by Carrie Adams, Spartan Staffer

I’ve been fortunate enough to stand on many a Reebok Spartan Race finish line and watch people cross, often with smiles, tears, and even a few bad words – that’s common too. It’s an emotional place to take in the human response to pain and accomplishment. It’s one of my favorite places actually.

This weekend there were many remarkable moments, but this one with a woman I’d never met had an impact on me that I’ll never forget. I was standing on the side of the last 200m or so of the course waiting for Ultra Beast finishers when this woman came into view. There was nothing immediately significant about her, she was small in stature and not moving very quickly or with any sense of urgency. Her face was drawn in pain. She came over the slippery wall gingerly, slowly crawling down the ladder and landing with an audible wince of pain on the other side. She could see the finish line and she let out a cry. All she had in front of her was the fire jump and the gladiators before it would be over. She paused a few moments before starting forward.

As she started moving the pain she was feeling was unmistakable. She was limping heavily, head down, and holding her arms protectively in towards her chest as she walked. I could see tears running silently down her cheeks with each step. Following closely by her side, I waited for her to cross the finish line and gave her a hug saying, “You did it. You finished,” admittedly it was the only thing I could think to say in the moment. Her body erupted in sobs. I could feel her relax and let go. I don’t know her, but I’d venture a guess that she had just suffered more on that course physically, mentally, and emotionally than at any other time in her life. She met my eyes and I can’t imagine what lay behind them, but she managed a small smile of gratitude.

Off to our left I heard a voice say, “Mommy.” Standing just on the other side of the fence was her husband and young daughter. They were waiting with smiles and a medal to give her. As she approached, they both reached out, and as he touched her shoulders she broke down again in what I can only imagine was relief and pride. Her daughter, an adorable redhead, touched her ever so gently with both her hands, and the mother relaxed in the embrace. It was one of the most touching moments I have ever seen… and still no words were exchanged. I couldn’t hold back my own tears.

What a gift it is, in this life, to experience something of such depth and severity. To venture out into the darkness, succeed in something so hard-earned, so painfully beautiful, and return back to the ones who hold our hearts.

I believe that there are many brands of heroism that arise in human beings, our DNA tells us to survive, and gives us the will to drive forward. We see these heroics on the news, in print, and I watched some incredible ones this weekend with Beast champions, Death Racers, and ultra competitors alike.

But there is another quiet, personal heroism that happens every time a person arrives at something difficult and finishes as something more because they have to evolve in order to get through to the end. They have to become who they always had the capacity to become, they just hadn’t ventured out far enough find out it lived inside them the whole time.

 

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