Showing “tough love” is perhaps hard on the eye, but arguably the most sincere form of love a father can give. Taken directly from the same principle applied to boys in Sparta when they were trained to become warriors, the nurturing arm around the shoulders wasn’t always there. The long term lessons the child learned would prove, ultimately, that the best interests were always at heart, despite being hidden behind a veil of something they didn’t like.

A familiar face of not just the east coast races, but of the Death Race, too, the man known to everyone as Steve-O Opie Bones. But behind the wild hair and unmistakable beard, lies something a little more serious. His number one priority has been and always will be his two boys.

“Being a Spartan Dad was an easy decision. My main focus in life is and will always be my kids. I never sugar coat anything with them and always tell them the way the world really operates. My goal is to make them better then me. I want them to experience all that life has to offer. They have a ‘never quit’ attitude. It is a code that they live by daily. Kieran and Colin both ran their first kids race in 2012 while I was running the Beast. Since then, they have raced at Fenway Park, Citifield, Philly, and will be doing Tuxedo this weekend. While they were at Citifield this year, they also had the life changing opportunity to assist with the Special Needs Race. They have been surrounded by many incredible people during these races and many have become role models to them. They have learned to respect our Nation’s Vets and Honor our Wounded Warriors.”

Play time with Steve is a little different to most fathers.

But his passion for the right thing doesn’t just stop at his children. He points his finger at the country and remarks how a father figure is missing across this great nation.

“I hate to say it, but there are so many other countries who look at us as being “fat, lazy Americans.”  Take a look around and give it some thought. They might just be right. If you are allowing your son or daughter to sit around, eat junk food, watch tv and play video games, you are doing them a disservice. You are doing the entire U.S. a disservice. There are so many preventable and controllable diseases that plague our society. Take responsibility for your actions and get your kids moving. Your kids will thank you.

“I recently read a story about a Father that had his son carry a 23 pound rock as punishment for watching too many videos and not doing his homework. It is difficult for me to form an opinion on this when I do not have all of the facts. I do, however feel that we are too soft with our children. The fact that everyone gets an award and that everyone passes does not sit well with me. Getting away with the bare minimum just doesn’t cut it. Everyone, adults and children alike have more to give than we do. Our culture proliferates this thought that it is okay to quit. To not try harder than the bare minimum.

If you are a Dad and you are not racing with your children, you are doing it wrong.”

Michael Mills, the first Spartan Pro Adaptive Athlete – and good friend of Steve-O – shares his sentiments entirely. Tough love is good love. Although maybe the child won’t appreciate it at first, when they are old enough to realize – when it matters – it’s then when those loving seeds that were planted all those years ago come to fruition.

Steve and Michael worked together at the Death Race.

“People look at me and tell me I look just like my dad and that we have a lot of the same ways. I take that as a compliment. I remember growing up and dad was always there. He always made time for us. He would play games with us and he never worried about getting dirty in the sandpile. He always took us through the toy isle and would sneak in a Hot Wheels or two in the grocery cart when mom was not looking.

When you are young you don’t realize at the time why your dad had you do choirs or made you work for rewards, but as an adult, you appreciate those small life lessons. In the fall dad would make us go to the woods, make us help and cut firewood for the winter. We would have us load and unload the truck full of firewood. We would even have to go out at night in the cold and collect firewood at the time, I felt like it was slave labor. But little did I know it would be something that I took into my adulthood and to this day, I thank my dad for making me do things like that.”

“Another thing I can remember is being taught to say ‘yes sir’ or ‘yes ma’am.’ We were taught to be respectful and that was instilled in us at a very young age. He instilled the values of how to treat others and that no matter what you always had to do your best.  Everything my dad taught me as I grew up, I use today. My dad taught me to be a dad and I did not even know it and for that I am thankful.”

“A few weeks before I was in the car crash that paralyzed me, I had told my dad that I wanted to be different and that I did not want to be like the others. Dad told me to be careful what I wished for, I just might get it. Fast forward a month, as I am laying in the hospital on life support, I was fighting for my life……. Shortly after coming out of my coma and where I was actually alert, Dad leaned over to me one night and reminded me of the conversation that we had about being different. He said to me, ‘remember you told me you want to be different than anyone else, well, you got your wish! Now go out and live.’ Dad did not allow me to feel sorry for myself. He did not allow the wheelchair to own my life. He taught me how to own my own life and not allow something like a wheelchair or being paralyzed consume me and take my life away! I remember him making me push on my own in the thick mud after a rain from our front door to our grandmothers across the road. It was to build strength and to show me that it could be done. He taught me to be independent. Dad made me strong!

