“I spent 18 years as an emergency medical technician (EMT) and Paramedic and not once did I think “that could be me lying there”. See, after a while when you think you have seen it all and then you see something even more amazing, be it good or bad, you begin to get the “that’s my job” mentality. I don’t want medals, I don’t want recognition, I just want to help rescue the family dog from the house fire, take the bad guy off the street, and give that family another chance to make the most out of the time they have together. That’s why we do what we do.”

Christopher Edgar reflects on almost two decades of a job he loved to do. Something that he did, not just for the paycheck, but because it was a part of him. Something inside that drove him to be there. A calling, as it were.

“All my life I was one that loved to help people. Most of us in the public safety fields will tell you that is why we do it. Okay, okay some of us are just adrenaline junkies. In fact most of are that as well. We spend years training and perfecting our craft so that we may save the lives of others and so that at the end of the shift we go home to our families.”

On July 3rd, 2010, Christopher was going about his duties – a day like any other – when he was called to respond to one of two accidents that were very close to each other. One was a road traffic collision, the other one of a child drowning. He responded to the latter and when arriving on scene, was greeted by the predictable, but unwelcome sight of bumper-to-bumper traffic around 2 miles long and two cars wide. In order to get to the scene, he took the median and with the ambulance in his rear view mirror, he was on his way to the scene. At that point, everything went black. 

“I woke up in the ICU of the Trauma Center two weeks later, casts on both arms, IV in the side of my neck, Foley Catheter in place – the tube that goes into your bladder to release your urine – and unable to move my legs. I thought to myself, ‘this can’t be good’. My wife told me that I had been in a motorcycle crash that a truck had pulled out in front of me. I asked, ‘who won, me or the truck?’ She chuckled and started crying.”

“I asked what was wrong with me and that began a long conversation. I had fractured both my femurs, fractured my pelvis, fractured both forearms and 3 ribs, fractured and dislocated both wrists and the right elbow, had concussion and had been in a coma for 2 weeks. During which time I had a pulmonary embolism (a blood in the lungs) and pneumonia 3 times. It was a grim outcome for a while. I had undergone a 13 hour surgery to repair all my injuries, titanium rods in both my femurs, bracket and screws in my pelvis, plates and screws in my arms. I still think that Dr. Lee Leddy is the greatest ortho ever. He was the poor unfortunate surgeon on call that weekend.”

A driver in a pick-up truck had seen the ambulance responding and had tried to beat it across an intersection that came before the scene Christopher was responding to. Sadly, he did not see Christopher on his motorcycle and the rest, they say, is history.

Another 4 days was spent in a “step down” unit at the trauma center and eventually he was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital. A private room was set up and the hospital even arranged another bed for his wife so that she could stay every night. Trying to make light of his situation, Christopher resorted to doing sit ups in his bed and he wasn’t allowed to work any injured parts of his body. “Finally the six pack that all the women love! Never quite made it.”, he quips.

“Once I was strong enough to sit up on my own and hold myself up with just my abs we started working on the important stuff, sliding over to the bedside commode, which isn’t easy when you can’t use your arms and your legs are useless. The muscle loss that was experienced while comatose for 2 weeks was unbelievable. I was unable to support my own weight at all and needed assistance. Once I was able to move to the commode with the assistance of my wife they let me go home. I was still confined to a hospital bed that was set up in the family room and she slept on the couch next to me.”

Water therapy began immediately, albeit “without the addition of a Tiki Bar – that would have made it better”, that would target leg and head movements. Pool squats, bicycles and shuffling from side to side worked the legs. Once that was completed, he was moved to a recumbent bike and going right back to square one of learning to stand up using a walker and doing chair squats, walking with the walker, stairs and also wall slides. With time, Christopher moved on to improving his gait, balance and stamina. This ordeal took around an entire year, but this was just the beginning.

“There was also the issue of my arms which spent 8 weeks in casts – Washington Redskins red I might add – and the pins that were holding my wrists together. At least with my legs they were not in casts and we were working the range of motion to prevent loss of the range of motion. The arms however were a different story. When everything was removed there was a time that all we could do was work the joints back and forth to loosen them to begin strength training. This was a slow tedious painful process. Then the task of improving coordination began, jig saw puzzles, playing with putty, screw drivers, rubber bands, holding a pen. All used as therapy for my arms. After about 10 months of therapy I returned to work in EMS part-time light duty in the training office. It had become obvious that there was no intention to get me back to work the streets.”

Towards the end of his physical therapy, Christopher made the decision to change careers and moved to the emergency management department. One of the reasons behind this was that if he hadn’t, he would have been put on disability and had not only a limited income, but also that of a quality of life. This was not an option for Christopher who had already fought through so much. With 18 years behind him in the field, sitting behind a desk made him feel like “a caged tiger”, but he simply refused to live a limited life. Sadly, his story didn’t end there.

