Written by Holly Joy Berkey

Prior to be embarking on my own personal journey of self-discovery, I recall enviously watching runners as they seemed to effortlessly float through my neighborhood.  They seemed so majestic, and made running look so easy!  But the thought of strapping on a pair of old tennis shoes and fumbling my way, huffing and puffing, along the pavement provided me with a completely different mental picture.  There was no way I could ever be as awesome as the seemingly mythical creatures that paraded past my home.  No possible way.

Have you ever felt this way?  Or perhaps, do you currently feel this way?  It’s easy to feel intimidated when you see seasoned runners gliding along with barely a drop of sweat glistening on their lean bodies.  You may think, “Where do I even begin?  I want to try, but don’t know where to start.”  Sound familiar?  Well I can happily say that just because you aren’t there right now, doesn’t mean you can’t be there someday.  And to supplement that, it also doesn’t mean that you HAVE to attain that ideal to be a successful runner either.  I’d like to share a few pointers that may help encourage you onward in your running journey, and I hope you are able to find the confidence, motivation, and strength as you take your early steps into the running world.

First things first, please remember that you are perfectly fine just as you are!  Now granted that’s no excuse not to incorporate some sort of physical activity into your daily life.  My hope is that you love yourself enough to take wonderful care of your body, and running is one really fantastic way to do this.  And yes, while there are beautiful, lean runners who will speed by you effortlessly just when you feel about ready to collapse on the pavement, there are also so many normal, everyday people out running who struggle, just like you, as they are also working toward gaining their legs as newborn runners. 

There’s no specific mold that you need to fit to be a runner.  Runners come in all different shapes and sizes, and no matter how fast or slow you may run, you’re no less of a runner just because you may not look like an elite athlete.  That’s really one of the greatest things about running, because although you may have to fit a specific body type to become a runway model (which, who does anyways right?!?), you don’t have to be confined to any look or shape to be a runner!  It’s simple, all you have to do is run.

There is an unspoken connection felt between runners that is so encouraging.  Whether you run before the sun rises, or as the final hurrah to a busy day, as long as you are out in the world running at the same moment we are, we feel as though you are family. There’s no judgment to pass, and no rules to abide by.  Discovering this fact will help build your confidence as a runner, and you’ll come to the realization that the only person you need to worry about judging you, is you!  Have confidence in yourself, and you can do amazing things, so don’t be your own roadblock!

Once you’ve gained your confidence, it’s time to prepare yourself to get out and run, which means you need some gear!  And here comes the overwhelming onslaught of running clothes, running shoes, running accessories, running supplements… you name it, there’s hundreds of different brightly colored products, beckoning you to buy their brand.  It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin!  I recall purchasing my very first pair of running shoes; I wore a sundress and sandals to a generic sports store, and selected a pair of shoes that were cheap yet cute without bothering to try them on.  I assumed that all shoes were created equal, and boy did I learn my lesson!

There are a few things that are very important to the success of a comfortable run, and the number one item is wearing correct shoes!  Many people do not realize that each runner has a unique style of running, and there are specific shoes created for each type.  For example, some of us run on our toes, some on our heels, some people’s feet roll in when running, and some roll out.  How can you find out how you run?  I highly recommend heading to a local running store for help in selecting your perfect pair of running kicks.  These stores are specialized for runners, and the staff will be educated to help fit you to the best shoe.  And please don’t go cheap on your running shoes just for the sake of saving a buck!  Buying a quality pair that fits your specific running style will not only provide a more comfortable, enjoyable run, but will aid in avoiding injury, which can be much more costly than a $100 pair of shoes!

When it comes to a lot of running gear, your selection of clothing, supplements, and accessories will mostly come down to personal preference.  Many items these days are brightly colored, with fun, funky patterns, and a pizzazz that shouts, “Look at me!  I’m awesome because I run!”  The diversity of available gear will give you the ability to display your own personality style, so have fun with it!  I can personally attest to the positive boost a great new outfit gives me, I’m eager to get out and run in my colorful new gear, so treat yourself once in a while!  Just because you’re sweating doesn’t mean you have to look drab doing it!  On a budget?  Some running clothes can be costly, but places like Old Navy and Target offer great options at a fraction of the cost.  And ladies, you’ll want to find running clothes that are not only sweat wicking (No cotton! It will stifle you and weigh you down!), but that also provides the support that you need to enjoy your run without discomfort or distractions.

