It was all too clear when you arrived in Kalispel that something very big was happening. There was an exciting buzz in the air and they were ready for Spartan Race to arrive. The restaurants, motels and hotels all proudly displayed “Welcome Spartan Racers” to their sleepy, but beautiful mountain town. Posters were in every store window and even the TV and radio proudly boasted the inaugural event happening that weekend. The Spartans were invading and the local community were greeting them with open arms, and the people of Kalispell and Big Fork didn’t disappoint. Seasoned racers and curious first timers rubbed shoulders as they hastily made their way through the registration tents, keen to test their mettle in the inaugural Montana Reebok Spartan Sprint.
The men’s and women’s elites ran together at 8am, all keen to defy Race Director Todd Sedlak’s bold claim that nobody would
conquer the course in less than an hour. Indeed, it has quickly been suggested that this race was arguably the hardest Spartan Sprint has offered to date. However, four racers from the men’s elites broke the 60 minute barrier, Cody Moat being the fastest at 50m 25s. Second and third going to Chad Trammell (52.31) and proud local Brian Suttle (59.19) respectively. The ladies winner was Beverly Watson, with Jolene Wilkinson and Margaret Schlachter taking third. What’s notable about the women’s elite is that Beverley Watson rocked the course to first place despite being 60 years of age. “Too old to do a Spartan Race” now more than ever is no longer a valid excuse!
More defiance was shown throughout course of the day as competitors sweat and strained through the punishing hills and forests. JD West, a truck driver of 43 having lost 80lbs prior to the race, signed up for the course simply “because”. LA-based fitness fanatic Grant Zaragoza joined his friend Jozee Hofman for their first Spartan Race, refusing to let a little thing like the Cerebral Palsy they both suffer from get in the way of them finishing the course together.
Brad Ludden from First Descents, a non-profit organisation that enables young adult cancer survivors to try their hand at kayaking, climbing and other outdoor pursuits, was joined by those that battled and defeated the terrible disease, in the shape of Kelsey Tanner, Andy Bonnet and Denise Pearson all the way from Denver via a 16-hour drive in their sleeper van. More of their information can be found at http://firstdescents.org
Ian Reynolds and his service dog Miles also enjoyed the race. Some years ago, Ian made the decision to have the lower half of his right leg amputated after an incident involving fireworks left him badly injured. Despite this and in his own words it being “a blessing in disguise”, Ian now has a career in prosthetics having learned from the very guy that built his new leg.
The arduous terrain and punishing obstacles left many experiencing a gamut of emotions at the finish line. Some crossed not knowing whether to laugh or cry as the months of training finally came to fruition. None moreso than Nyk Kuntz who was surprised to see his girlfriend there: Specialist Kaela Causey, an active service Black Hawk mechanic. Keeping it a surprise for two months that she would be there before a 9-month deployment in Kuwait, she waited at the finish line and they embraced amongst deafening cheers.
As the day drew to a close, both spectator and runner eventually had to be encouraged to leave, despite the good times being in full flow. The folk of Kalispel, Big Fork and the surrounding communities know how to party and wanted more! As such, it was quickly established that Spartan Race would be back next year, definitely for one day, maybe for two – who knows?
With so many vendors, companies and charities involved, next year’s event is shaping up to be closer to a reunion of new friends, rather than that of another regular Spartan Race event . Will you be there?
As an aside, Reebok Spartan Race would like to extend thanks to the warm welcoming reception that was given when we came to town. See you next year!
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