“My wife and I had been having problems before the crash and were very close to filing for divorce. The accident however seemed to bring us closer together and make us stronger, I thought. Turns out for the first 48 hours after the crash she was trying to decide if she was going to stay with me or leave. Turns out after talking to an injury attorney she decided to stay. The power of the almighty dollar. Things were actually good for a while but soon reverted to the way things were before and soon we separated and filed for divorce.

While waiting for the settlement from the accident we fell behind on bills and in order to protect the settlement I had to file bankruptcy. The settlement money was not going to be nearly what we thought and having taken a 1/3 cut in pay for the desk job there was no way I was ever going to be able to save the house. This was the absolute rock bottom of my life. I had lost almost everything I had. The only thing I had left was my son and that was going to change soon also. But before that I would have a medical set back that had me contemplating life.”

His cholesterol had unfortunately risen to a level considered dangerous and his physician had him put on a medication that would bring it down. Sadly, the medication brought upon rabdomyolosis, which is a condition that sees deterioration of muscle tissue including that of the heart. In the following months it came to a point where even walking the stairs in his house became an ordeal that would warrant taking a rest halfway through.

“I thought this was all related to the accident and was not sure I wanted to continue life like this. I was sleeping 14 hours a day, late for work most of the time and had no energy when I got home. Then someone at work pointed out that it was probably due to the cholesterol medication. I went and saw my doctor and yes it was due to my medication. I stopped taking the medication but the damage was done. I was almost as weak as I was when I first got out of the hospital. Physical therapy was about to start all over again, but know it had a cardiac component and I did not have any help. I started walking, a half mile a day at first and slowly worked my up to 2 miles over the next few months. I was not going to let this get the better of me and with support from family and friends I started a long trip back from total weakness.”

“My son had been my rock through this whole thing. Everything I did was ultimately for him. So we could still have fun together and live a good life. When it came close to graduating high school in May 2013 he made the decision to move to VA to live with his mother for a while. I knew this day was coming and it was a bitter sweet moment. My baby boy had grown up and I got to watch him grow into a wonderful young man. But now it was time to let him go. I had all kinds of time on my hands now.”

Christopher started reaching out to old friends, acquaintances and co-workers that he had lost contact with throughout the ordeal he’d been going through. One of these co-workers had been training for a Spartan Beast. Intrigued, he looked online to see what the furor was about. A mix of excitement and horror washed over him. The nervous excitement that one feels when danger beckons you to try.

“The more I thought about it the more I thought “well I have nothing better to do why not start exercising. In July 2013 I joined a boot camp with another friend, oh my god, what have I gotten myself into? At the same time while starting the boot camp I was stopping the narcotic pain meds from the crash. Bad idea. I found muscles I had not used since high school football. And what the hell is this burpee thing? Oh my god, it is from football. The next 2 days I was in agony. I hurt all over. I thought to myself “I am too old for this”, but I went back again and again. Yes, it hurt but it was a good kind of hurt. I started to feel better, had more energy, I was getting stronger. This picked up where the PT left off. I was telling my friend Cheryl – the one doing the Beast – about this and she said that kind of training is what they do for the races. I looked at the web site again and signed up for the workout of the day (WOD) many of the exercises I could not do at all. Unfortunately I stopped the boot camp after a couple of months. Another life altering event had occurred.”

Christopher’s father had unfortunately suffered a volley of strokes over the previous months and as such was unable to maintain his home on his own. He didn’t need – or want – to go into a nursing home, so Christopher decided that after his son moved to Florida, he would take care of his now 80 year old father. He quit his job, gave his house to the bank and moved to St Petersburg. By now it was November of 2013 and the Carolina Beast had loomed into view.

“I drove up to Winnsboro to watch Cheryl and 5000 other nuts run a 12-mile obstacle course. I could not believe this many people were doing this. As I stood at the start line (next to it not at it or behind it), I could feel the adrenaline in the air. After Cheryl went on her way I walked around and got a sense of what these people do and why they do it. It became obvious quite quickly. The sense of accomplishment, the competition and the brotherhood. The satisfaction and elation of having completed a physically and mentally demanding challenge that most people would not even consider doing and as I watched and waited, I saw him.

“Leading a unit of BDUs with gas masks and packs an amputee veteran came up the hill crossed the water and mud and headed for the 8 foot wall. With the help of his unit he was up and over and headed for the mud hill. And that’s when it hit me.  If this guy can do this so can I. That night I started asking Cheryl about the race and what she did to prepare for it. She encouraged me to do the workout or the day and lots of cardio exercise. And after talking some more she had me signing up for the Tampa Spartan Special Ops Sprint. Again ‘what was I doing?’ Still weakened from the rabdomyolosis I found that doing any of the WOD was near impossible. So I started with simple cardio.”
Christopher’s epiphany at Carolina saw a new surge of energy wash over him. Beginning with walks of around a mile, he began picking up distance and pace. Another step forward was his joining a gym and seeing a personal trainer twice a week. It was this trainer that started his road to strengthening and consolidating what he already had. The walks of a mile progressed to three miles with some light jogging mixed in. More strength training and flexibility exercises followed and before long, he found himself at the start line at the Tampa Special Ops Race.

