Run for a Reason!

Tired of just running another race for a medal and t-shirt?  Spartan is providing an opportunity to race for MORE….  Sign up for the Charity Challenge and you can support your favorite charity …oh and you still get the medal, t-shirt and bragging rights!

How do you get involved?  Gather your friends together that want to support a great cause and create a team in that charity’s name for the 10am Charity Challenge Heat on September 21, 2014 in Killington, VT.   In terms of the course itself, expect the usual Spartan shenanigans, but just because it’s for charity, don’t expect the course to be any less challenging. While the course may be a sprint distance at 4 miles or so, there are still all manner of obstacles, terrain and burpees on offer.

A prize pool of $10,000 is up for grabs that will be shared amongst the top teams, so now is the time to sign up and be a part of something special.  Once your team is registered you should start your fundraising page at CrowdRise to start the race to win the prize for top fundraiser.

Last year, teams from all over the country took part in the challenge, raising money for a variety of causes. If the urge grabs you, why not contact these teams and join them for this year?

The team that won last year, Team Livestrong, was led by Iram Leon who has an inoperable brain cancer. Along with his team mates, which included Pro Teamer Alexander Nicholas, Iram’s team won. Recalling the day, Iram said, “We were awarded a check for $2500 which Alexander without hesitation or pause said should be directed to the charities that have helped along the course of my journey. Like with the Spartans, I started pretty poorly along the course on cancer and had to have better more experienced people help guide me on how to do some things better. The Livestrong Cancer navigation center pointed me to Imerman Angels and connected me to someone else who had the same cancer (who while we’ve been in touch we had not met in person until the Spartan in Chicago), they pointed me to Wonders and Worries who provided Kiana counseling about the situation and me on how to share it with her, and together Seton hospital and Livestrong have created a committee which I help with that helps young adult cancer survivors, a group that because of various gets less attention than childhood and old age cancers.”

Also racing was Team Winter, led by Winter Vinecki, the incredible young girl who at only 14 years of age, had already completed numerous long distance events including the Antarctica and Inca Trail marathons. Despite being in the middle of a schedule that saw her run seven marathons on seven continents, she took time out from her busy schedule to take part. Running for her charity Team Winter, inspired by the tragic loss of her father to prostate cancer, she now honors his memory by raising money through incredible feats of endurance including triathlons and marathons. Winter’s story can be seen here.

Naturally many other teams were involved too. Team One Spirit, the Cornfed Spartans (who supported All for Hope Charity) and also Team You Cannot Fail who supported the Boomer Esiason Foundation, all of whom attacked the course with an added sense of urgency.

Don’t miss all the action and of course it’s the ONLY race you can get a yellow finisher’s medal and Charity t-shirt! 
The breakdown of prize money goes like this:

Top 3 fastest teams win for their charity:

1st place = $4,000
2nd place = $2,000
3rd place = $1,000

But we will also award the top 3 fundraisers win for their charity:

1st place = $1,500
2nd place = $1,000
3rd place = $500

So what are you waiting for? Get a team together and we’ll see you in Vermont!

See you at the finish line!

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Jim MacLaren was an outstanding athlete at Yale University, especially in lacrosse and football. Running was a something of a gift of his, but after a motorcycle accident in 1985, he lost his left leg below the knee and nearly died. Remarkably, he went on not only to recover, but to run a marathon in 3 hours and 16 minutes and to complete the Hawaiian Ironman in 10 hours and 42 minutes.

However, his resilience would be tested again in 1993 when, during the Orange County Triathlon, a van hit him during the cycle portion of the race and he collided with a sign post, rendering him a quadriplegic.

A few members of the endurance sports community raised funds so that he could buy a vehicle – a van – that he could drive with his hands. This fundraiser raised far more than expected and from this drive, the Challenged Athletes Foundation was born and to date has grown so big that it has raised over $53 million in aiding athletes with similar physical challenges continue or progress in active sporting life. 

Today, Spartan Race announced its official charity partnership with Challenged Athletes Foundation.

