by Khaled Allen
When Melissa Erney got back from her Spartan Sprint near Chicago last week, she gleefully showed off her bruises and scrapes, proud of the battle scars she had won on the course. Her friends and co-workers thought she was insane. Who in their right minds would find such joy in the prospect of getting caked in mud and scratched up? Furthermore, who actually enjoys crawling under barbed wire?
Melissa does. It was her favorite obstacle actually. “I loved the crawling under the barbed wire! I was so glad there were two sections of it,” she shared. Now that’s Spartan spirit: unflagging determination and optimism mixed with just a little bit of crazy!
Melissa epitomizes the spirit of a Spartan racer. She attacked the race with everything she had, eager to challenge herself and confident that she could meet any challenges she came up against. Her big heart more than made up for her small stature, and in the face of great difficulties and bruises, she merely smiled and pushed forward. When others might have shown fatigue after a tough race, Melissa couldn’t stop smiling.
Melissa lives in Chesterson, IN with her husband and 6 year-old son. She trains six days a week using the intense P90X fitness program. A graduate of Valparaiso University, Melissa has worked in steel sales for the past 8 years. She started her intense fitness journey three years ago. “I’ve been doing P90X for three years, off and on…I’ll take a little break, get bored with something else, then go back to P90X,” she said with the calm matter-of-fact attitude of an athlete accustomed to intense training programs.
Despite her hardcore approach to fitness, Melissa was very easy-going when I asked her how she felt before the race. At 5’2” and 110 pounds, she wasn’t worried at all. “If I can do a few pull-ups, I can get my butt over a wall,” she joked. Her husband, Scott, wasn’t concerned either. “When she said she’d like to do a Spartan Race, I knew she could hang with the big boys,” he recalled. So, he signed up her a week before Midwest Spartan Sprint in Marseilles, IL. “It was kind of a surprise,” Melissa said, but she didn’t expect to hit anything she couldn’t handle. The tire drag challenged her, she admitted, but she pointed out that that part of the course was also one of the muddiest pieces.
Melissa’s attitude truly is the attitude that defines a Spartan racer. If you’ve got the guts and the willingness to push yourself, you can get through the races, and as long as you keep smiling and find joy in the challenges, you’ll have a great time. Also, it helps to enjoy being muddy, as Melissa did, especially since the Midwest race was known for being particularly muddy.
Melissa offered some advice to new racers and those on the fence, “Just do it! You’ll always surprise yourself when you’re out there. And have fun!” Follow Melissa’s example and throw yourself into the mud; enjoy it. Melissa is very proud of her bruised knees and skinned elbows, but knowing that the scars will soon fade, she’s already set plans to race again.