If you ever see a couple of guys at a Spartan Race that looked so similar that you have to do a double take, chances are it’s The Unbreakable Joneses. With their unmistakable headbands and Thing 1 and Thing 2 daubed across their chests, if you don’t see them doing something bizarre (liked doing the course blindfolded or tethered together, or perhaps carrying huge sledgehammers), it means they’re on only on their first lap. “Only”. What some might not know is that this is an awesome father and son team that have dazzled Spartan racers and spectators for quite some time with their unfathomable spirit and resilience. Eston, the son in the team, puts this all down to one man – his father.

“My Dad has always been the one pushing me to try my best at anything I attempted and guiding me to reach for those goals I may not think are possible. But he doesn’t do this just by talking to me, he does this through example. My Dad has always been right there with me in all the things I try, pushing me to try harder because I know that he is doing his best to beat me. He always set the bar to where he knows I can’t resist giving it my all to pass him. This motivation has meant the world to me in not only physical challenges and endeavors but in life in general.

“My Dad isn’t like normal dads. He doesn’t sit on the sidelines cheering me on. He doesn’t ‘leave it to the young buck’ to go out and do something challenging and worth while. He is always right there with me, participating in any and all of the crazy ideas that I may have. I get the bright idea that I want to run a 100 mile race……. he’s in. I want to go all the way to Vermont to run a race….. he says ‘I’ll do it’. Then when he announces that he wants to run 4 laps of a race and then get up the next day and run even more……. well… how can I say no to that?

Eston considers this his favorite picture of him and his dad. Note the training equipment in close proximity.

 

“They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and when it comes to this competitive spirit I have in me, that is perfectly spot on. My dad is always trying to beat me. We are always pitted against each other in an epic battle for who can win. Whether its lifting a weight, running the trails, swimming a few laps, I always know in the back of my mind that he is gunning for me. This friendly rivalry pushes me to be the best that I can be every day. Because my dad is no joke. He’s not some fragile old man to be taken lightly. There is every chance that he can beat me if I don’t push myself. If I don’t train hard every time. This motivation has been one of the most important things to me in my athletic training. It has made me be better than I ever would have been without him.

“Even though my Dad is my biggest rival, I know that he always has my best interests at heart. I know that he has always got my back and that he would do what is best for me. He is always making sure that I have everything I need to be the best I can be and to succeed in whatever I do. He doesn’t hand it to me on a silver platter, but he makes sure that, with hard work and dedication on my part, that whatever I am trying to do is possible.

“Thank you Dad, for everything that you do for me.”

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Zackery Paben, the bearded warrior behind the More Hearts Than Scars charity, knows the joy of parenthood all too well.  After suffering a horrifying injury that saw him break his radius, ulna and losing the ends of seven of his fingers, his father taught him the principle of caring by showing tough love, something Zackery is very grateful for.

“Michael Mills, one of the Spartan Adaptive Athletes, often kids me about being ‘Dad’ when we race together with the Dirtbags. He fusses at me sometimes for being over protective. However during the cargo net mountain climb from hell at this year’s Sprint in Georgia, he was happy to be on my rope. Before he does the stupid and seemingly impossible; he always checks in with me with a ‘You got me?’. After my ‘I got ya’, he goes on to do things that only the word awesome can convey.

“After I finally returned home from the hospital after my accident, my dad had me do my chores like taking out the trash. My ten year old self made excuses, citing my broken arms and amputated fingertips. He let me know that I was creative and capable enough to figure out how to do it. The first time it took me an hour, after a week it took me 5 minutes.”

Zack with his daughter Snowlilly and Spartan MC Dustin Dorough take a moment to pose.

“My 25 years of being in the father role for at risk youth has been shaped by this simple concept.  Just because you got hurt does not mean you are no longer responsibly to take out the literal and metaphorical trash.

“When our little girl was diagnosed with her heart condition, her mother and I formed More Heart Than Scars to be sure to keep her and us in the right frame of mind. Every day she sees her parents training for upcoming races or making plans to empower others to adapt to their own challenges. When she is old enough to comprehend the challenges of her heart she will have many of Spartan races to reflect upon. Most importantly she has Michael Mills, Todd Love, Amanda Sullivan and Justin Falls as up and personal examples of what it means to have more heart than scars. She also has her dad to tell her that she is creative and capable enough to figure it out… also to take out the trash”, he laughs.