“Now, here I am a dad and my oldest of three, Brandon and I have quite a bond. At first, we tried all sorts of things. We tried cub scouts that did not work. We tried baseball that did not work. Then, we found Spartan Race. I decided almost two years I would compete in my first Spartan Race. Brandon wanted to try the kid’s race as I competed in the GA Spartan Sprint last year.  After we finished each of our own races, Brandon told me he wanted to follow in my footsteps. He made his choice; he wanted to be a SPARTAN. Now as a dad, this is what I wanted to hear. He found what he wanted to do and it was something we both had in common. This year alone, we have completed 4 OCR events together, he and I have completed our Spartan Sprint and our Super and Beast are planned already. This year, I will earn my first TRIFECTA alongside Brandon. I have seen him grow and grow in the last 2 years. He went from shy, quiet and almost afraid of trying new things, to the adventurous, dare devil that he is today. I put down his growth to Spartan Race and us having this in common. We both look at life obstacles and we take them on. That is what a Spartan father and son do!

“I have learned a lot in my life and I have been taught so much. All these things I have learned, I am passing them down to my children just as my father did for me and his father did for him. Passing down values is more important than leaving someone a lump sum of money. The money spends and eventually goes away, the lessons and values we pass down, never go away. Watching your children grow and become stronger each day and watching them become their own person has been a blessing. Seeing your children succeed and knowing you had a part in that is the greatest reward. Being a Dad or a father, or whatever you want to call it, has been my greatest reward. No medal, no paycheck, nothing can match that.

If you haven’t already done so, speak to your father today if you can. Pick up the phone, go to his house, whatever the case may be. Then thank him.


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Being strong physically is one thing, but when you bear the weight of some emotional or spiritual to yourself to keep harm away from a loved one – especially a son or daughter – you know that parent is as strong as they come. Iram is no stranger to battling demons. But his greatest battle is making sure that his daughter Kiana flourishes and grows, hopefully following in his footsteps.

“As I try to do the most important task the universe has ever assigned me, raising a little girl, I try to balance the let’s have fun, let’s push our limits and let’s share what we do. Kiana and I had ran together, bear crawled together, done the monkey bars together as I trained for Vermont last year.

As anyone that follows Iram via social media, reads his blog or has the very good fortune to know him personally, there is nothing more important to him than his daughter. Post after post he shares follows Kiana’s progress and even “humble-bragging” about her scoring a part in the school play. She is the center of his universe. Everything else is secondary. Even his training incorporates her, as he recalls, “the point of life, at least mine, is relationships and Kiana is above all others in that pecking order. So when I trained for the biking century, it didn’t feel right to be learning how to learn to cycle unless I was teaching Kiana how to ride a bicycle. With the Spartan events, they felt incomplete because Kiana had never been to one. So, when one came back in to Texas, it was time to take Kiana to do the kids Spartan. Because the point of my therapy is to keep going because of those relationships, but sometimes that therapy and that relationship happen simultaneously.

“I don’t know if Kiana will focus on being a girl who likes to workout or a girl who likes to do her make up but like the Spartan women of old and the Spartan athletes of now, I want her to know that her gender is not pre-destiny. That may mean big things or it may mean little things like when her and I paint our toenails together. I was raised by a great woman. If there’s ever any question of how I have any capacity to raise a princess, it’s because I was raised by a Queen.

“There’s a saying of a Spartan woman whose son was complaining that his sword was too short and she responded with “add a step to it.” Some of the arsenal since cancer isn’t what it used to be, finances, medical things, literally a piece of my brain. But you know what, that Spartan women’s spirit lived into my mother and I hope to pass it on to my daughter and we’re going to add a lot more than one step to it.”