“When you meet a CAF athlete, you can’t help and feel their determination to face their adversity with pride and a smile….this is inspiring beyond belief” said Joe De Sena, Founder and CEO of Spartan Race. “We see challenged athletes on our course more and more; we are not only honored to assist in raising funds for CAF but also happy to have a partner that shares in our philosophy that involvement in sports at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.”

To suggest that CAF changes people’s lives would be an understatement. Supporting all walks of life from wounded troops to children and first responders, CAF has it covered. In actual fact, Challenged Athletes Foundation supported 33% of the USA Paralympic Team in Sochi for the 2014 winter games, in which they won 18 medals, two of which were gold.

Another feather in the CAF cap is its program, Operation Rebound. This program is the premier sports and fitness program for American military personnel, veterans and first responders with permanent physical disabilities.  It provides unparalleled opportunities to pursue active, athletic lifestyles by offering access to funding for equipment, training, competition expenses, sports clinics and mentoring activities. This helps troops and first responders to harness the healing power of sport, whether the goal is podium gold or riding a bike around the block with their kids.

This partnership, which starts today, will see Spartan Race raise funds for CAF through various means including the online registration pages, event activations and various media and marketing campaigns. Naturally, raising awareness and funding of the charity and those it helps is the main intention of the partnership. Spartan Race is very excited to share the news that CAF will coordinate not only grant presentations at a selected number of Spartan Race events, but will help in bringing athletes to the events to compete.

So far, just from that one small fundraiser to buy a van, CAF has gone on to raise some $53 million, has helped with  over 9,500 funding requests across not just all states of America, but in dozens of countries, too.

CAF’s signature event – The San Diego Triathlon Challenge – last year attracted over 5,000 visitors and boasted a fantastic 1 mile swim, 44 mile ride and 10 mile run for the competitors to test their mettle.

“It was an important goal in seeking a charity partner to find an organization that was aligned with our mission to change people’s lives through physical activity” said Coleen McManus, Charity Development Director at Spartan.

So we’d like the Spartan Race community to welcome Challenge Athlete Foundation to the family and urge you to check out their website here.

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The Reebok Spartan Race World Championships are kicking off with a Pre-Beast Feast Friday evening at 5:30PM and will feature special guest speaker Elaine LaLanne. Elaine LaLanne was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Middle-America where it was not uncommon to lunch on hot dogs, ice cream, chocolate doughnuts, candy and soft drinks. A smoker at age 27 and still continuing her Midwest eating habits, Elaine worked at KGO, an ABC-TV affiliate in San Francisco. There she co-hosted and booked talent for the Les Malloy Show, a very popular local talk and variety program with a 12 piece orchestra, which aired each weekday from 4:30 to 6:00 in the afternoon. It was there she first met Jack LaLanne, who said to her:

“You should be eating apples and oranges and bananas and if I didn’t like you, I wouldn’t tell you this.”  Elaine remembers looking up at him while puffing on her cigarette saying, “Oh Yeah”

Jack’s comment made her take a good hard look at herself and her life. She remembered all the physical and mental obstacles she had in her life. Her days as a synchronized swimmer years prior in the early 40’s posed challenges in itself: keeping her head above water while performing and with a smile. Another challenge that presented itself to her was to quit smoking and give up the chocolate donuts and bear claws, which she did. She then decided to take a hard look at herself: her chest line was sinking to her waistline and her legs were getting that washboard look. She decided to start exercising daily at a class that Jack conducted during lunchtime at the studio. Elaine overhauled her eating habits and her results were remarkable. Her skin became smoother and tighter. She had actually transformed her body through proper exercise and diet by reaching small goals all looking towards the finish line. Through the years she has overcome many injuries, and has never given up.

So, how did they get together? As Elaine puts it “We danced at a company party and we danced ever since”. From that time on she has made it her mission to stand beside Jack and preach the fitness message to all that would listen.