“Well I did it. It wasn’t pretty by any means, 2 hours 34 minutes. And it wasn’t just my teammates that pushed me to the finish, other racers stopped and helped drag my ass over obstacles, encouraged me as I was dragging on the stairs (those damn stadium stairs) and doing the burpees. It was the most challenging, exhausting and rewarding thing I have ever done. A special thanks to Cheryl Dunlop who always encouraged me and had faith in me even when I did not and to Wes Henley for being a true Spartan and not leaving a brother behind.”

“I encourage everyone to sign up for and complete a Spartan Race and see what this is all about. Nothing about this race is impossible when you set your mind to it. Everyone has 30-60 minutes a day to prepare for one of these races. Its not hard but it does take commitment. Put the soda and bag of chips down and get off the couch and do something. I can say that, because not long ago, that was me. Don’t let your life go to waste because of something that you can or even can’t control. Take the challenge head on and overcome.”

“There are no excuses. If wounded veterans can do this and if I can do this, if Chris Davis can do this, anyone can do this. Don’t be scared the only reason you don’t make it to the finish line is because you did not want to. Don’t ever give up. There are enough true Spartans out there that will get you through this if you want to.”

See you at the finish line…

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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In 2010, Scott Weir decided he’d had enough of the way his life was going. Sure, he’d done a little exercise before – biking, specifically in college and during the first few years of his working life – but eventually, that fire died down to a few glowing embers until it extinguished completely. Reaching a point where he was unhappy with his frame, it was time to start rebuilding.

“After years of living a pretty sedentary life, I’d finally hit a weight and pant size that I couldn’t live with; a size 40 pants and 240lbs”, recalls Scott. “So early summer 2010 the girlfriend and I started the Couch to 5k program. I remember the first day we went out, a total of 6 minutes of running split into six 1 minute runs in like 30 minutes – it was hard. Take those last two miles at your first beast – you’re sucking wind but just keep going on guts alone – that last one minute run was the same. Eventually they got easier and longer, but when I hit 4-5k in, I started getting shin splints. So on a whim I ordered some Vibram FiveFingers and the problem disappeared.”

Progress was slow, as it always is, but it was steady and it was precisely that- progress.

“I didn’t get into racing until the next year at Ottawa Race Weekend, which was a 5K, but things spiraled pretty quickly from there. Around the same time we started running, we also began indoor rock climbing. Having seen some kind of special on MTV where Bam Margera and Ryan Dunn ran the Tough Guy, the sign for the Spartan Sprint at the gym piqued our interest. There were 5 of us that ran it that year, and it was a pretty brutal race – about 40C and incredibly humid with no water on course at a ski resort. We all made it, had a bunch of fun – despite not actually running it together as we were all different speeds -and pretty quickly decided to do it again the next year. 2012 came around and I had started biking again, did my first triathlon, a few duathlons, a few half marathons, and my first trifecta that was completed within a month of start to finish.”

That trickle progress at the beginning was rapidly becoming a torrent of activity and Scott was becoming stronger, leaner and more to the point, he was happier.

In late 2010, he started travelling to his company’s new plant in Chihuahua, Mexico with a lot of regularity, so Scott began signing up for any local race he could find in between travelling. That pattern continued the next two years, with the only difference being that his travelling cut down and his racing grew much more.

“2013 rolled around and I started with Vegas – did the Hurricane Heat and then my heat 45 minutes after we finished, except with an injured shoulder since I somehow managed to blow it out on the 2nd 8ft wall. I wasn’t ready for all of that, so I spent most of 2013 trying to recover as well, but never stopped racing.”

“I had my eastern Canada season pass and raced every venue which was 4 sprints, 1 super and 2 beasts, and transferred a registration for Sun Peaks (British Columbia), so I just needed one more super to do a triple trifecta. I managed to change a work trip around and get to the Virginia Super. Then Mexico announced their beast, and I worked another trip around that – 4th trifecta. That’s where I met Johnny Waite and Andi Hardy.

It was here that Scott had a good long conversation with who introduced him to Dave Huckle. After hearing that Dave was doing 9 Trifectas at the expense of Spartan Race, including flights and accommodation after winning a competition, and hearing there was still one more Super just announced in Guadalajara, not to mention seeing the multi-trifecta medals coming out, he made plans to get a 5th trifecta for 2013. It was here that wheels in his mind started turning and he began thinking about an attack on 2014.

“While I’m fast enough to race in the elite heat, I’m not going to win a race any time soon. So the next best thing? Trifecta record and US SR300.”