Finally, if you find yourself lacking in the motivation department, grab a friend that will accompany you!  Having a friend to hold you accountable will keep you on task, will help the time go by quickly, and will help give you motivation to continue on.  You can get healthy together and nurture your friendship through regular running sessions.  Don’t have a friend who is willing to join in on your running adventures?  Running groups have become very popular, so you’re likely to find one in your area that will welcome you with open arms!  Don’t be shy, the more the merrier is the mentality of a running group!

Ultimately, running is what you make of it, so be sure to approach it with an open mind, a willing heart, and above all, don’t forget to have fun!  Running should be something that you love, not something you dread.  Now get out there, get running, and good luck!

Holly Joy Berkey

www.muddymommy.com

Sign up for your next Spartan Race right here!

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The glint of pride in Alberto Medellin’s eyes is all too apparent when he talks about his children. His smile widens when he talks about them.

“In this day and age where everyone is trying to just fit in I want to encourage my kids to be different, stand out, break the mold and stay off the couch!

“My journey to become more active started in the beginning of 2012 as I was coming out of a bitter divorce. I had a lot of positive people around me who were encouraging me to focus on rebuilding a better life for myself and my kids. That’s when I started exercising, running, and losing weight. I wanted to be a better Dad and to show my children that even when life deals you a major blow, you get back up and you keep moving forward”, says the resident of Galveston, Texas.

“I did my first real obstacle race in October of 2012. It was very challenging and right then I knew I was hooked. The best part was that I was able to bring my son, Alex, along to witness me crossing the finish line. It was a very positive experience and I could tell he was becoming interested in what Dad was doing with all that mud. This race was followed by the Texas Spartan Beast in Glen Rose in December 2012. After being chewed up and spit out of that course, I knew I wanted to do more!”

Across 2012 and 2013, Alberto ran numerous road races, one of which being his first full marathon. Despite the contact with his kids not being as much as he would prefer, he would always keep his children, Alex and Marissa, up to date with what he was doing and what was happening. Before long they caught the running bug too. Like any child who sees their father do something, they wanted to emulate what they saw. Alberto was leading by example.

He laughs, “I’m that Dad you see playing on the monkey bars with his kids. Marissa and I have done a Glow Run together and Alex and I have run a 5K together. I am so proud of their willingness to get out and move. Don’t get me wrong, they still love video games and stuff like that but now we have a barter system at home. If they want to play the video game for 30 minutes, we all do burpees!”

“Marissa says she actually likes burpees”, he hastens to add, “true story, so do I. Alex thinks that it’s an even trade of burpees for video game playing time. Marissa really enjoys running with me and Alex is looking forward to running his first mud run this year. We are all going to be running in the Graffiti Run in Galveston next month together which will be amazing.”

But it’s clear that his children don’t just see their father as a simply “a dad”. He’s so much more than that. Alberto has a picture of himself completing the 2013 Texas Beast by the fire jump, but it’s not because of any selfish motives. His children saw the picture and were in awe of it.

“I can’t wait for the race pictures to be released after each race just so I can show them. They always get excited when they see their dad rolling in the mud or jumping over fire. The sequence of photos from the Beast were taken in such a way that I could literally click through them and you could see me running to and then jumping over the fire obstacle. As soon as they saw the fire jumping picture, Alex said, ‘Dad, can you blow that one up’. I’ve never blown up any of my race photos and they’ve never asked so I knew this was one they liked. The next day Marissa and I went to Wal-Mart to get it done. As soon as we got home with the finished product Alex started scouting out a location to hang it. We all decided to hang it in my room for now.”

That bond that only a father has with his children, especially in Alberto’s situation, is a unique one and it serves as an inspiration for the next generation behind him.