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I asked my ten year old son Michael what he thought a Spartan dad was. He responded that it’s coming home from races on the weekend with barbed wire scratches across your back and bruises all over your body. While that is definitely part of being a Spartan dad, there is certainly a lot more to it than that. In the Krueger family we have a passion for health and fitness. It wasn’t always like that – there was a period of time for about 7 to 8 years where I did not exercise and ate everything from pizza to Chinese food on a daily basis. I woke up about 5 years ago 30lbs overweight and looking pretty chubby. I am now 40 years old and through clean eating, exercise and the support of my family, I dropped 30lbs and I am now in the best shape of my life.

It is not easy. We have lacrosse practice, wrestling practice, violin, saxophone, piano, chorus – my wife Gretchen coaches’ middle school soccer in the fall and lacrosse in the spring. Gretchen and I do CrossFit as well as run and work out. Then there are the races…The key that we’ve found is making time for the family. Our “selfish” activities (training, races, and competitions) are all worked around our children’s activities. It is not easy but we make the time. In the winter, I get up at 4:40am to train so I can be back home by 6:15 for Gretchen to be out the door by 6:30am to go teach while I get the kids ready for school. If the children do not have any activities in the evening, they train with us. Michael and Mya have both been doing CrossFit for the past year and love it. Gretchen and I do not always get to train together but we all go to races together.

Our front and backyard have become an obstacle training playground for both adults and kids. We have a 20’ rope climb in our front tree. Our backyard has a spear throw, pull up bar, box jump and rings from our back tree. Our children are engaged in healthy activities, root for us at races (and race themselves) and are included in our passions. It is difficult but doable.

I am incredibly lucky to be a Spartan dad because I truly have a Spartan wife and Spartan children.

Dan Krueger

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It’s that guiding hand that is the key. Children have always and will always see what the elders do and imitate them, forever and ever, amen. So logically, showing the next generation the path they should tread would be the best form of parenting. This is something Californian Spartan, Chris Cow, takes very seriously.

“My wife, Anne Plourde, and I did our first Spartan Race in January of 2013, the SoCal Super Spartan in Temecula, and were instantly hooked by the challenge and sheer physicality required.  I’ve been fortunate enough to have her share my passion for OCR, and it was natural for us to want to get the whole family involved. At the end of 2013 in Malibu, we were able to make this happen.  My youngest daughter Lianna did the kids race with a few of her friends, and after running early with my wife for time. I had the pleasure of taking a second lap of the course with my then 14 year old daughter Gabrielle.

“Being along to encourage and help her through the obstacles was a great bonding experience, and seeing her smile through a very tough and freezing cold course was the highlight of my Spartan experience to date. Having the picture of us jumping the fire in perfect synchronicity is a priceless souvenir.

“As the father of two beautiful and intelligent girls, it’s very important to me to instill a love of health and fitness in them, along with the deep sense of satisfaction that only comes from doing difficult things. Both of them completed a half marathon at 11 years old, but Spartan training requires all over body conditioning while encouraging a healthy sense of play doing monkey bars, rock-climbing traverses, and of course, playing in the mud.

“Being a Dad, especially of teenage daughters, is fraught with difficulties and unexpected obstacles in your path.  Navigating these often hits deep emotional waters as your growing child naturally pushes boundaries and declares their independence while you try to keep them safe and encourage them to make wise decisions.  I believe it’s important to strike a balance between setting boundaries and encouraging them to develop into strong, capable and confident young ladies.  Often this involves letting them make their own choices and take risks.  Spartan races are filled with risk, and the burpee penalty provides consequences of their choices while encouraging them to try their hardest.

“While I love the physical challenges presented by the races, one of the things that keeps me coming back again and again are the people I’ve met; on the course, through social groups like the Weeple Army and SISU, and of course in line for a celebratory beer after the race.  Many of their stories and personal journeys are incredibly inspiring, and these are the people I want my daughters to hear about and get to know so they can also be inspired by their accomplishments and/or the difficulties they’ve overcome to get where they are now.

“In September, My wife and I are running the SoCal Beast, then our whole family is returning on Sunday to do the Sprint together. I’m looking forward to sharing this with both my girls this time, as Lianna has graduated beyond the kids race and is ready to climb the rope and conquer the traverse wall like a champion.  I hope that our love of OCR is passed on to the next generation, but even if Lianna and Gabrielle end up not doing more of these races, the memories and lessons instilled during training and on the course will last a lifetime.”