Today Elaine, a television pioneer who appeared in the first live television commercials in San Francisco in 1948, says she feels 29. Now in her late-eighties she looks nothing like her age. She has written five books; Fitness After Fifty, Dynastride, Fitness After Fifty Workout, Total Juicing and Eating Right For A New You. She was also a national spokesperson for POST BRAN FLAKES and besides appearing on the Jack LaLanne Shows, she has also appeared on numerous television and radio shows worldwide including THE TODAY SHOW, THE EARLY SHOW, GOOD MORNING AMERICA, HOWARD STERN, TONY DANZA, BONNIE HUNT, and many many more. As President of BEFIT ENTERPRISES, the parent company for the Jack LaLanne Brand, Elaine still travels all over the world, preaching and lecturing on Jack’s message of better living through exercise and nutrition. She also continues Jack’s message along with son Jon, through JACK LALANNE POWER JUICER INFOMERCIALS.

“If you are around her for any length of time,” Jack used to say, “You will find that her enthusiasm for life is contagious. She can still do pushups and chin-ups; she’s a terrific golfer, expert water skier and swimmer. She is a lecturer, author, civic leader and businesswoman; a super wife and my best friend. To me she is living proof of all that a woman can be.”

We look forward to welcoming this legendary woman in the health industry to our festivities.

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Brad Kloha of Mount Pleasant, MI, doesn’t consider himself a runner. He used to do track and field back in high school, sure, but by his own admission, it was means to an end. He played volleyball and running kept up the cardio and was just a way of keeping on top of things. He suggests that running in OCR’s is merely a means of getting to the next obstacle. But last year, his means to an end became a little more important.

“In the five hour drive back from the Midwest Super Spartan in October 2012, I had a lot of time to think. It was my 12th of what would be 13 obstacle races that year, and I loved every minute of it. One of the great things about the races, is not only do they present a fun and unique challenge from everyday life, but also that most are connected to charity organizations.”

Kloha had his own charity in mind. “While all of the charities supported by these races are extremely worthy causes, I wanted to find a way to turn my love of obstacle racing into a way to also raise money for a cause near and dear to me and my family, the Alzheimer’s Association. However, with so many races already in the market, I didn’t want to create my own race, instead, I wanted to create a campaign where I could utilize the existing races out there and raise money by hopefully peaking the interest of individuals to donate to the Alzheimer’s Association.”

Out of this idea came “Run to Remember”.

He explains, “The first thought was to complete 52 races in 52 weeks, but somehow in my mind that seemed to not be enough. I wanted to push the envelope further, which is why I decided upon 100 races in 52 weeks. The same thought process came for the goal of raising $1 million for the Alzheimer’s Association…I could have gone smaller, but I wanted to attempt to have the greatest impact I could. As I pulled into my parking lot back home in Mount Pleasant, MI, the idea was firmly set in my mind – 100 races. 52 weeks. 1 goal. $1 million to support the Alzheimer’s Association.”

Alzheimers is a condition that Kloha is well-aquainted, “Alzheimer’s disease claimed the lives of both my great-grandmother, Lydia Kloha, when I was very young, and more recently, my grandmother, Phyllis Brinkman on June 18, 2011. Because I was very young at the time of my great-grandmother’s battle with the disease, I wasn’t fully aware of the devastation the disease causes, not only for the individual, but for the family. However, when my grandmother was diagnosed in 1998, I was 14, and now had an understanding of what was ahead as she, my mom, and my aunt sat down with all of the grandkids and explained the prognosis.”

The effect on Kloha was extreme, “For the next 13 years, my family and I watched as my grandmother slowly lost her memories. It started out very minor and was hardly noticeable, but eventually progressed into more difficult stages. Her short-term memory began to fade and she could only recall individuals who had been in her life up to a certain point.”

The loss of her husband, Kloha’s grandfather only furthered the seriousness of her condition.  ”After my grandfather passed away in 2004, her mental faculties took a much more significant decline. On Thanksgiving Day that same year, while we were at church, she had left a pot on the stove, and when we had returned from church the pot had caught on fire, burning her house down to a complete loss. This was the point in which my family realized she could no longer live on her own.”

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s.  Something that is hard to take for those watching loved ones struggle.  ”During my grandma’s 13 year battle, I felt completely helpless. There was nothing I could for her, or for my family, to take away any of the pain or suffering. While I felt helpless then, I now feel like “Run to Remember” is my way of finally taking action. Though it can’t bring my family members back, hopefully it can have an impact for families and those afflicted in the future. I take on this task in the hope that a cure can be found.”