“The thought of them keeps me going, especially on my longer runs on the weekends. More recently I’ve been inspired by my cousin’s son, Marcos, who is currently battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He’s Alex’s age so it really hits close to home. When I think about how much that 20 mile run hurts, I think of what he has to go through during his treatment. I hug my kids a little harder these days.”

With more running and activities planned for the future and his kids becoming more and more fit, he knows that somewhere down the line they will begin catching him up and even passing him by.  That day can’t come quick enough.

“Oh, that day will come faster than I will expect it. I’ll be 40 next year and I know my time living like a speed demon is limited. I look forward to the day that my kids pass me on the trails. That day will be very memorable.”

A father and a hero in the eyes of his children Alberto is forever leading by example.

See you at the finish line…

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Spartan Race would like to welcome you to a new feature that we will run every week. We invite you to write a letter to Joe and ask him whatever you like. Questions, praise, suggestions, advice… whatever the case may be, Joe is here to help you!

This week, Discouraged In Downey has got in touch.

Dear Joe,

Last year I managed to get in great shape and was right where I wanted to be until I came down with an unexpected medical setback. Once I rebounded from that and was given the “all clear” from my physician to start exercising again, after over a month off, I was knocked down by this monster flu everyone is sharing with everyone else.

Now, I am finally on the road to recovery from that, but find my motivation is absolutely gone at this point. I have nothing to work toward or look forward to. How can I get myself back on track, without an event in mind, but rather, get my mind back on just being healthy and staying there?

My past life as a couch potato is lurking!

Discouraged in Downey

Got a question for Joe? Send them to us@spartan.com

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Sometimes, when it’s still dark outside in the mornings and the fog or rain is literally putting a dampner on proceedings, your mind is all ready to rock and roll those sidewalks. You figure you can get an easy 5 miles in, get home, shower, eat breakfast and be changed, ready for work with maybe 20 minutes to spare. You’re all set, but your body just doesn’t want to go. The bed has somehow harnessed Velcro-like qualities and you realize your motivation has gone.

How to beat it?

There are a few things you can do. Just do, say, 10 minutes down the street. It will take you around that to turn around and get back, giving yourself a decent workout of 20 minutes. From there, you can do one of two things. See how far you’ve gone in that time and see if you can beat that distance in further 20 minute runs, or alternatively, just squeeze out another 10 minutes and you’ve probably got close to a 5K if not further. That’s 5K further than you would have been if you were still in bed.

That feeling or thought you’ll get will try to tell you that it won’t matter if you miss another 6 or 7 miles. What’s the point? It’s boring and repetitive. You may have this thought occasionally, but remember that getting into shape doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t even happen over a week or a month. Conditioning the mind and the legs is something that needs constant training. If you want to put it into physiological terms, it’s about how efficient your body is in turning fat cells into usable energy. This is taught to the body over a long and steady process. Doing most things slowly and repetitively can be boring, but it’s not senseless. Any successful run is progress. The Grand Canyon looks beautiful doesn’t it? Remember it was carved over many years, it didn’t happen overnight!

A miserable rainy morning is not a reason to not run. It’s an opportunity to beat something!

Give yourself “Time Treats”. Say you really have no interest in doing 4 miles. Give yourself a buffer of time and “save it up”. Let’s say you have a regular running pace of a 10-minute mile. Target a pace of 11 minute miles. Get to the first mile in 10 minute 27 seconds and you can choose to “save” those extra 33 seconds, or use them to walk until you get to 11 minutes. If you’re feeling particularly good you can make it to mile 2 in 10 minutes 15 and realize you have saved 45 seconds. That’s a minute and 18 seconds you can walk, stop to stretch, whatever you like. It’s your cheat zone, or rather, your “Time Treat”. It’s entirely up to you how you use them.

Remember that pain is a perverse friend. Running or jogging is one of very few sports where your body will experience pain that we happily go through in order to get better. Each time you run 10k it’s like a slight fog of pain that surrounds the prize. Each run, each extra little bit of pain clears that fog away until a 10k becomes nothing at all. It’s just a run to the grocery store and back. They all count; they all help to build up to your goal.
All your runs are pennies you are saving in your running bank and one day, when you want to buy that marathon medal, you withdraw those running hours and cash them in. Make peace with pain. Embrace it and smother it with love. It will soon realize its weak attempts to break you are worthless.