“So I began planning around that. The current plan has me going for 11 and hoping to get 10, since the Beast/Ultra Beast in the same weekend is a bit of a tall order. Pretty tough to schedule right now, there’s hardly enough Beasts, given that Sun Peaks is out – same weekend as VT, there’s one fewer in eastern Canada and no schedule for Mexico out yet. Honestly, I think Huckle has been spreading word around more than I have – he seems pretty jazzed that multiple people are out to break his record”

“As far as financing goes – I’ve already got my US and Eastern Canada season pass, so now it’s pretty much just spending my own cash and air miles that I’ve built up over the last few years. There’s lots of races I can drive to as well (apparently 13 hours is my radius), so as much as I can, I’m just avoiding paying for flights. Hard to put a price on kicking your own ass for the whole year, isn’t there?”

A self-financed attempt at a minimum of 10 Trifectas now a very real possibility, Scott is looking at breaking records throughout 2014. Don’t be surprised if you see his face at a race near you and whatever you do, get out of the way if he’s approaching fast behind you. He’s a man on a mission!

See you at the finish line…

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“I’m a great believer in finding the things you can do and not worrying about the things you can’t,” smiles Richard Pringle, the impossibly happy Englishman.

Impossibly happy because Richard suffers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, a condition that many people are unfamiliar with. Richard explains, “It’s basically a degenerative spinal condition and attacks the spine and joints. It’s a form of Arthritis and can be very severe – 6 years ago I could barely walk because of it. I even had a disabled permit for my car!”. In 2005 he was taken to hospital and stayed there for 6 months in order to fight it.

“The medication I take is a very rare and new drug called Biological Therapy. It’s called Anti TNF (Anti Tumour Narcosis Factor) and it works by taking away the part of your body that causes the inflammation in the joints. The side effect is that your immune system is extremely depleted and you don’t have ability to fight tumors as effectively.”

Pringle struggles with the condition daily. While the drugs are effective they don’t completely eradicate the symptoms, so he still suffers some pain and discomfort in his back and joints. Yet Pringle persists, carrying on and pushing forward. “You play the cards you’re dealt.”

Pringle also knows that there’s a high probability that the drugs won’t always work and that he will have to stop taking them. This is why he’s always in a rush. He’s in a rush to do as many amazing things as possible and that’s why he desperately wants to do the Spartan Beast to add to his list of things he’s achieved after being diagnosed.”

One huge difference is that the constant training and movement is because he wants to abs or the physique – they happen to be a very huge bonus side effect of what he does. He trains because he wants to live.

“If I didn’t do any exercise I would basically just stop working and my body would shut down. The best thing for my condition is to stay active. In severe cases and a common result of inactivity is that my back will start completely fusing together and not move at all. Whilst most people wouldn’t go to the extremes I have in terms of activity (swimming is the most commonly prescribed form of exercise). It’s so important that you exercise both for physical health and to keep me sane!

Having already conquered the Sprint, Richard is using his training and thirst for life as the fuel for slaying the Spartan Beast in London later this year. Pounding the trails and the dirt is now as much a part of his day as eating and sleeping.

“I’m absolutely buzzing for the Spartan Beast now. In terms of running it’s all about getting the miles in your legs in preparation so we’ve been going on a few longer runs over a fantastic local area called Fairlight Glenn. It’s basically like a ready-made Spartan training ground! It’s all off road with lots of hills there’s streams and tunnels and it’s the ideal training ground.”

Pringle also considers his location lucky, “Where I live in Hastings, is that we have outdoor gym areas on the beach and we have Monkey bars to practice on too so we’ve been doing lots of body weight training so we can get up those ropes and walls. The preparation has seriously started already as I’m looking for a good time and a good place in this. With my personality and regardless of my medical condition I always want to do as well as I can.”

For a man hosting a condition that would see his body literally shut down if he stops moving, he is remarkably upbeat. His positivity shines through in his actions, his attitude and even his work.

“I train over 350 people a week in Hastings through my Combat Conditioning classes I get asked for advice a lot. It normally involves reassurance as the most common thing people have is a lack of confidence and a doubt they can’t do something.”

When asked by those he trains if he thinks they can finish a Spartan he says, “Yes! We had 14 people entered in the Spartan Sprint and none of them had ever done anything like that before and it was the best feeling ever seeing their faces afterwards, knowing what they’d achieved.”

Richard swims, runs, lifts and even regularly wins MMA fights, an astonishing thought, considering the larger fight his carries every day.

“In life I’ve been lucky that I have a second chance, a second window of opportunity to do things I never thought possible and as I always say “never stop chasing your dreams.” If there’s one thing you want to do or one thing you want to achieve then go out and do it! I remember hearing a quote about regret and it said ‘when you’re going in your death bed it won’t be these things you did you’ll regret, it’ll be the things you didn’t do.’  This is so true.”

