By Sharla Hoff

Sharla and Anthony Hoff

I am overweight, non-athletic, asthmatic, have heart problems, serious nerve damage (from a compound fracture) in my left leg and foot, an injured elbow (broke it 2 years ago) but I didn’t want be defined by my limitations. I wanted a new story to tell. It was time to change. And I did. Now, I am a Spartan.

I decided, with one week’s notice, to do the Reebok Spartan Race in the high school heat in Arizona as a reward for my son, Anthony last February. He has always struggled in school but he reached a goal he had set for himself and I promised that I’d do the same for him. We joined the race and got five other teens and one mother to join us. We were all scared and very nervous. But agreed to NOT GIVE UP.

The kids were faster than me and the other mother. So we told the kids to do their best and we would see them at the end. The entire race myself and the other mothers were excited and proud that our boys were out there somewhere and finishing. But nothing prepared me for that moment when I saw the FINISH line just past the wall and barbed wire. I was so exhausted, but knew I had to finish. Then I heard the teens running down toward the wires screaming and encouraging me. I was doing it, slowly but surely. Then almost through the wire I heard my sister (she was sweeping the course) yelling for me. She jumped in and pushed me faster and helped get me over the wall and to the end. She asked to give me my medal. As she placed the medal around my neck and gave me a hug she had tears in her eyes. My son ran up and gave me a huge tight hug with an ear-to-ear smile. While I was still wet and muddy, I knew I impressed him.

On the ride home my son told me how worried he was at some of the challenges and how I would handle them. He checked with staff several times to see if there were any injuries on the course since I was so far behind. He told me when I crossed the line he knew he had a strong mother and he was amazed and proud to be my son. I guess this race was MY reward not his. Now I am more confident that I CAN do things if I WANT them bad enough.

I plan to continue to exercise and get in better shape for the journey ahead. I had an amazing experience. Since the Arizona Race I have lost 9 inches around my waist and I have changed my diet and exercise habits. I also went to Vegas and did the Biggest Loser Off-Road Challenge. I cannot thank the Spartan Race enough for helping to light this fire and determination inside of me. I’m a Spartan.

What are you waiting for?  Sign up 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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