“For me as a dad, I try to train my children to face a hard world with their wits and guts. It is not my job to scurry about trying to make their lives easy. Even in the midst of their challenges I remind them that, “I got you”. I am the father of two daughters, Snowlilly, 4 years old, biological and already a two-time Spartan racer. June, 19 years old, adopted and determined figure things out for herself. I am very fortunate to have had many kids over the years to claim me as their dad.”

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Dear Joe,

I was recently invited to Arrows Academy in Columbia, SC to speak to three classes of students about Spartans. My friend, Katie Norman, is a teacher there and is teaching the students history starting from creation. They are currently learning about Greece and more specifically Spartans, so I was invited to give some real life examples in today’s world of what Spartans do. I started out showing the kids my medals and explaining to them the different lengths of Spartan Races. They got to see most of the medals Spartan Race offers including my double trifecta medal and the Ultra-Beast medal I earned in 2013. 

After that we went through a slide show of pictures from different Spartan Races and I got to talk to them about different obstacles that you may see at a Spartan Race. I also told them about the weather competitors would endure while completing these races, like the freezing cold 2013 Charlotte Sprint. I talked about the terrain we would battle through, like at the Ultra Beast or that brutal VA Super last year. I showed them some of my Athletics8 compression gear complete with holes from barb wire and the shoes I would wear for a race.

Katie then showed them some videos of Spartan Race including the Kids Race. They really enjoyed it. After this they got to ask questions, so I answered things about my training, where I got to speak to them about the dedication it takes. I told them about the days where I would get home from a 15 hour day of 2 jobs and then ruck all night to train for the Ultra Beast and head back to work at 7:30am. I answered questions like “Do people die doing this?” and “What happens if you fall in the fire?” One little girl asked if I had ever quit, I almost couldn’t answer it like it didn’t compute in my mind (which I’m proud of). Something like “No, I couldn’t. I mean, it’s just not in me” came out. Hopefully they got the message. Spartans NEVER quit.

After this I got to run a mini Spartan race with them. It was awesome. The kids really enjoyed it. I did it about 4 times with them and then they said, “We want to see how fast Sean can do it.” So who am I to disappoint a bunch of kids. All in all it was a great day, the kids were awesome and I’m sure some of them will one day run a Spartan Race. This is when all the pain in training is worth it. Finish lines are great, but impacting lives for a greater good is what I’m all about.

Thanks for the Spartan Races Joe,

Sean

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Alarming findings of a 46 year-long research project that is to be presented at the American Heart Association, suggests that children today cannot run as fast as their parents when they were of the same age.
The document suggests that both boys and girls from ages ranging from 9 through 17 are, on average, seeing cardiovascular endurance levels falling at around 5% per year. These tests being gauged on running over a set time.

Interestingly, these figures also include countries outside of what would be the usual suspects of the developed western world.  Some parts of Asia such as South Korea, China and Hong Kong are also reflecting the same figures.
Both the Lead researcher at Univeristy of South Australia’s School of Medicine, Dr Grant Tomkinson and Prof Michael Gwitz of the American Heart Association emphasize the need for cardiovascular exercise from a young age.

“Dr Tomkinson said children needed to be inspired and encouraged to do more vigorous exercise. If a young person is generally unfit now, then they are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease later in life,” said Dr Tomkinson. 

Christopher Allen of the British Heart Foundation, said: “It’s well established that being physically inactive in childhood can have serious health implications later in life.

“Keeping active can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and the sooner kids start, the better. “By encouraging children to get active, we can help protect their hearts as they grow up. Parents, schools and community groups can all help kids on their way to 60 minutes exercise a day.”

Even something as simple as an hour’s worth of activity whereby a little sweating is brought on can help. Whether this is constant play, running, sports or similar, this activity can be broken into small “chunks” at a time.

Spartan Race recognized these facts very early on and as such, Spartan Kids is now a popular part of each Spartan Race event. Parents are welcome to register their child for the Junior race (ages 4-8) or for Varsity (ages 9-13) so that they can experience the thrill of racing a Spartan course with the promise of a medal and a shirt at the finish line.

As the old, old adage goes, “let the children play”.

See you at the finish line…

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Meet Keala Boncie Machin of Glenville, NY. She’s 6 years old, the only girl of 4 children, and in school, she’s quiet, not a fan of noise and commotion and is prone to bouts of shyness. Teachers will tell her parents that often she will sit in the corner of the class, coloring in books and keeping herself to herself. It could be argued she is your typical all-American little girl.

One day, she came home with a permission slip for a school talent show, expressing an interest in taking part. Surprised, her parents asked her what she wanted to perform, knowing that singing or dancing wouldn’t be something she would be at all interested in. She wanted to show her school what Spartan Race was all about. Her mother pointed out that dumping a truckload of mud in the school would not please the principal, so she decided that her act would be that of a Spartan Race workout she would design herself. Keala is a Spartan Racer.