True to form, the content of his character mirrors so many people that “knew” at the finish line. Waving away questions about himself, his eagerness to help others is none more apparent when he explains,

“If I could give any advice to all those reading this thinking about doing their first Spartan Race, it’s do it! Don’t talk about doing it, don’t think about doing it just get those running trainers on and get out for a run and start training. Start by just running around the block if you have to but you’ll get there. With drive commitment and belief you can do anything you put your mind to. It’s all about your mindset. When I couldn’t walk properly due to my condition I was told I could swim. So that’s what I did. I swam every day and became a very good swimmer.”

What’s your excuse? Find a Spartan finish line HERE.

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There are countless paths that lead someone to a Spartan Race. Some crave excitement beyond what conventional footraces offer. Others seek the camaraderie. But for Justin Di Bianca and many like him, Spartan Race was the destination arrived at through change.

You’d never know it from looking at the toned 29 year old but fitness was not always part of Justin’s regimen. In 2007, he tipped the scales at 310 pounds. His weight kept him from pursuing many of his ambitions and posed a serious concern for his health. Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and taking nearly 20 pills a day to manage his symptoms, his doctor urged him to lose weight.

Maybe it was the diagnosis. Or maybe Justin needed a wake up call. Whatever the trigger, Justin heeded that advice like a scholar and immediately began exercising and improving his diet. And did he work! At his next doctors appointment six months later, Justin had dropped 140 pounds – without the aid of surgery or quick solves – and his ulcerative colitis appeared to have completely disappeared.

It wasn’t until 2011 that Justin found Spartan Race. By that time, he has established a healthy life built around fitness but claims that Spartan immediately became his drug. As he was pushed physically by the race and pulled emotionally by the racers, he found a community. He met Chris Davis, a Spartan who has famously lost hundreds of pounds, at the finish line in Tuxedo, NY, compelled to thank him rather than accept the medal Chris was draping around his neck. He learned of the Vescelus family, whose young son is blind, but refuses to not race like his big brother.  Justin has given back, donating his time to his Alma Mater’s basketball team as their strength and conditioning coach.

“When you have come from where I was to where I am now,” Justin explains, “you can really get into people’s minds because they know your fully understand both [health] spectrums”.

One must wonder: with the bevy of race options, what is it about Spartan Race that keeps in drawn in? “It’s [founder] Joe [De Sena]‘s mantra,” says Justin. When Justin completed the Beast in Killington, VT but did not receive his trifecta medal, he was understandably angered. But it was a personal email from Joe that put things into perspective. “Joe apologized for the situation but emphasized that I shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. I had accomplished an amazing task and come too far in my life to sweat the small stuff.”

Justin loves Spartan because it is the larger picture; it is as much about the community as it is about the individual, all united under one common goal – to reach the finish line. Justin sees a lot of finish lines in his future. Completing his first trifecta this year, he looks to accomplish two this year. We hope that one day he’ll hand out medals and be the welcoming face that has inspired others to reach the finish.

About Justin:
Trains with Spartan Group X at 360 Fitness in Fairfield, NJ and has competed in Tuxedo, NY (Sprint), Mountain Creek, NJ (Super) and Killington, VT (Beast). Di Bianci works as an Executive Chef and Director of Food & Beverages for The Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset, NJ. He has always wanted to work with kids and since losing the weight and teaching what he’s learned, he has accomplished that dream.

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June of 2012 wasn’t a good time for Cem Colpan. He was suffering from asthma, weight issues, high cholesterol and a dangerous amount of fat in his liver. “The doctor said that I had to lose weight as soon as possible to prevent my liver from failing, but I just didn’t have it in me to diet and exercise. I had no motivation, was barely active as it was, and just felt like it wasn’t even worth trying to better myself, despite all of the health issues.”

Colpan was faced with an all too common, but sad scenario. Sometimes the drive or spark in order to get up and move just isn’t there. Sometimes it needs a fire lit under someone to make them jump up. Luckily, Cem was given those smallest of flames by way of his work manager.

“I opened up to one of my managers who was concerned and he told me about the Spartan Race and Chris Davis’ incredible story. I did research and noticed that there was a Super Spartan Race being held in New Jersey in September (2012) but I had my doubts. After being pushed by my manager, I had signed up for the race and began with the most basic exercise there was. Walking.”

When he started, it was all guns blazing – the gym was pounded 5 days a week, but he was deterred by the minimal results that were being shown. Training was slow, but steady. Walking slowly became jogging and the workouts became more efficient. More to the point, he had something to focus on.

“When the race time rolled around, I weighed 30 pounds less and was MUCH more active than before. The fat in my liver was decreasing, my cholesterol was lower and my asthma was little to no issue at all. I had completed the Super Spartan with the help of my manager, although it took 5 hours and 43 minutes to complete. After getting back home and resting a few days, I was constantly checking the Facebook page for any race photos and, to my surprise, my picture was one of the lucky few to make it. I felt honored and it was such a great accomplishment to actually be on the page.”

