[Editor's note: this post introduces a new series that will appear on the blog: "Spartan on the Road." Read on for more information!]
Not just anyone can spend ten months on the road. Imagine it: you’re separated from your friends, your coworkers, your girlfriend. Driving from city to city, mostly staying in hotels. It’s a lonely and exhausting life.
Now, imagine living on the road and completing exhausting CrossFit workouts every day. Sound impossible?
Maybe other racing companies know the meaning of the word “impossible.” Spartan Race does not. Nor does Ben Killary, our intrepid Spartan On The Road. Just a few weeks ago, he embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Over the next six months, he’ll be travelling from state to state, from Crossfit Box to Crossfit Box, spreading Spartan toughness to Crossfitters across America. He’s also embarked on a simultaneous, equally challenging journey: getting into shape the honest, brutal, sweat-bathing Crossfit way.
“If I’m doing this the right way, I’ll be a machine by the time I’m done,” Ben said in a recent Skype interview. “What I’m doing is awesome.”
Ben might not strike you as a stereotypical “elite athlete.” At least not yet. A May 2010 graduation of Vermont’s Castleton College (major: Sports Administration, minor: coaching), Ben says he packed on the pounds from his wild college lifestyle. Now, though, sick of being teased as the “chubby Spartan,” he’s dedicated himself to the Crossfit-approved Paleo diet, eliminating sweets, dairy, and gluten.
Ben was a devoted Spartan even during his crazy college days. He’s proud to say that he’s been with the company since day one—he started at Spartan Race as an intern in January 2010, distributing fliers door-to-door in college dorms and garnering Spartan Race’s historic first 5000 Facebook fans in just one week. After graduation, he started working at Spartan full-time, doing whatever necessary to get the young company off the ground. Since then, he got sick of being constantly referred to as “the chubby Spartan,” and he joined Crossfit a few months ago.
He saw results immediately and loved the camaraderie he felt with the other athletes. “I’m in love with Crossfit now, I’ll never stop,” he said. “I feel like I have to work harder and get better.”
The Spartan on the Road concept developed as a way to get the Crossfit community involved in Spartan Races. “I truly believe that the Crossfit athlete is the elite athlete to be in our sport, based on the way they train,” said Ben. Crossfit workouts challenge athletes both in strength and cardio training, thereby creating an ideal, balanced athlete—not the narrow-focused athletes we’re familiar with, like distance runners and bodybuilders. Who better to compete in a Spartan Race than an athlete trained for speed, precision, strength and focus?
Ben was honest about the difficulties of life on the road. “I’m alone all the time,” he said. He battles the physical fatigue of his grueling workout schedule, not to mention the long hours of transcribing notes and driving. He left his good friends and girlfriend back at home in Boston.
But Ben is no stranger to personal adversity, nor to overcoming it with grace. He struggled through a childhood of verbal abuse at the hands of his stepfather, a man who routinely told Ben he’d doubtless end up in jail or worse. At 14, Ben’s mom gave him up, and Ben spent the rest of his teenage years in foster care. “I was pawned off to the state because at the time my mother thought I was the problem. I might have had a smart mouth, but that was the worst of me,” Ben said.
After bouncing from family to family, Ben eventually ended up with a wonderful family. The mother was “the sweetest lady in the entire world,” and he considered her children his siblings. Though less than 1% of Vermont State’s foster kids have ever gone to college, Ben went—and graduated. “My caseworker had seven hundred kids in his career. I was the only one who ever got a degree,” Ben said.
The difficulties Ben has faced in his past only motivated him to try harder, to excel, and to succeed. “I’ve never blamed fucking up on my past,” he said. “I’ve just taken responsibility.” And his stepfather? He’s and Ben’s mom have since divorced, and Ben and his mom are on good terms. “Now it makes me laugh,” Ben said, “because the magnitude of what I’m involved in is incredible.”