The back story of this started when she witnessed her folks take part in an OCR that didn’t have a race for children. Her eyes widened and she knew that’s what she wanted to do. Her mother Rayn explains, “The first time she ran, it was as though she was born. Though she enjoys dressing up and wearing glitter, Keala does not fit into any sort of typology, but instead, finds comfort in areas which allow her to be herself. Though it would be easier for her to fit into a mold, Spartan Race is who she is, and who she is is beautiful.”

And so Keala embraced the lifestyle and threw herself into what the Spartan Race ideology is, she found a new kind of happiness. Not only does she do burpees alongside her mother, but helps out with her non-profit as Rayn explains, “I run a non-profit for children that have experienced extensive abuse and/or neglect, and those in at-risk situations. Spartan Race donates their entry fee so that we may teach these children that what they have endured, does not define who we are. It had not occurred to me that the same run may work with non-abused children, who may not fit into stereotypical demands, but may instead, flourish in situations not typical of their classmates”.

And Keala is a part of that. Rayn continues, “due to the economic downturn, Keala has, per her own desire, spent her out of school hours, helping children in emergency situations. She has given up her racing “career” (for a month or two), until we can raise money to get them to a Spartan Race.”

Keala explains how she sees it, “Bad people can’t hurt them at Spartan Race.”

And it’s all too evident when you see Keala when she is at her happiest – working out – that Spartan Race is a very important part of her life. When asked what Spartan Race has done for her, she points out, “They helped me….like cheering…they gave us a medal….Momma cheered, Dada took pictures…the other people say yay…they are nice…they are kind. I was happy in school and it was a great time, but everyone is loud. Everybody is really noisy they are just all loud. They always be like that, there is a lot of talking. I am the only one who is quiet. I am not shy at Spartan Race”.
And why is this? “Because the people are nice…they smile….they like me for me, and I like them.”
What do you worry about in school? “Sometimes I am kind of like bad at coloring and my class is a loud class….at Spartan Race, they have nice people….they like me even if I can’t color good….”

Why do you do this? “Cause it’s fun…they keep cheering at all the people…they give people high fives”

Is there any one person you remember from a Spartan Race? “Kim (McDonald; she was a volunteer at Tuxedo). She is kind. She gave us medals. They are cool. She likes kids. I like her.”

And so on the day of the talent show, Keala did exactly what she wanted to do. Something she would be comfortable with. Rayn smiles, “She performed without pretending she isn’t comfortable. She did exactly what she wanted to and knew that no matter what her classmates said, Spartan Race and its athletes would be behind her”.

Since they had been learning about the environment in school, she decided to do a Spartan Green Workout, using only items that were already around the house. A school bus tire that was used as a swing was recycled , a length of 2×4 from a building project was utilised and a piece of wood that had been cut from a stump would be used for flipping.

Letting her younger brother introduce what she was about to do, she prepared, came out and being careful not to scratch the auditorium stage, Keala went through her workout to a stunned audience of open-mouthed teachers and students.

Pausing only to take a bow, Keala bounced off the stage to cheers and applause.
When asked how Spartan Races and training makes her feel, see briefly ponders, “Well…it was fun to go in the mud”, then smiling cheekily, “and I do burpees better than Mom”.
Want to see how your kids will do at a Spartan Race? Sign them up now.

See you at the finish line…

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Kaitlyn Cain, age 8
Richmond, KY

On April 27th, 2013 I had a ton of fun running a Spartan Kids Race!

I was a little nervous in the beginning, but soon I forgot all about it. After standing at the starting line for what seemed like a long time, I wanted to start running because I was cold! There were some adults that led the kids out onto the course, but I wanted to run past them all! There was the male and female winner of the adult race, another male racer and my dad. Before the race I got to meet Amelia Boone, the female winner, and I got the first poster signed by her.

It said “To Kaitlyn, To a future Spartan Superstar!”

The race started and everybody took off running as fast as they could. There were lots of obstacles. We had to run up and down a bunch of hills, climb up a net, crawl under a bunch of ropes, and crawl under a long black net. We had to jump in lots of deep mud holes and then climb out over a big mushy, muddy hill. It was really fun because normally, us kids get in trouble if we jump in the mud with clean clothes on! We had to jump over some small walls and climb through the middle of one. There were some small triangular walls that we ran up and over and they were easy.  We had to walk across balance boards and try not to fall off. That was only half the race. Then they made us run the whole thing again to complete one mile.