Kloha has many memories that will sustain him of his grandmother, “When my family celebrated my grandmother’s final birthday before she passed away, she was to the point where she wasn’t speaking, didn’t know who anyone was, and had lost much of her physical ability as well. As I sat with her and tried to talk to her while my mom made preparations for the others to arrive, she continued to stare off into the distance or look at me blankly. However, at one point, my mom said something that made me laugh, and in that instant, my grandma looked directly at me, eyes clearer than they had been in years, and grabbed my hand. She tried to speak, but wasn’t able. The moment of clarity was fleeting, but I believe at that time, my grandma knew who I was and it’s the memory that drives me forward to complete the 100 races.”

Kloha’s journey began on June 15, 2013 and will end on June 14, 2014.   He will complete 100 races.  ”I wear a sleeve on my forearm with a picture of me and grandma from her last birthday, to remind me of why I’m running. While my body feels great now, I know there may come a point in the next year that I may be tired and hurting, as I get deeper into the 100 races, but I also know that there are those with the disease and their families that are hurting even more – motivation enough for me to keep going.”

Kloha is working hard to raise funds for the research, “To date, I’ve raised just over $11,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, the majority of which was donated even before I started to run. When I started, I wanted to insure that every dollar an individual donated went right to the Alzheimer’s Association and not to me racing, so that’s how I’ve set it up. Currently, I’m paying for most all expenses myself, with many race organizers for races I’m running throughout the year graciously offering free entries to help bring down my personal costs and enable me to reach my goal.”

[Editor's Note: People can read more about Run to Remember on this website (www.runtoremember.net). They can also follow along on Facebook and Twitter. On the site, they can donate or make pledges, as well as see Kloha's race calendar, watch videos from the races, and read blog entries. There is even a “Memory Wall” where individuals can tell stories of their own experience with Alzheimer’s and honor their loved ones.]

See you at the finish line…  Sign up today!

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Ty Louis Campbell

On October 17th, 2012, Eric Cheek heard a story that would instantly build a path he felt compelled to walk down. Despite having never met him, a boy called Ty Louis Campbell would change Eric’s life forever.

Ty had been diagnosed with a rhabdoid tumor – a very rare and aggressive cancer specific to children. Despite having battled it for more than half of his short life, he ultimately passed from this terrible disease. Eric explains, “He endured procedures most grown men wouldn’t be able to handle. He went through rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. The affect of these treatments were severe on his little body. He eventually lost his ability to walk or stand on his own and was paralyzed from his neck down.”

But despite the crippling pain and various procedures Ty went through, his beaming trademark smile never left his lips.

Eric continues, “As I followed his mother Cindy’s blog on www.superty.org , I prayed, at times begged, for a miracle. You see, this little boy was able to reach into my very being and leave a mark on my soul that will remain forever. I have learned so much from this little boy that I cannot accurately express, except to say that he has changed me for the better. When he earned his wings, I remember sitting on my couch in my living room and crying. I remember praying for his family and for his soul. I never got a chance to meet this little miracle. I was never really able to pay him the respect he was due or to honor him.”

There was another personal connection, “Ty’s father, Lou, is a native of Mahopac, NY, as am I and actually graduated with my older brother. And from where we come from, when someone needs help, you help.”

Eric decided to do what was natural for him. His giving nature, coupled with his passion for running made it a shoe-in for what he would do. The runner who jogs anywhere between 10 and 20 miles a week and regularly attends three bootcamps a week is now driven by a purpose.

He says, “My initial fundraiser on Crowdrise.com has a goal of $2500.00. However, I do not intend to do one fundraiser and call it quits. I will be actively involved in the Foundation for as long as they will have me. I will run as many events as I can possibly run if it will help get Ty’s story in front of more people.”

An excerpt from Cindy’s – Ty’s mother – blog written about the day Ty passed summed up what they were all feeling, “Ty Louis Campbell is gone, but his story continues. This is our promise to him. His impact on the world around him gives his short but inspirational life such meaning. His soaring spirit will continue to fuel a fire in our hearts, and strangers around the world will continue to fall in love with the little boy who fought so valiantly. The little boy who hurt so much, but maintained a bigger, brighter smile than the healthiest of children.”