The high of the finish wore off and, “A few weeks after the race, I noticed that my workouts weren’t the same. I had lost a little more weight but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. Without a goal, I found myself stuck. So what was the next best thing I could do? Set a new goal and that was to earn the Spartan Trifecta in 2013.”

At the time Cem completed the CitiField Sprint, everything health wise was going great. He was 30lbs lighter, the liver issue was settled, the asthma was gone and the cholesterol was much better. But for some reason, a few weeks later, things started turning sour.

Everything was great up until a few weeks ago. My whole world began to come down on me. I was losing everything. “The first thing that happened was issues my family. Arguments started to increase and there was an imbalance between me, my mother, father and sister. Shortly after, my girlfriend, who had been an incredible source of support with my change ended up breaking up with me. As those situation were going on, I also found myself slowly losing my closest friends. I tried to keep my chin up and be thankful that two parts of my life were going well. Both work and my health.

It was about two weeks ago where, of course, work was now an issue as well. It was very taxing and I had remained completely ignorant to the depression that was slowly creeping up on me. I remained as positive as I could be and tried taking things one day at a time. I felt that I was being hit from all sides and nothing was going right. Then, August 23rd, it seemed like it was just another day until I began feeling faint. I got some water and thought that I was just a little tired when about one hour in, I collapsed.”

He was brought to the nearest hospital and some tests were run. No one could figure out what the issue was, including Cem himself. A psychologist was spoken to, but nothing became of it. He was released, and went home, but he preferred to be alone. Isolated.

“The next day must have been one of the longest ones ever. The depression had completely taken over and although I had my parents trying to help, it wasn’t working. My father took a walk with me so I could get some air instead of staring at the ceiling. On our way back home, I began to feel faint again. My father rushed me home and had me lie on the bed. I was on the verge of passing out again and both of my parents were frantic. They grabbed the ice, kept fanning me and talking to me to make sure I was responding. I was overcome with fatigue , unable to move my arms or legs. I just laid there in tears once again. I was slowly gaining my energy after getting help from my parents. By the end of the night, I was back to functioning normal again, but still silent.

Sunday came and I was finally ready to talk and told my parents everything that had been on my mind. I called my sister, my friends and even my ex. I was exhausted but felt that it was necessary to just open up entirely. Afterwards, I had taken a walk by myself. I was trying to push my limits to see exactly where I was at. I couldn’t find myself walking for more than a quarter mile without being exhausted and it was at that moment that I realized the path I took was the very same path I had taken during my first official “exercise” last year.”

In the blur of what was happening he had lost sight of the whole point of why he started and what for. His manager called him and pointed out that the Super was a mere 13 days away. Fearful that everything he worked towards may be lost, he trained “smarter, not harder” and saw it through. Eventually, the Super came and in his own words, Cem explains how it went;

“I loved the race. I believe that, for its level, it was definitely challenging. The hills were a brutal battle and I loved every bit of it. There was teamwork and camaraderie, even from complete strangers. I saw people helping each other up the walls and holding the cargo net so others would get over the net safely. I even had a few conversations and shared some of my energy gels with a few people along the way. I managed to complete the race in 2 hours and 35 minutes which was around my goal time so I’m content. The course DEFINITELY tested everybody’s strength and will and despite all the sweat and exhaustion, the course still managed to put smiles on just about everybody’s face. I don’t think I have a single complaint about the race and that’s saying something because I’m generally a picky person. It was great.”

At Vermont, Cem will earn his Trifecta.

To dig deeper and find what was once there is a hard thing to do. To have already given all you thought you had and then to have to find even more is something best realized at the finish line. And that’s when you’ll know.

What’s your excuse? Sign up today.

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by James Korak

When I turned 40, I looked in the mirror. I didn’t like what I saw, my youth had slipped away, I had gained 50 pounds and had a soft body. I was on blood pressure medicine, cholesterol medication and was falling apart. I had just came through a dark time in my life where we lost a daughter, were having struggles in our marriage due to a failed adoption, and communication was weak at best. I was not being the leader of our family, so I started to get my body (temple) back into shape by attending boot camp 3x a week for over a year. Then I was asked by my trainer to run a simple three mile mud race (Ha- simple was not the term I use). I got my butt kicked and didn’t like that because I used to be a professional cyclist in my youth and competed at a high level with very structured training and diet. For me to be at such a high level physically, then go to getting my butt kick in a simple 5k mud run did not settle well with me and lit a fire again in my soul and heart for competition. As I tell my wife today, there are worse things to do when you turn 40 and have a midlife crisis than get back into shape and start competing again.

Then came Spartan. I did my first Beast race and still did not do well, so I upped my training and including running to my regiment of training. I ended up placing in the 25 among all males and 4th in age group in 2012. Now I am currently 1st in my age group and hoping for a top 30 finish by the completion of September’s elite racing season.