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Zackery Paben, the bearded warrior behind the More Hearts Than Scars charity, knows the joy of parenthood all too well.  After suffering a horrifying injury that saw him break his radius, ulna and losing the ends of seven of his fingers, his father taught him the principle of caring by showing tough love, something Zackery is very grateful for.

“Michael Mills, one of the Spartan Adaptive Athletes, often kids me about being ‘Dad’ when we race together with the Dirtbags. He fusses at me sometimes for being over protective. However during the cargo net mountain climb from hell at this year’s Sprint in Georgia, he was happy to be on my rope. Before he does the stupid and seemingly impossible; he always checks in with me with a ‘You got me?’. After my ‘I got ya’, he goes on to do things that only the word awesome can convey.

“After I finally returned home from the hospital after my accident, my dad had me do my chores like taking out the trash. My ten year old self made excuses, citing my broken arms and amputated fingertips. He let me know that I was creative and capable enough to figure out how to do it. The first time it took me an hour, after a week it took me 5 minutes.”

Zack with his daughter Snowlilly and Spartan MC Dustin Dorough take a moment to pose.

“My 25 years of being in the father role for at risk youth has been shaped by this simple concept.  Just because you got hurt does not mean you are no longer responsibly to take out the literal and metaphorical trash.

“When our little girl was diagnosed with her heart condition, her mother and I formed More Heart Than Scars to be sure to keep her and us in the right frame of mind. Every day she sees her parents training for upcoming races or making plans to empower others to adapt to their own challenges. When she is old enough to comprehend the challenges of her heart she will have many of Spartan races to reflect upon. Most importantly she has Michael Mills, Todd Love, Amanda Sullivan and Justin Falls as up and personal examples of what it means to have more heart than scars. She also has her dad to tell her that she is creative and capable enough to figure it out… also to take out the trash”, he laughs.

“For me as a dad, I try to train my children to face a hard world with their wits and guts. It is not my job to scurry about trying to make their lives easy. Even in the midst of their challenges I remind them that, “I got you”. I am the father of two daughters, Snowlilly, 4 years old, biological and already a two-time Spartan racer. June, 19 years old, adopted and determined figure things out for herself. I am very fortunate to have had many kids over the years to claim me as their dad.”

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As the year rolls around to a day of the year that is often overlooked, we wanted to give a shout out to those guys that you see on the course that, while striving to reach the finish line, have a greater goal in their lives. This, of course, is continuing to be the best Spartan dad they can possibly be.

Daren De Heras of Monrovia, California might be more familiar to many as the man who continues to set multiple lap records or as the face of Team SISU. Many will see him as the guy that has now visited the Death Race 5 times, but to his little girl Maddy, he’s just daddy.

“I’ve always wanted her to know that she is always front and center in everything I do”, he explains. 

“When she was born, I was a very passionate wrestling coach, business owner and marathoner.  I wanted her to see my passion for fitness and hoped she caught on for a love of sport, but it was important that she find her way, not what my way was.  All I ever want is for her to always finish what she started, to always challenge herself, and to know that it’s all about the journey, not the finish.  As she grew up she fell in love with Soccer and Gymnastics.  I spent the next 6 years learning soccer and coaching her teams.   During that time, Spartan Race popped up and I fell in love with it right from the start.  In 2011 I participated in my first Spartan Death Race, and suffered my first DNF.  After I quit the race, I was fortunate to spend some time with Joe De Sena the founder of Spartan Race.  I listened to his story, passion, and drive he had for the sport of obstacle racing and the positive impact it could have on so many.  I went home that weekend, inspired, motivated, but most of all it made me think if I can teach my daughter how to live this Spartan lifestyle and apply it to her everyday life, there will be no limits to what she can achieve.

“Spartan has given us a place that we feel is our special place.  We both have our own goals, and share some, but most important it’s not a race to us, it’s a journey, a way of life.  I have been to five Spartan Death Races competing in all of them with bracelets she made me, her name written on me with a sharpie and her picture in my pocket.  She has completed 5 Spartan Races, finishing 4th overall and 1st for the girls in her previous Spartan Race.  We inspire one another, push one another, and never let the other one think we have anything less than more to give. She is my heart and soul and the best thing I will ever be is her daddy.”

Sign up for your next Spartan Race here and sign up your child for Spartan Kids right here.

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