Below is a link to the fundraising page. If you’d like to contribute, click HERE.

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by Robert Perednia

I was introduced to the world of Spartan Racing last year at the Amesbury Sprint and was not prepared how it would change the way I look at life. Literally crawling up a trail while struggling to catch my breath, I was wondering why years of sports, weight-lifting, and running weren’t helping my legs get me up this hill. Eventually crossing the finish line covered in mud, bruises, and scrapes was a great experience but also a motivation. I went home and trained hard to attempt another race.

With a little luck, I was able to finish the Tri-State Super and Vermont Beast. The training challenged me physically and emotionally in ways I couldn’t even imagine possible, but the experience was incredible. I’ve met inspiring people I now call my friends, been on top of mountains overlooking beautiful landscapes, felt great highs, and overcome frustrating lows. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to experience these feelings and that makes it all the more special to me.

This is why I chose to run for Zack.

Zack is my friend and has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). DMD is a genetic disorder affecting approximately 1 in every 3,500 male births and results in progressive muscle weakness. Because the heart is a muscle and the lungs require muscle to function properly, young men with DMD typically only live into their twenties. Zack is now 20 and only able to control his fingers and head, confining him to a wheelchair. However, he is living life to the fullest and continues to excel every day. Zack is in college studying video-game design, a genius with computers, and is more educated about cars than anybody I know. Zack and other courageous young men with DMD prove strength cannot be measured and remind us that we should all take pride in the gifts we have.

So this year my goals for Spartan racing have changed. Zack is my motivation to not just finish but to run each event as hard

Bobby and Zack

as I possibly can. If I am lucky enough to place within earning a cash prize, all will go to Zack’s foundation to benefit finding a cure for DMD. The Zack Heger Foundation has been huge in supporting Muscular Dystrophy research and helped show that preventative care can improve quality of life and increase life expectancy. My small part is to be a voice for Zack’s amazing story and raise awareness for the countless other boys who have been affected by Muscular Dystrophy.

It is a privilege to run Spartan Races and Zack has helped me realize how fortunate I really am. Whether you’re competitively racing, running for fun, training at the gym, or walking the dog, what we are able to do is a blessing. I truly believe the goal in life is to make a positive difference for someone else and I hope my excitement and passion inspires you to do the same.

See you at the starting line.

For more information and to show your support, visit www.zackhegerfoundation.org.

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Frank Fumich, (Spartan Death Racer) and Matt Nelson, two ultra-athletes, will run 450 miles non-stop from the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial to the Boston Marathon finish line. The 10 state route runs through the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial, DC Monuments, Baltimore Harbor, Independence Mall in Philadelphia, Newark, Manhattan/Ground Zero/ Central Park in NYC, Connecticut, and finishing with the Boston Marathon course. The 24/7, 5 day run started Tuesday, May 28th, at 6:00 am EST, and is estimated to end Saturday, June 1st, 12:00 p.m.  They are currently in New York City and Fumich has finished out his fifth marathon.

“104.8 miles DONE!” says Fumich in an update. “My combined time running is about 21 hours and I’m working on about 6 hours of sleep since Monday. I’ve been trying to figure out what day it is for the last 5 minutes and I just can’t think straight…but apparently I couldn’t think straight before, because I came up with this idea in the first place! Ha Wow!

The idea was born after Nelson and Fumich witnessed the devestation of the bombings.  “After what we saw happen in Boston, Frank and I knew we had to show the world that the running community is a resilient, loving, and giving family. The truth is, I started The Endurance Trust back in 2005 on that premise.” says Nelson.  ”As athletes, we’re passionate about the causes we run for. We’re encouraging every runner to participate on our run to Boston. Join us for a block, join us for a day. We won’t turn family away.”

Having raised over $52,000 toward their original goal of $26,200, Fumich and Nelson have announced a new goal of $78,600, to be completed by the time they finish their run. The initial $52,000 was raised through a 78.6 mile, triple-marathon fundraiser, done using the online peer-to-peer fundraising platform, FirstGiving.