What changed? How are things getting stronger at such an late time in ones physical life?

When I started doing more races, and getting further into shape, I now was back to my high school weight, the best shape of my life and feeling no restrictions on what I can accomplish except a longer recovery and sore knees! Ha- The Spartan people challenged me to go harder than I ever had physically in life, and enjoy it.

The second component of my story is my family. My brothers, sisters and of course my mom and friends thought I was crazy and truly feared for my well being. When I started doing events like 24 hour obstacle races in sub freezing temps, the Spartan Ultra Beast, and most recently the 2013 Death Race, they thought I was going to kill myself because I was OLDER and should not be doing those things.

HA again, but when they saw the physical talents that God gave me to not quit and conquer what appeared to be impossible challenges, they now are starting to become believers on what one can do and overcome if your heart and mind is into it. But my wife and kids have and always are my biggest fans. My wife is my biggest supporter and fan and never tells me I can’t do something or its too hard! My kids, Grace and Abbie, cheer me on at the races. Whether I see them at the finish line holding a hand painting sign or out on the course trying to run with me for a moment or two, it gives me an enormous amount of strength and courage to push my body past its breaking point and to finish strong. When I cross the finish line in 10th, 20th, etc. and my wife and kids are there, I feel completely fulfilled in life and they look at me with love and compassion in their eyes making me want to challenge myself further. This is far better than winning a cycling race in my younger days. Besides, I do find some satisfaction on beating youth more than half my age, but it’s still more than all that.

My kids now see what hard work and determination can do; age/health is no longer a factor of limitations, but rather an excuse. I now have been told by friends, family and neighbors all around that I have been a source of encouragement to them, showing them there is no limit on what you can accomplish if you put your mind and body into it. I recently spoke at my daughters FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) to 60 plus kids in Junior High School, to give encouragement on finishing life strong in order to hear the words, “Well done” at the finish in life’s race. Spartan helps me strive to better myself as an individual to be the best I can be in life.

My goal is one of inspiration and encouragement to all ages of life. That when faced with adversity and challenges, how you struggle to find solutions and push through the pain and suffering to finish strong, not just in a Spartan Race, but in life. I believe the two our synonymous and I just want to help others help themselves and be a source of inspiration for them and my family to become active and change who they are!

Now it’s your turn! Register TODAY!

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by Sarah Marbach

At my heaviest, and lowest point of my life, I was 440 pounds. The most exercise I got daily was walking to and from classes in college, and carrying my very large body up and down stairs. I couldn’t fit into things that were made for average sized people. Desks, chairs, airplanes, seatbelts, my twin sized bed, smaller cars, and restaurant booths all posed problems for me. I stopped being a participant in life and was simply existing. I went to class, I came home and ate. I went to work, I came home and ate. I was 21 years old and was told that I would be lucky to make it to 30 at the rate I was going. Things needed to change, and they needed to change quickly.

My mom had gastric bypass and she was desperate for me to at least look at the options available to me. Every time she presented me with the option of surgery, I checked out mentally. The last time she mentioned it, I finally caved and agreed to go to the seminar. After the seminar I had a burst of energy. I knew this was going to be the tool that I would need to save my life. From June-December of 2009 I worked my tail off. I cut back on the amount of calories I was consuming and upped my activity level. I started taking water aerobics and walking around the track with my friends. Before I was wheeled into the operating room I weighed in at 330 pounds (110 less than my first weigh in at the seminar).

After surgery, I continued to work out and modify my eating habits. I no longer ate because I was bored, I ate because I was hungry. I began scheduling things around my favorite exercise classes. I slowly moved from water aerobics to more challenging classes like spinning and kick boxing. I found a love of Zumba and began working with a personal trainer. I began doing harder and harder work outs and loved every minute of it. Still eager to try more, I began running and signed up for a bunch of races. I completed many 5ks, a few 10ks and a half marathon. I soon found myself at a normal weight and size, and began to feel great about myself and my achievements. I have now held my weight steady at 190 pounds for more than two years and am enjoying the maintenance phase of my journey.  All told, I lost 265 pounds.

I heard of the Spartan Race and was eager to take on the challenge, but as always, was a little intimidated. When I heard the Biggest Loser sponsored a team and that it was a scaled down version of the spartan, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it.

June 1st came quicker than I expected, but I was ready to lace up my sneakers and give the spartan a go. I showed up at 7:30 and waited nervously in the Biggest Loser area, already watching all the Spartans getting ready for their start time. As more people showed up, I convinced myself that I was ready to dominate the course and give it my all. With a few last minute race guidelines from the awesome team captains Jackie, Jen, and Dan… And a special shout out for my weight loss, and we were at the starting line.