I got tired during the race and there were a couple of times when I wanted to stop, but I didn’t! In the middle of the race my dad ran with me for a couple of minutes and then he went ahead to hand out the medals at the finish line. I felt really good when I finished, even though I could barely breathe because I was so tired!

My dad gave me my medal when I finished and said, “Great job! I’m so proud of you!” At the end I was muddy and had to wash off. The weird thing was that I wasn’t at my house, so I had to wash off with cold water, something else that us kids aren’t used to. I got most of the mud off, but I still wasn’t that clean, but that was okay. I am happy that I finished and I can’t wait until the next Spartan Race! I’m happy that I’m a Spartan racer!

At Spartan Race, our mission is to inspire children to develop a love for fitness at an early age. Our “Jr. Spartans” obstacle course races for kids 4-8 are about a 1⁄2 mile and our 1 mile kids spartan races are for older “Varsity Spartans” aged 9-13. Both kids races are filled with obstacle styles and amounts tailored just for them.

Each child will receive a T-shirt and Finisher’s Medal with 100% of the Jr. Spartan Adventure proceeds benefiting the Kids Fit Foundation. As a leader in the movement to help children learn life-long health and fitness habits, the Kids Fit Foundation strives to raise awareness and develop programs that educate, empower and inspire kids to become and stay fit.

So remember, Spartan Races are not only limited to adult fun! Bring your kids ages 4-13 and they can participate in their very own Jr. Spartan Race. Just like you, they will enjoy the thrill of the run, a variety of scaled down obstacles and their own mini festival area filled with games and children’s challenges!

Sign your kids up for a Spartan Race – it’s for the whole family!  Click HERE to find one near you!

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by Carrie Adams

Rounding down the hill to the Super Spartan Mid-Atlantic sandbag carry with the Team X-T.R.E.M.E. crew, eleven year old Junior Marine Luke Sliwinski was offered the option to take one of the the lighter 20lb bags in lieu of the men’s 40lb bags that were stacked in piles at the base of a quarter mile loop over halfway through the 10.5 mile course.  He immediately declined the offer with a polite, “No, thank you.” And without another word stooped down, his slim build struggling slightly under the weight, hoisted the bag up to his shoulder, and kept moving forward.

When Luke Sliwinski was five years old, he drew a picture of the twin

photo courtesy of Heather Sliwinski

towers ablaze, an image all too painful and familiar from the morning of September 11, 2001.  Too young to remember it in person, he’d grown up seeing the images and as he drew in the details, he knew that all he wanted was to be a Marine.  At that same tender age of five, he saw an air show demonstration from Marines at a nearby airfield, and was even more determined to join the service.  His mother, Heather, had to explain to the young Sliwinski that he’d have to wait until age eight before he could join the next closest thing – the Junior Marines Program.

According to their website, “The Young Marines is a youth education and service program for boys and girls, ages 8 through completion of high school. The Young Marines promotes the mental, moral, and physical development of its members. The program focuses on character building, leadership, and promotes a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.”

Luke, the youngest of six waited, however impatiently, until he could enlist and the now eleven year old who is about to enter sixth grade holds the rank of Sergeant and calls the Young Marines in his unit brothers. “I am the person I am today because of them.”   And that person is the youngest Spartans to take on our VA Super Spartan course alongside Team X-T.R.E.M.E. last Saturday, August 25th at Morven Park.  He toiled with the team for the 5.5 hours it took to complete finishing every obstacle and taking every step of the 10.5 miles course.  Says his mother Heather, “The accomplishment on Saturday blew me away.”  But her pride extends far beyond the Spartan course.  She goes on to say, “I am most proud of him humbleness through all of this.  He’s the kind of kid that stands up for what is right, even if he’s the only one standing.”

Luke was first introduced to Team X-T.R.E.M.E. and their mission in 2010 when he met USMC Cpl. Todd Love at Walter Reed Medical Center in Ward 57.  Cpl. Love, who also completed the Spartan Race on Saturday, was newly injured having lost both his legs above the knee and his left arm below the elbow in a violent IED explosion in Afghanistan.

Photo courtesy of Heather Sliwinski

Heather Sliwinski recounts the moment that Luke first saw Todd, “Even as a case worker for injured soldiers for six years, to see him that soon after injury took my breath away.  Luke didn’t see it, he just saw a hero. He climbed right up onto the bed with him and started talking.”  That first meeting was an encounter that would turn into a lasting friendship.  ”They call each other brothers,” says Heather.  And what kind of Marine does Sliwinski want to become?  ”A Recon, just like Todd.”