In order to complete the 450 mile run, Frank and Matt will alternate marathons. While one runs, the other will rest. The two will be escorted by local and State Police along the route from DC, Maryland, and all the way into Boston and carry a GPS device to provide live, location updates. In solidarity, local Bostonians plan to welcome the two by running the last 5K along their side.  Once in Boston, the pair will personally present checks to victims of the bombing attacks.  Follow the Twitter Chatter #DC2BOS

To learn more about their epic journey and to donate to the cause, please visit their page HERE.  We’ll update you as to their progress.

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by Jennifer Jarvi, Spartan Street Team

In January of this year, a fellow Spartan Chick posted about a contest with a prize of a week for two at the Biggest Loser resort. “Wouldn’t it be cool if a Spartan Chick won?” Yeah, sure it would.  Nobody ever wins these things or there is always a catch. I entered and totally forgot about it. Weeks later, on a day I was beaten and battered by the world, I was informed that I won a week with a friend to the Biggest Loser Resort of my choice. When that certified letter arrived though, it really did hit home. I didn’t deserve this spectacular awesome prize.

As the date of my first ever Spartan Race in Indiana approached, I learned of the Biggest Loser Off Road Challenge heat. I was already signed up for the standard race, but I wanted to help out with this event somehow so I volunteered. It seemed appropriate. It was the least I could do. The Biggest Loser Resort gifted me a week at their resort (minus the usual expense of transportation and taxes) that I will be taking next month. I worked for months losing nearly 100 pounds of weight and getting healthier for my first Spartan Race. What better way to give back to both a little for what they did. I could pay it forward a little. I was very sad I would miss running the heat with the CornFed Spartans, Spartan Race’s largest team to date, but somehow felt that volunteering was just as important. These CornFed Spartans are like family and they live by the Spartan Code. I would run on my own later in the day.

What I witnessed and what transpired from this decision was more inspiring and incredible than I could ever imagine. After participants got a pep talk from Dan and Jackie from Biggest Loser’s Season 5 and some shared their personal stories, we set off to the start line. At 9:15am, my friend Chris Davis, my friend Bridget, and I headed out with backpacks of water bottles to support the Biggest Loser Off Road Challenge heat participants. Biggest Loser Off Road Challenge competes as a team. Everyone helps everyone, participants are encouraged them to try obstacles without penalty. As we started along the course, I had the opportunity to share my own struggles with some of the participants.

Just before we got to the ‘playground portion’ of the Indiana Course, I saw Cornfed Spartan jerseys passing by. I called out to the CornFeds and I smiled brightly because I knew in my heart what was about to happen. This couldn’t have worked out better. You see, CornFed Spartans take great pride in helping not only one another, but also everyone out there on the course; making sure there is no one left behind!

I saw Biggest Loser Off Road Challenge participants become Spartans. I saw Biggest Loser Off Road Challenge participants step outside their comfort zone with determination, pushing their bodies and minds to the limit and conquering their fears. I saw CornFed Spartans reach out a hand of assistance instantly to anyone struggling, taking action to back up their words of support and encouragement. I saw Biggest Loser Off Road Challenge participants push CornFed Spartans up the barb wire crawl hills and vice versa. I saw lots of hugs and smiles. The amount of pure grit, determination, encouragement, teamwork, and acceptance on that course was astounding.

I used those memories and inspiration to power me through my own heat later. I was by no means fast, but like the Biggest Loser Off Road Challenge participants, I did the hardest part on my own – I got to the start line. It was all down hill from there. And with all that, my first Spartan Race is in the books, and it could not have been more epic. I highly suggest all Spartan Racers run or volunteer with the Biggest Loser Off Road Challenge heat at least once. I know I will any chance I get.I promise it will be simply incredible and inspiring. Check out their next stop!

Spartan Code

A Spartan pushes their mind and body to their limits.
A Spartan masters their emotions.
A Spartan learns continuously.
A Spartan gives generously.
A Spartan leads.
A Spartan stands up for what they believe in, no matter the cost.
A Spartan knows their flaws as well as they know their strengths.
A Spartan proves themselves through actions, not words.
A Spartan lives every day as if it were their last.