We began with a mountain to climb, and I decided that I would move as fast as my legs would carry me. I jogged up the mountain like I’ve done it before, my dad always says “act like you’ve been there” and pushed forward. About half way up one of the volunteers shouted “keep jogging!” I knew I had to press forward. All along the course, the volunteers and the captains were excellent cheerleaders. Just when I felt like I had nothing left inside, a yellow Biggest Loser shirt would shout words of encouragement. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time out of their racing schedule to help the rookies complete the race.

The obstacles were all challenging in their own way, but I was eager and willing to try every single one presented and take my penalty burpees (even though they werent required). I focused on what I was able to complete, and didn’t beat myself up about the burpees I made myself do because I couldn’t do an obstacle. I climbed up walls ranging in height from 6′ to 8′, ran through tires, carried a “pancake” up a mountain and back down the other side, dragged a concrete block up a mountain and back down again, dragged a huge tire, climbed a wall made out of ropes, climbed a slanted wall and slid down the other side, crawled through mud and under barbed wire.

Though I completed many obstacles, I did take 30 burpees for the rock wall, the pegs, the rope climb, the spear throw (I missed the bale of hay), and the monkey bars. But, like with anything, if you don’t do something the first time there is always another chance to get it right. I will continue to train my tush off and I will take on the spartan next year and will try to cross some burpees off my list, because who likes doing burpees? No one!

Besides the awesome captains and volunteers from the Biggest Loser, and all my super cool team mates and new friends, the Spartans that were racing and their volunteers were more than supportive as well. Many a Spartan helped push my tush over walls, and shouted words of encouragement along the way. At one point there was a break in the course where Dan informed me that I could either cut through or take on the mountain… I said “forget cutting through, go big or go home!” and trudged my way up the mountain. As I made my way up the mountain I heard a voice behind me say “you don’t know how much you just inspired me!” Just knowing that I was able to inspire a fellow racer because I wasn’t going to take the easy way out is an amazing feeling. That’s really been a theme in my life, and the Spartan Race was no exception.

Taking the easy way out was the way old Sarah lived her life, but the me I am today wants more challenges because they build character and strength. Nothing worth having comes easy. I am proud of myself for finishing, for taking on a challenge that I was terrified of, for completing the whole thing even though short cuts were offered, and for trying every obstacle presented. The whole experience was amazing, incredible, and just positive. If you have a chance to sign up for this event, do it. You will surprise yourself and have the time of your life, plus some interesting bruises to show off at work on Monday…

Interested in learning more about the Biggest Loser off-road challenge? Click HERE.

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by Michele McBride

Michele, left,  at 240 lbs

My name is Michele and I am a 41 yr old mom of 3 kids (2 boys and 1 girl ages 23, 18 and 7) and have been married for 24 years! When I was little I was always a skinny little thing, but when I hit 14 I gained some weight. Around age 15 almost 16 I decided to loose it and did! Man, it’s funny to see how boys who wouldn’t talk to you before but they sure wanted to talk to me then!

I got married at 17 to the greatest guy who loved me for me not my size! Well after two babies I had kept on the weight! After my 2nd I weighed 180 pounds. It was then when my darkest time entered. The weight continued to pile on and by the time I got pregnant with my 3rd in 2005 I weighed 240/245 lbs! It was the heaviest I had ever been and felt so depressed. The pregnancy was hard as I had many problems by the time I had her in December of 2005 I weighed 224!

It was then that I started watching The Biggest Loser! That inspired me big time! I first just changed little things – giving up soft drink except for one every now and again – but I knew I had to change, I’d developed Type II diabetes. Then I actually started eating right! I used to only eat supper and now I eat breakfast, lunch, snack, and supper! I also changed my white carbs to wheat and am making better food choices.

So I changed my eating but I knew I was still missing exercise! I admit I am lazy but I was wanting something different! I was

Michele (far right) back to 180 and counting

looking at all the Biggest Loser contestants and how they looked and looked like they felt and I wanted that. One day while searching a Biggest Loser event I stumbled across Spartan Race! Oh MY! It looked fun but I wondered if I could do it. My self-esteem had gone down as my weight went up! Even now I am not sure… but I WANT TO! My husband is very supportive and said of course you can do it honey!

I recently joined a gym and got a trainer and am preparing for my first race! I feel great now! I currently weigh 180 and have started noticing body changes. I am scared to death but I have to overcome some other fears during this Race! I have a bad fear of heights so that’s going to be hard! But I want this! I need this!! I want to be around for my little one to graduate and to one day have grandbabies to hug and run with! Plus, maybe finally I can out-kayak my brother! I love kayaking and my brother goes with me and we have so much fun but he can out paddle me! Well, watch out brother here I come! I am losing weight and inches but gaining so much more again! I have been inundated with support from Spartan Chicked Facebook page, so if you need the support they rock!

Are you a female Spartan looking for a cool crew of chicks to hang out with? Spartan Race has a Spartan Chicked closed network on FB that connects like-minded women to talk about training, nutrition, and staying healthy, strong and active. No boys allowed! Click HERE to request to join!

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