Family and friends look at you confused. You’ve explained what you’re doing and why you need to pack a change of clothes. They’ve seen you train and possibly even seen a couple of videos on Youtube. But they still have that glazed over expression and don’t fully understand why you’re doing a Spartan Race.
We asked competitors recently what it was about doing a Sprint, a Super, or a Beast that gave them the most satisfaction.
Dane Bustrum of San Diego, California answered, “I thought about this after Malibu and for me, the best thing about being a Spartan is watching someone else who is about to give up on an obstacle and helping them to successfully complete the obstacle without doing burpees. In Malibu it was a woman at the slippery wall who said, ‘I’m just going to walk around’. Another runner and I literally pulled her entire body weight up and over an obstacle. She was both thankful and happy. I’ve been helped and I’ve helped others and there’s just something about being a part of a defining achievement in a complete stranger’s life and then never seeing them again.”
Andrew Schweizer points out, “It’s a very welcoming experience. Finding people who will accept you and are happy to have you run with them in an event takes the trepidation out of participating in something challenging like a Spartan Race.”
The sense of camaraderie at any Spartan Race is something very unique. Kyoul Cha, who lives in Chandler, Arizona, highlights perfectly the whole human aspect of belonging.
“Because, in suffering, we find common ground and bond no matter race, color, creed, religion, or age. You can look at the person next to you on the course and truly know the hardship that they face because you are going through it with them. And in the event of real life, when you see that Spartan Race shirt at the grocery store or Jiffy Lube, it is that badge of brotherhood because you can walk up to that person and have an immediate common interest as you compare notes and scars. So it is in the suffering of the Spartan Race where you find your humanity.
“Knowledge. That is what I gained. An entire world opened up for me that I never even thought about in the past. Being the type of person who is self-contained in his own private little world, SR showed me all of the things that can happen when you take that deep breath and let go of the safety rope of Life. I have met greater people than I knew and realized more of my potential than previously known. For that I will always be grateful.”
The whole idea of having a purpose and something to aim for in life is a response we received time after time. After watching the videos of past events and seeing the photographs, some see where they feel they might need areas of their physical fitness or strength, and some see where they need to address and perhaps rectify what they feel isn’t quite right. Michael Meade of Los Angeles knows this only too well.
“For me my first Spartan race was about setting a goal. I signed up for Malibu 2012, eleven months ahead of time when I was in no physical shape to actually do it. It gave me a purpose for my training, something to work toward. By the time the race rolled around on my 50th birthday, I was ready. I still failed some obstacles though. This gave me new a goal to work toward: monkey bars. I made the bars for the first time at the Monterey Beast, so now I have set my sights on the rope climb. I don’ know if I will ever master the traverse wall, but damned if I’m not going to keep trying! That is why it has been good for me to run Spartan Races.”
There’s a certain parallel with Spartan Race for life in general. The notion that while the race has obstacles and parts of the course that will test you and try to break you, so there is in life. Jesus Valdez, who can often be seen helping folk at the Slippery Wall and countless other obstacles says, “I run for kids with epilepsy and encourage them that life is full of obstacles you don’t have to go through it alone. Just because you have some kind of condition it’s not an excuse to give up on your dreams.” Adam Evans of California echoes that sentiment.
“Rather than avoid difficult situations, learn to face them head on, enjoy them, and conquer them. It’s just about going for it, doing your best, and not avoiding things that make you feel uncomfortable. Spartan race gives me a tangible practice for this philosophy. Many obstacles I, or we, face in our daily lives are not as simple as climbing a rope or crawling through barb wire. Still it’s the philosophy and practice of tackling them head on to reach your goal. I feel like this mindset can help you succeed in many other aspects of life.”
Holly Scudder of Cedar Park, Texas points out that while a clock is always ticking on the course, it’s not always all about the ranking.
“It’s as competitive as you want to make it. Whether it’s competing against others or yourself. Love the camaraderie on course and even more so off course in this type of group. Inspiration to do more and a chance to be an inspiration to someone else. When else does a weekday suit like myself get to play in the mud? And showing my son that it’s okay to play, even when you get to be ‘so’ old!”
Amy Fuchs of Erie, Pennsylvania adds, “For me, it has really added depth and purpose to my life. There has not been too much in my life (besides my son) that I have been really, truly passionate about. I have spent a lot of time pondering over how to go about having a more meaningful life: Do I need to focus more on spirituality, meditate more? Be more selfless and do more for others less fortunate than me? Work harder? Find a new career? Choose a cause and become an advocate? Donate more of my time; volunteer more? And so that’s what I did. While all of those things are well and good and important, they did not scratch the itch; none of it really cut to the core of me in such a way that left me feeling truly fulfilled. Then I discovered Spartan Race. I have found that OCR (namely Spartan, of course!) has really been the one thing that excites me deep in my soul. It has ignited that passion that I have been searching for so long for. My next race might be months away, but I literally wake up every morning with it on my mind. I’m always training for it, pushing myself to do better and be better than I was yesterday. To prove to myself that I can do great things, even if it is only in my own mind, and to satisfy that desire for depth of feeling and purpose.”
Training for a Spartan Race brings with it certain life skills as a happy side-effect of preparing to race. In order to complete the Atlas carry and Tractor Pull Becky Walker of Long Beach, California undertook rigorous arm and shoulder exercises and became much stronger in her upper body.
“I often see many abandoned and stray dogs. I’ll go to see if they’re ok and often, they’ll need a little TLC. Picking up bigger dogs now is so easy. In the past, I’d have to, hopefully, coax him or her into my car to get a good look for tags to find their families. Sometimes I even had to take them home before I could find their owners. In a worst-case scenario I’d take them to foster parents or no-kill shelter. Now I can handle the bigger dogs, and more importantly, hold onto them. The training has given me not only the strength, but also the confidence.”
Matt Trinca, of Lakewood, California, remembers how an obstacle became the focus of something he sought to beat in his own way.
“Climbing a wall! I remember coming to a set of 8′-10′ walls at my first OCR several years ago and simply walking around them because I didn’t have the strength or technique. But in Spartan Race, you can’t simply walk around an obstacle. So, what did I do? I built my own freakin’ wall in the backyard, and practiced ’til I could climb 10′ walls with ease! Now, I see walls as mere speed-bumps. Talk about a metaphor for life!”
In closing, Jonathan White sums up what seems to be a reoccurring theme that runs through all the responses we received.
“Being a Spartan represents facing your challenges head on. Not just in the race, but in your life. In 2012 when I set out to lose weight and improve my health, I set as a goal to run a Spartan race. And I did…..and now I am hooked. I’m going to be running four Spartan races in 2014.”
All these people knew at the finish line. Will you?