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

Dear Joe,

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

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

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

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

Thank you,

Shane Small

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

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Lisa Greenbauer, of San Antonio Texas recalls the moment she finished her first Spartan Race. She smiles, “It was the proudest moment in my life! I use to be the girl who could not fit a seat belt around her in the plane!”

Her long journey saw her lose 110lbs to get to that point. Being somewhat larger her whole life made it a little more challenging than usual, but she was determined to change that.

“I struggled with my weight my entire life. I was the chubby kid who just couldn’t lose the weight… Throughout my life it defined me! After college I decided it was time to make a change! I decided to get gastric sleeve surgery. Many people think it’s an easy way. Little do they know! After the surgery I worked my ass off in the gym. I actually got into plus size modeling and got on the cover of a bridal mag at one point!” she happily explains. 

After two and half years of keeping it off my husband who is in the United States Navy asked if I would like to join their team. I watch the video on what a Spartan race was because I didn’t know about it. After seeing the video I was like, “hell no! Then I thought to myself what in the world was I thinking? I was allowing my old self to take over. I decided to do the race in Mississippi.”

Taking the bull by the horns Lisa attacked the race in her own inimitable style and despite a minor setback involving her shoes, as she explains, it wasn’t going to stop her.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life! I had to do half of it barefooted because my shoes would not stay on, but I wasn’t going to allow it to stop me from finishing it. I reached the last obstacle, which was the slippery wall. When I got to the top I could not swing my dang hip over. But one of my husband’s fellow sailors said ‘you can do this’. As I dug deep within me, I got it over! As I climbed down, all I could do was cry. I was the girl who would be scared to do something!”

“Many people think that weight loss surgery is easy. It’s not. It’s still a battle. But moments like this show and prove how hard I have worked. These moments, well, no one can take them away.  It showed me anything was possible if you believe in yourself. Thank you for having races like this they help define and shape us into believers.” 

When asked about whether her experience in Mississippi made her catch the Spartan Race bug, she nods as though her life depends on it. “Heck yes! I would do it in a heartbeat!  It is something I am very proud of.  I love when I wear my shirt out and people say you did that race.  I answer ‘heck yes, I can and so can you’.”

Lisa’s unbridled sincerity and infectious enthusiasm continues to pour before she closes her tale of conquering her first race. When asked if she has any advice to anyone that is intimidated by what they see in the videos and pictures, she smiles a broad smile and is quick to encourage others.

“Yes, it’s hard! Yes, it’s scary. But put your big girl panties on and give it a try!  Moments like these create who you are and your strength!  When you’re standing in line next to a soldier who is doing the race with no leg or no arm, well, seriously, what’s your excuse?  If they could put all their heart and soul into it, then you can too!” 

See you at the finish line…

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Heidie Bratlie pauses for a moment and ponders what it was that changed her life. “It’s really not hard to be healthy, it’s all in the choices you make’, she replies.

“People let others tell them what to eat and what to do, and they don’t even realize what they are doing. But it’s easier, not to stand up for yourself. People don’t want to tell someone that they don’t want to eat the unhealthy food that is being served. Most of us were raised that way, not to be impolite. I don’t see it as impolite, I see it as my choice. There are ways to decline trashy food without being rude. I haven’t found one yet, but maybe someday”, she chuckles to herself. 

But there was a time where Heidi’s life wasn’t quite as full with smiles and jokes. The long, hard road that the resident of Vancouver, Washington began travelling started over three years earlier.

“In July 2010, I was huge. Weighing in at over 400 pounds. I signed up for a weight management class that was offered through my health insurance, but I really didn’t think it would help me. But it did! That class taught me how to eat healthy and how to avoid emotional eating. It’s a good thing too, because I was going to need it!”

Six months later, Heidi had lost over 100lbs. Sadly, the milestone celebration was marred by what was supposed to be a routine carpel tunnel surgery on her husband Jimmy. It wasn’t routine and he became sicker and sicker. On April 19th 2011, he died from Amyliodosis, a condition whereby a starch-like protein is deposited in the liver, kidneys, spleen, or other tissues.

