by James Horgan
Why do we Spartan? In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote a paper A Theory of human Motivation. In this he postulated the theory that became Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At the bottom you have Physiological and Safety. In a nutshell. After the basic human functions are met. After we are clothed, sheltered and fed. After we are protected from the intrinsic dangers of weather, nature, and other people, we are free to explore other avenues of interest. Which are the top two levels of Maslow’s hierarchal pyramid. Self Actualization and Self Esteem. This leaves one level in between, Love and Belonging.
So why do we Spartan?
For many it is a chance to belong, to subscribe, to participate in a group where simple participation is a badge of acceptance. Finishing is a validation of accomplishment. And for everyone, it is a chance to push one’s limits beyond the length of a given course or the weight of cold iron in a gym.
Cultures through the ages have had rites of passage. An event that marks the transition from one state of development into another. This is usually the point where a person develops that level of love and belonging. That point where you are no longer provided for by the tribe but in fact contribute to provide for the tribe to become a tribe member. In America, as a nation, we really don’t have a point where we recognize this transition. Cultures and religions in our society do, but as a Nation we typically don’t. We have markers which are recognized such as attaining a drivers license, the right to vote, or to drink. But these are arbitrary, and set up by law. With no real accomplishment by the individual except to attain a certain age.
So why do we Spartan?
It fills a principle need in our lives to accomplish a goal, to have validation of that accomplishment by our peers.
A Spartan race fills one of our basic human need’s love and belonging. To this end it frees us to explore and attain the next level of need. Self Esteem. For many, starting a Spartan race is a huge accomplishment. For others finishing it is. Still others improving over a previous time is their goal. The sense of accomplishment is no different for any runner regardless of their personal goal. We Spartan because there is a group of obstacles in front of us which we can see, we can manage, and we can over come. To our left, to our right, in front of us and behind us there are other people who must accomplish the same task’s. Regardless of gender, ignorant to age or ability, unimpressed by level of fitness; the obstacles are there. The obstacles stand stoic and unfeeling. They do not judge you. They will not mock you and they will not compliment you. Wether you breeze through the obstacle or fail in your attempt the obstacle is there, you chose to meet it. Some will succeed others will not. Everyone will try. In the end it is the sense of accomplishment in our attempt that fills our self esteem. It is a well we can draw from in our daily life. It is something that cannot be taken away, it cannot be diminished. It cannot be cheapened or diluted by others. At the finish line we all are deserved of the title Spartan.
The pinnacle of Maslow’s pyramid is Self Actualization. Becoming, who you are. Philosophically and Theologically this can be debated as to how this is attained or even what it means. It is the by product of challenge and the accumulation of self esteem, where we are confident to seek out new challenges to make us a better person. We see this all the time at Spartan race’s. “I have never, ever done anything like this in my life! ” “It was awesome.” ”It changed the way I look at myself” ”I can’t wait to do another” This list goes on. People get fit to do a race, and it becomes a habit. They identify things in their life that are bad for them, that are destructive. They start to notice people or activities that don’t support the positive changes they want to make for themselves. They gain the strength, the energy and the confidence to move forward and stay moving. By running a Spartan race and getting involved in the tribe of Spartans people change. Not everyone. But most. Not everyone is ready to make change. Others are. Not everyone is ready to except the challenge but everyone need’s the invitation to try. You don’t need to be the best runner, the best jumper, the best climber or the best anything. You do need to try to be the best at being you, because being the best you is the only best you need to be.
And that is why we Spartan.