How it Began

by Michael Mills

I became the first ever paralyzed Spartan in history when I finished the Reebok Spartan Georgia race on March 9, 2013 along with my team.  A head-on collision with a drunk driver in  1993  landed me in a wheelchair.  The devastation from my injuries resulted a T-12 paralysis, but I’ve never let it define or stop me.  I’ve competed in over 160 road and track races in the twelve years since, even representing the United States three separate times.  So, I’m used to competition, but Spartan was a challenge I had not yet experienced.  I had to be a part of it and wasn’t going to let my paralysis keep me from finding that finish line.   It began just a little over eight months ago I made the decision that I was going to compete in the 2013 Georgia Reebok Spartan Sprint. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I was going to give it my all. I built a team with my misfit friends and we all trained in preparation for what we knew would be our toughest challenge ever.

Race Day

On race day, we started off at 9:15 am through the smoke and we began our journey to become Spartans. We hit the first obstacle with an aggressive nature and we didn’t look back. Shortly after the first obstacle we made the trek into the woods where there was the crooked creek about shin deep. Most people saw the creek as just part of the course, I saw it as obstacle number two. I dove right into water that was chest deep and started to crawl. Shortly after reaching the end the creek, I realized I had a flat tire on my wheelchair. Not even a mile into the course we had a problem.

In Spartan form I said “I ain’t got time for this, let’s just go!” So, we pushed on. We attacked each obstacle with extreme prejudice. We were relentless and we conquered each and everyone of them together. We made our first block around to the cargo net and that’s when I realized that people were really yelling and rooting for us. Our team were making a mark in Spartan history.

As we got to the top, my good friend Chris Davis came up behind me and said, “This is what you’ve been waiting for!” He was right, I took a short breath and looked around and just took it all in. We made it through the traverse wall, the tire flips (man those things were heavy), and off to the remainder of the course. As we got closer to the finish we could hear music and people, I knew it was close to being over. I saw my oldest son, my mom, and my dad. They were in awe I had made it this far. I was just three obstacles away from the finish.

Next up, the spear throw. Well, let’s just say, I wasn’t the only one doing a burpee. I had to do a “murpee,” which I call a Mike burpee or a modified burpee. I put my 30 in as fast as possible and we were off to the rope climb. I got up about a 1/4 of the way and went down into the cold water. Needless to say I hit 30 more murpees in the nasty thick mud. Then we went to the mud and barbed wire. We came out fast and muddy. Last obstacle was the gladiators. I looked up and to my surprise was Andi Hardy an Elite female Spartan Athlete. Andi took a spot just for us. We as a team decided that we were going to attack instead of them attacking us. The next thing I knew we were crossing the finish line, as a team just like we had started. Team Pushharder were now all Spartans!

I want to thank Nathan, Kevin, Brandon, Will, Scott, Joel, John and April for everything you guys did to make my dream come true. My team and I did something people said couldn’t be done. We made history together.

For those of you who doubted my abilities and said it couldn’t be done, now is the time I can gladly say, “I told you I could!” Not only am I a Spartan, I am the first ever paralyzed Spartan in history.

What’s your excuse? Sign up TODAY.

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9 Responses

  1. avatar

    Your an inspiration to say the least, Roc-On Brother!!

  2. avatar

    You’re awesome Michael and a great inspiration! Thank you for sharing your story! I will be racing in the Spartan Beast, September 21, 2013 in Vermont. It’s my first obstacle course race, I plan to finish!! But, I know it’s gonna be tough. I look forward to the challenge!! Watching your life story makes me strive to be better… you rock Michael!! FIST BUMP!!!

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  4. avatar

    I luv you… through you I will become stronger and will have more endurance

  5. avatar

    Your an Inspiration to everyone who watches this video and to everyone that you see every day! keep up the hard work Michael!

  6. avatar

    This is so moving, I cried. Thank you for sharing your story and not letting anything get you down!

  7. avatar

    You are truly an inspiration to all of us. I love your story, your courage, your team for never giving up on you, believing you could do this! And your family’s love and support. The triumph of the human spirit does not set boundaries or place limits on one’s self, as life does this for us. I have had a serious disease since a toddler, wasn’t expected to survive to adolescence, but I did. And I was able to find someone who could love and accept me for me, and we went on to eventually have two wonderful daughters and are still happy in love 34 years later. My body has failed me miserably, but my mind continues to grow and stretch. In my next life I’ll be a tremendous athlete. For now, I love all sports and try to live each day to the fullest. You go on!! I can’t wait to read more about you and your wonderful achievements. You are amazing!!

  8. avatar

    I have to say that today I saw your story and you inspired me to get back into shape and go after my dreams. I was in a car wreck and messed up my neck and it has been a hard road to regain my health.

    I have started a foundation called the One Spark Foundation. It teaches people how to be kind. The website is I would love to talk to you about our School Sparks program. Our office number is 316-945-3051.

    What a great Spark you gave me today.

    Thank you David

  9. avatar

    Amazing story Michael! I too was hit head on by a drunk driver almost 3 years ago. Not back to work yet after many surgery’s, broken back, pelvis, wrist, both heels crushed, etc… From spending 3 weeks in a trauma unit and the remaining summer in a nursing home unable to walk I watched my wife run her first Spartan Race last summer. I was bummed I couldn’t do it. The Drs said I’d never run again. I proposed to my wife while trail running so having that taken away from me really sucked. At that Spartan Race watching my wife from the sidelines along with the other racers and the Spartan community, well lets say that lit a fire in me. My surgeon said I’d never run, he never said I wouldn’t do a Spartan Race. :) I’m signed up for the Pa Spartan Sprint this August. I give thanks to a lot of people from home and the Spartan community and story’s like Michael’s. There’s a lot of inspiration around if you just look for it. Thank you Spartan Community! See you at the finish line!


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