior – a woman who will fight for what is right, just, healthy, and good in this world and who believes in her ability to make a difference in her own life and the lives of others.  I am proud of my journey for the small steps I have taken along the way are the ones that help me stand strong at the foot of mountains and keep me poised to carry on with strength, courage, grace, and honor.”

There was a point in her life when Jo weighed around 415lbs and wore a size 28. Despite being a young woman in her prime, she felt that she hadn’t even begun to live and experience life. Travelling anywhere by flight wasn’t an option because she couldn’t fit into an airplane seat. Amusement rides provided the same difficulty. This meant she rarely went out to enjoy happy times with her family or friends. This led to a vicious circle of staying indoors. Accusatory and mocking looks, pointed fingers and stares led her to feel isolated, with only family and a tight, small circle of friends being around her.

“Physically, I can remember not being able to walk up the 16 stairs at my parents’ house without feeling like I had just ran a marathon.  And, I never ever contemplated setting foot into a gym because it would have been too embarrassing.  I had become a person that wasn’t truly alive and that was sad and depressed.  I knew that I ate poorly and that I didn’t get any exercise, but for years I wasn’t ready to make any changes. I chose instead to eat huge amounts of fast food, sodas, sweets, and processed foods and then not exert any type of physical activity.  I had fallen into a black hole lifestyle that kept me shackled underneath hundreds of pounds of weight – taking a toll on my body and my soul.”

Her epiphany came one day as she looked back at the woman that greeted her in her mirror. Tired of feeling so sad all the time and craving something better, the blanket of doubt that had stifled her for so long was beginning to lift. Jo began to move. Slowly at first, but it was a start.

“I began walking late at night around my parents’ neighborhood so that no one would see me walking.  I was too afraid of being made fun of to actually do my exercise in the light of day.  I was still hiding in the shadows, but I was making my way out – slowly, but surely.  I cut out sodas and fast food entirely and began researching ways to eat healthy.  There wasn’t one magical diet or workout plan that I followed in the beginning.  I was just taking baby steps to becoming healthier.  But, changing the way I ate and incorporating moderate physical exercise, helped me shed pounds over the first couple of months.  I kept up my walking and healthy eating for about 6 months and I ended up losing about 60 pounds.  Once that initial weight came off and I could begin to see a different face and body in the mirror, my whole attitude changed. I knew I could do it. I knew I could make even more progress.”

Home workouts were the next phase. Scheduling set exercises to work out to gave her something to work with. Still fearing what she believed to be the glare and audience that was a gym, she avoided the gym. This was one fear she wasn’t ready to face – yet. Not before long, she’d shed 100lbs. She took this as the signal to employ a trainer to help her push further.

“I found a local trainer, Jonathan Smith, to help me continue on my journey.  He incorporated muscle confusion, strength training, cardio, boxing, and outdoor exercise.  I lost nearly 115 pounds by combining training like this, along with another BeachBody program, P90X, in about a year.”

By the end of her turnaround, Jo had lost around 215lbs and dropped from a size 28 to a 10. The confidence this journey gave her then shifted to another aspect of her life. The classroom. Harnessing the willpower she’d shown throughout her weight loss journey, obstacles were no longer things to fear, but opportunities to conquer. While she attended law school, she knew that the stresses and strains she experienced in an academic sense could be alleviated with a good diet and continued physical exercise.

“So, in my last year of law school, back in 2013, I decided to get another trainer.  I was able to find Jason Johnson, through Independence Gym in Scottsdale.  Jason has helped keep me in shape and believe that I am more than just a woman who has lost weight.  I am an athlete that has been hidden for so many years.  He incorporates high intensity interval training with both boxing and heavy strength training.  I have defined muscles now that I never knew even existed! Through his training I felt poised to take on a challenge that I never thought I would ever have a chance to even think about. The Spartan Race.  I decided that my law school graduation present and the best way to celebrate passing the Arizona bar exam and becoming an attorney was to finally compete in the Spartan Race!”

Training for it with the same precision and determination she had shown throughout her weight loss victory and graduating from law school, she prepared herself for what lay ahead. She was ready.

“On February 8, 2014 I approached the starting line of the Arizona Spartan Sprint ready to face my biggest physical challenge ever.  My fiancé, Jules Demetrius, who is battling Stage 3 colon and liver cancer, had hoped to be in those spectator bleachers cheering me on, but due to his diminished physical capacities, he was unable to do so.  But, he voiced his support all over social media, touting his love and admiration for what I have accomplished.  Every day he endures horrible pain as he fights against cancer and his strength and courage only spur me to continue to face my fears and give 100% to everything in my life.”

“As I crossed the finish line I began to cry.  It had been the biggest physical challenge I had ever faced and subsequently conquered.  Years of hard work, determination, and struggles had culminated in the completion of this 4.5 mile race.  And as Arisotle penned, ‘We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’ I have truly embraced the Spartan code of never quitting and never accepting defeat.  I will carry those virtues with me for the rest of my days, for I am, and always have been a fighter.  AROO!”

Jo knows now what it means to know at the finish line. Do you?

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The impact that Spartan Race is having on so many lives goes beyond that of the actual race. The lifestyle and mentality in forging people to become a healthier version of themselves is touching so many people. Seeing a stranger wearing the Spartan logo on their clothing instantly becomes a talking point and immediately you know they are family. Shane Small saw a Spartan Race staff member at Houston airport recently and felt compelled to write in with his story.

Dear Joe,

I wanted to share insight into my experiences with the Spartan Race. I have attached some pictures.

Just to share some background information about my adventure to becoming a Spartan at my biggest weight I was 320lbs I currently weigh around 240 and have goals of cutting around 15 or 20 more. I began training with a group of guys from church for my first Spartan Race which was the Dallas Beast near Glen Rose about three months prior to the 2012 race.