And Luke has not only spent the last seven years visiting wounded veterans at Walter Reed, he’s been raising money for them – nearly $10,000 worth.  And he’s not done.  ”I just want to do more.”  His appearance at the Spartan Race he hopes can draw attention to not only the team he loves, Team X-T.R.E.M.E. but to the work of Operation Ward 57 an organization he is closely connected to personally.  Known as “the amputee ward”, the orthopedic Ward 57 at WRAMC houses some of the most severely injured patients for weeks or even months and is a place that Sliwinski and his family have spent a great deal of time.   His plan until he’s old enough to join is to keep educating kids, raising money, and ultimately joining the Marines when he graduates high school.

Team X-T.R.E.M.E. member Todd Love says of Luke, “Luke has been with me since the beginning of my recovery. He is one of heroes, and we stay in touch with each other. I see him as a little brother but he full of what this country needs more of.”

When asked about how he feels about his heroes of Team X he said, “They are the most amazing people.  What they do, how they treat people.  They just keep fighting, even injured… Freedom isn’t free.”  And of his sandbag carry in Virginia he admits it was his biggest test of the day, the toughest obstacle for him to complete.  ”If they could do it, I didn’t want to let them down.  I didn’t want to take the easy way out.”

Spartan Race offers Kid’s Heats at every US Domestic Event.  Find one near you by clicking HERE and get you and your kids ages 4 – 13 signed up!  Proceeds to to benefit the Kids Fit Foundation

Find Luke Sliwinski on FB HERE.  To find out more about Team X-T.R.E.M.E. click HERE.

To find out more about the Young Marines Program, click HERE.

To find out more about Operation Ward 57, click HERE.

 

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by Mary Donohue, Spartan Race Guest Blogger

About two years ago, my son Ryan missed most of fifth grade due to Post-Concussion Syndrome and we didn’t know if he would ever be able to go back to school or participate in any sports again. It was a very long road to recovery for him and even though his concussion symptoms finally went away and his grades went back up to where they should be, he was eventually told that he wouldn’t be able to participate in any contact sports. He’s always been athletic and this was a huge disappointment for him. We needed to find an athletic outlet for him. We signed him up for a kids boot camp at our local YMCA and he loved it, so when he found out he could do a kids Spartan race after his dad and I finished ours, he was thrilled!

As his mother, I was a little nervous when I saw that the kids race was going to run twice up that Amesbury hill. I had just finished my first sprint and that hill was so tough for me. He started in the back of the pack, but all of a sudden I saw him passing some of the kids. Little did I know until after the race, but he hurt his foot at the beginning of the hill. This didn’t stop him. He seemed to fly over the walls and even dove through the hole in one of them and landed in a somersault. He was catching up to the kid out in front and I knew the crab walk down some of the hill would be easy for him. The competition during the kids race was really tough…and I thought the adult race was intense. It was great to see all of the adults (even those that didn’t have any kids racing) cheering on the kids as they came running by.

On his second time coming down the hill, he lost a shoe at some point coming over or through one of the walls. This didn’t stop him either. He continued on. This was one of the first competitive events that Ryan has been able to do since the concussions. It was almost like he needed to prove to himself that he was “back to himself” and able to be athletic again. Although he ended up being the first kid to the finish line, it really didn’t matter where he finished. I could see that his competitive spirit was back!

In the end, we found out that he actually broke his foot at the beginning of the race, but he persevered and never gave up the fight. He truly showed he was Spartan tough that day. When I asked him if he wished that he didn’t do the race and thus not have a broken foot, he said, “no mom, like the shirt says “Spartans either return with their shields or on it”. I might have an injury, but I returned with my shield.”  Now he can’t wait until he can run a full Spartan Sprint with me and his dad. I was so proud of my 12 year old boy that day.  I think he found his new sport.

[Editor's Note: Spartan Race offers a Kids Race, for kids ages 4-13 who can participate in their very own Jr. Spartan race. They will enjoy the thrill of the run, a variety of scaled down obstacles and their own mini festival area filled with games and children's challenges! Our mission is to inspire children to develop a love for fitness at an early age.

 The course is about a 1⁄2 mile filled with junior obstacles for Jr. Spartans and 1 mile for Varsity Spartans. Each child will receive a T-shirt and Finisher's Medal with 100% of the Jr. Spartan Adventure proceeds benefiting the Kids Fit Foundation.  Check out the event page to get your little Spartan registered for an upcoming race and check out the Kids Page for details!]

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