[Editor's Note: Author - Jennifer Jarvi is an aspiring mud-athlete who hopes to some day defeat her worst enemy, the rope climb. When not found on the course cursing burpees, she can be found working as a Network Engineer for a large MSO, practicing her spear throwing in her backyard, or trying not to roll an ankle on a trail run. Her favorite obstacles include barb wire crawl and long walks off the beach and into a lake. "A Spartan gives generously"
LINKS:

http://www.biggestloserresort.com/

http://www.biggestloserrunwalk.com/challenge

http://cornfedspartans.com/]

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by Ruthann Cross, Spartan Chick

A little over a year ago my family and I were given a challenge to only drink water for a defined period of time and donate any money that we would normally use on coffees, sodas and sports drinks to digging clean water wells in Haiti. This was easy for us to do for a few different reasons. One, we already drink mostly water as it is. And two, most children in Haiti do not live past the age of five because of contaminated water diseases.

Two of my children at that time were both under the age of 5 so this really tugged on my heart. It was easy for us to give. It didn’t require us to step out of our comfort zones, it didn’t require us to live outside of the ease of our everyday life. Little did I know that less than a year later I would have the honor and privilege to travel to Haiti with Living Water International and be a part of giving hope to a community. (Bonus: I would also have the opportunity to get really, REALLY muddy while I was there. Seriously, what chick would want to pass that up?)

Our travels took us just outside Cap-Haitian. We arrived in a small village full of cement block and thatch walled structures with corrugated metal roofs. Many of which did not have four walls or doors! We saw people who appeared hard and calloused and knew they were very familiar with a great deal of death and hunger, but as soon as we smiled and said hello in their language these beautiful people quickly welcomed us with great smiles and warm hearts. They knew why we had come. They knew we were there to offer hope.

This entire week had nothing to do with me, my life, my family whether or not I had the time to fit a workout in or even connect with friends through the internet. It was all about the people of Modje and the little children who followed us around as if we were the Pied Piper. It was about the women of the community who were so proud to show us the few possessions they had. It was about the homeless widow and her six children who asked us to take her youngest with us in hope of a better life. Our task was to come in and drill a clean sustainable well for this community and educate them in proper hygiene so they could hopefully have a better life, but I believe I am the one who received the greater gift. To offer the gift of hope to someone who has none was the greatest blessing of all.

Before and after this week I have had several people express how difficult this must have been to go. Some even indicated they could never do something like this as it would just be too hard. Comments like these made me realize it is not a case of whether or not we can do something but whether or not we have a willing heart and a determination to make a change. We may not all be called to head off to the jungle of some foreign land and experience the same things but each one of us has the ability to take a stand alongside others and lend a hand. It just takes stepping out of our comfort zone and making the offer. We would all probably be surprised who accepts.

Who can you offer that “sparkle” of hope to today?

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by Paul Morin, Army Veteran and Spartan Athlete

While most people were prepping their livers for St Patrick’s Day or trying to finish a vacation, I took my son, and a few fellow Spartans and Team X-TREME members, to the Walter Reed National Medical Center. Our aim was to help get more of our wounded warriors out of the barracks and seeing what is possible.

I spent the next three hours chasing my son, talking to wounded warriors (or adaptive athletes) about what Spartan Race is and what Team X-TREME does, all while admiring the courage and resiliency of the men I met. How can you complain about anything when a soldier who has lost an eye, with severe damage to his face, says “I am doing great today, how are you?”

It was an amazing experience for me as an Army Veteran but as a father it meant even more to see my son there. To watch him lose that initial shyness and just start being a hyper five year old boy. To see the smiles he brought these men as he bounced around, ran into them, asked questions and threw them the t-shirts provided by Team X-TREME.

I was asked why I took my son to a hospital to interact with men who are severely wounded. My first response was that I wanted to teach my son that we are all equal. That potential resides inside each of us and what we do with that defines us. That we are all presented many obstacles in life and how we overcome them defines us. I wanted my son to know these men, and know them as men and not just as those who lost limbs to support our foundations of acceptance and citizenship. And that the look of the soldier who had my son jump in his lap was as priceless as the laughter he caused.

We were there to show them that through Spartan Race and Team X-TREME we can, as a unit and as a family, help them overcome their physical obstacles and start doing activities they would not have imagined. They helped me raise a better child. I think it is a fair trade.

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