I ran my first Beast at around 290lbs, which was at the time the most difficult test of physical fitness and endurance that I had ever experienced. Surprisingly, the 2013 was as much a physical test at 245lbs. The Spartan Race changed my life in many ways.

I am excited to continue my pursuit of fitness and participating in Spartan Races. Please share this with the Spartan Race group.

Thank you,

Shane Small

Want Spartan to change your life, too? Find out more here.

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Those butterflies, that gentle “bubbling” right down there in the pit of the stomach. That nervous energy that consumes you leading up to your first Spartan Race. The electric tingle that buzzes over you the night before and despite your best efforts, your mind won’t shut off.  You’re trying to imagine what the course will be like, but naturally, you have no idea – no one does. Your clothes are already laid out, your bag is packed, the alarm set (both of them) and even though you checked and re-checked (and then checked again just to make sure), you’re worried you are missing ID, dry shoes, the waiver, whatever the case may be. Sleep isn’t coming, it’s just too exciting. It’s every single Christmas and birthday rolled into one ball of glorious, happy energy. We’ve all been there and right now you’re smiling, nodding your head as you read along. It’s ok. We all are.

This nervous energy isn’t exclusive to Spartan racers however. Don’t forget that there are legions of kids that are watching what mommy, daddy and Auntie Sue are doing. They want to be like Uncle Steve rolling around in the mud. They saw Grandma Lilly climbing over wooden walls and they want to do it too. Spartan, forever leading by example.

Meet Faith Ensminger. Faith’s world changed when she saw Spartan Race for the first time. She knew that was what she wanted to do. Such was her determination and enthusiasm for the images she saw, when she went to Arizona race she made the event her own. This started with capturing the hearts of everyone she met.

Quickly coming under the wing of festival manager Laura Ploude, she found herself volunteering at the merchandise tent all day Saturday, rapidly outselling all other staff and volunteers with her high-octane enthusiasm. This continued well into the following day, but the whole time, her eyes would shoot a glance over to the Kids Race area, knowing that her time was soon approaching. The 12 year old was ready, amped and was pacing the merchandise tent like a caged animal, ready to be released.

At her scheduled run time however, as she and her father Andy went to the staging area, they were dismayed to find that the course was already dismantled and being packed away. A breakdown in communication meant the Kids Race was closed. Faith was crushed.

“Faith immediately was in tears and this was quickly becoming a disaster,” Andy recalls. “One of which I had no control over and felt helpless. We were able to speak with some staff members to see what they could do. The staff got onto their radios, that’s when Dylan Plante and Alexandra Avellino showed up.”

It was decided that Dylan and Alexandra would chaperone Faith not over the course that kids had conquered, but the full adult course. “Then just like that, it went from a catastrophic event to an unforgettable memory that both Faith and I will cherish forever. Faith got onto the course and climbed walls, low crawled through mud and water, and took on the gladiators. None of this could have been possible without the support of the Spartan staff”, recalls Andy.

Alexandra remembers how Faith’s smile shone brighter than the Arizona sun that day, “She is one of the strongest 12 year old girls I have met. Her ability to run up a hill she wasn’t prepared for, climb over a cargo net that was twists to a height taller than most prefer and then do the barb wire crawl/dunk pit section 6 times, all with a smile, was beyond words and truly inspiring. I felt so unbelievably lucky and privileged to get to run the race with her and I want to say thank you so much for the memories and the conversation.”

A sentiment echoed by Dylan, who also came to her aid, as he had already been working with her at the merchandise tent and had seen how much it meant to her.

“She handled at least 3 miles – 2 miles further than the Kids Race – plus did all the final five obstacles of the barbed wire, crawl up a muddy hill, under the muddy wall dunk, then up the slippery wall, over the firepit, which she actually decided to do 5 times, and through the gladiators, which she actually did twice.  It was an honor and a pleasure to help make some first time memories for Faith. I enjoy helping people thru the courses and its part of who I am, The Weeple Army (my running team), and Spartan Way!”

Angela Overstreet, another staff member that was heavily involved with Faith’s weekend also recalls the impact one little girl’s enthusiasm made on not just her, but the event as a whole.

“Strength. Beauty. Inspiration. Perseverance. These words are powerful.  As adults we shoulder the responsibility to inspire future generations. However in this case as much as I have hoped to inspire and impact this young lady….truth is, it is she…it is YOU Faith who has managed to appear as a beautiful light shining upon us all. The passion within you bursts out of you with your every movement, your smile is infectious, your handwork is unparalleled, your drive and determination is difficult to put into words. YOU Faith are a force that one day I truly hope and pray you understand the greatness of. Sometimes it is difficult to see ourselves as others do. YOU Faith have the universe at your fingertips. Know that regardless of what you are going through today, it is YOU that has the choice and the power to infuse every part of your beautiful being into making it your mesmerizing reality. Not only for you but for others. YOU are an amazing young woman that has every quality to be a great leader and fulfill every dream you have. Know what you possess is a gift. Know that you are loved. Keep shining your light on those around you, be an inspiration to those around you. BE YOU. Run with it. Embrace It. Own It. Because although you are small in stature your spirit is larger than life itself. THANK YOU for coming into our lives. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for being YOU. YOU are Strong, YOU are beautiful, YOU are an inspiration and YOU will always persevere Faith.”

When it comes to drive and enthusiasm, or perhaps just the sheer joy of loving what she does, the bar has been set higher than it ever has at any Spartan Race before and it came from a little 12 year old girl. She already had a good idea way before the finish line and when she did get there, it only reinforced what she already knew.

Will you? Sign up now and change your life forever.

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