“That was and still continues to be, the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with emotionally. I still don’t feel normal, but working out and eating healthy – keeps me feeling alive. Since he passed away I have gone on to lose 229lbs so far. Nothing will stop me. I’ve changed my life, and I can’t imagine life without a food journal and working out.”

“The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They did test after test. I do taxes for a living and this was my busiest time of the year, I worked about 60-80 hours a week during this time. I was still working my normal tax season hours and he kept getting sicker. We had no idea that he was going to die. I missed all that time I could’ve had with him.”

“Anyway, I would work my 12-13 hours then I would come home and I would go ride my recumbent bike for 20-30 minutes. One day in early April, he was so horribly sick and I came home and I went and rode my bike. He was so sick, I came back in the room and apologized for riding my bike and not spending that time with him. We still didn’t know he was going to die, but I felt bad for being gone at work all day and then taking more time away to exercise because he was so sick.”

It was what Heidi’s late husband then said that would become the most telling words in the time they would have left together.

“When I apologized, he said to me, ‘for what? Being healthy?’” 

“He was right, I was just trying to be healthy, but I still felt guilty. Then about a week later on April 18th he finally let me take him to the hospital. Within two hours they had him hooked up to everything under the sun and they had intubated him. The next morning, the doctors told me there was nothing left they could do and that I would have to take him off of the life support. That’s when I found out he was going to die. That was the hardest thing ever.”

But those words stuck with me – “For what? Being healthy?” –  I’ll never forget those words. The guilt was horrible, I had forced myself to ride my bike for about 3 weeks after he died. But then I realized that I had nothing to apologize for. Yes, I wish I could get those precious minutes back, but I will never again apologize for being healthy.  And I will NEVER give up being healthy. Anybody that can’t understand that, doesn’t have a place in my life.

This focused energy and single-minded purpose in Heidi’s life is now the catalyst for striving for all her better tomorrows. Recalling how she started, it was a simple choice that she felt she should make.

“I’m always up for a new workout, so when I heard about Train Dirty doing free workouts to prepare for the Spartan Race in the summer of 2013, I was in! I wasn’t going to do the race, but the workouts were free and there’s no better price!  I went to all but one of the training sessions. Even though I missed that one, I went and re-did the previous week’s workout. It was then that the leaders of my team made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I signed up for the Spartan Race in Washougal, WA. I had no idea what I was signing up for. I had never heard of the Spartan Race, but like I said, I’m always up for a new workout. 

Aware that others may read her words, Heidi quickly offers words of advice to those beginning a hard journey of becoming healthier.

“There are so many things I have learned along the way, especially in the beginning, that I would love to tell them. Take one day at a time, every day make a conscious decision to live healthier. Skip the diet, just eat healthy and remember that our body is not a garbage can.”

“There is no such thing as “blowing” your diet. If you choose to eat something unhealthy, it’s just a choice. After that your next choice can be healthy. If you choose to skip a workout one day, you can choose to work out the next, you have not “blown” anything. Everything is a choice. There is no such thing as the stereotypical “diet”. Everyone is on a diet. If it consists of fast food and candy, that’s still a diet. It’s just one that you might want to reconsider.”

Looking back at when she ran her first Spartan Race, she knows that turning her life around has reaped more than she has sown.

“I had no idea what I was signing up for. I had never heard of the Spartan Race, but like I said, I’m always up for a new workout. The Spartan Race in Washougal was tons of fun and very challenging. This year my goal was to finish, I did that. Now I have my sights on next year. If everything goes as planned, I should be at my goal weight, or very close, and I want to have even more fun, only faster than this year! The Spartan Race made me realize exactly how far I’ve come and also how far I to go. I work hard every day, and by next year, I will conquer!

Heidi knows what it means to ‘know at the finish line’. Fighting on through it all. Now it’s your turn.


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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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