There will also be the bad days when you stop and think, “I’m not cut out to be a runner”. This is a ridiculous notion. If you can run, you can be a runner. It’s as simple as that. If you’re one of those types that tries to use your bigger body size as an excuse as to why you can’t, you turn that into a positive. Heavier folk turn into strong, sturdier runners. Remember there’s a positive in everything. John Bingham, the celebrated marathon runner, said it best.

“If you run, you are a runner. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been running for 20 years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn. You just run.”

Run for a purpose. Run because you want to please your partner. He or she will love you how you are, so why not lose that 10lbs you know you can without making yourself unhealthy? Run because John at work laughed at the suggestion of you doing that half marathon. SHOW HIM. Finish and stick that medal right in his face. Anger is quite the powerful emotion, and if harnessed correctly, it’s a very underrated fuel!

You can’t run because you forgot to charge your iPod and you can’t POSSIBLY run with Slayer adding a soundscape of brutal riffs and drums through your skull, right? Wrong. There are so many sounds out there that you can keep yourself occupied for the duration of your run. Can you tell cars apart from the engine sound as they approach from behind? The birds chattering, crickets chirping. The swish that trees make in the wind. If it’s a silent course (my favorite run is alongside the LA river/drain, no vehicles or animals at all), listen to the sound of your feet hitting the asphalt. They beat their own rhythm.

Conversely, don’t run for time or for distance, run for an album. Find a track, loop, park, or just anywhere that you know pedestrians and vehicles will be zero and run to an album. Pick an album you know every beat, line, and chord to and listen to it not worrying about how far your run will take you. Immerse yourself in the album and sing along like no one is watching.

At the end of the day, you run for you. Every step is another penny in your run bank.

Why not be a millionaire? Cha-ching.

See you at the finish line…

picture credit Chiccyclist

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He thought nothing of the red mark above his left knee as he scratched it. A mosquito, perhaps. Maybe a zit. How charming. But as the hours rolled into days, it was apparent this was no ordinary mark.

Californian resident Steffen Cook – “Cookie” to those that know him – was visiting his family and friends in England and had decided to make the most of his sojourn with an annual 10k in a local town close to where he would be staying.

“It was just to keep my eye in, more than anything. I knew I wouldn’t be working out or anything, so thought a little 10K just to keep sharp would be a good idea.”

On the morning of the Woodhall Spa 10k, Cookie awoke to find that the small red mark was quite a lot angrier than that of a visit from a mosquito. It was all too apparent that before he made it to LAX, an unidentified Californian spider had bitten him and whatever poison was injected into him was in full effect. 

“I don’t think it was full-blown necrotic. Sure, the skin was falling away and I was regularly squeezing the wound and having a very unpleasant cocktail of blood, pus and, I assume, poison coming out. I was told by a medic that it would get worse before it got better. He was right.”

On the morning of the race, Cookie had a decision to make. He’d been unable to train for the race due to various commitments, but despite this, he knew it would be an easy choice to make.

“I’ve met people at Spartan Races with terrible conditions. People with no arms or legs. Others that have Spina Bifida, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, this list goes on and on. I’ve met cancer survivors who just shrug it off like it’s no big deal. Let’s get this straight: people with conditions that don’t see it as a big deal. They just laugh off their situations like it’s dandruff or something. If I step on a Lego, the wife will have to deal with my whining for several days and will have to bring me several cups of tea and a large selection of cookies and cake in order for me to feel better.”

Cookie knew it wouldn’t be his best time. Working on 2 hours sleep due to the jetlag of having landed the day before and with the bite throbbing and trying it’s hardest to make itself known, he stepped into the starting corral and ran.

He continues, “It was hard, I won’t lie. I could give you great lines about how I ignored the pain and whatever, but that wouldn’t be true. It hurt like Hell. Yes, I ran, but it was the slowest 10k I’ve done in all the time I’ve been doing this. But you know what? Every time I thought about quitting, the Cookie in my minds’ eye would fold his arms, do “that” sneer and shake his head like he’s disappointed in me. I’d pick up the pace and he’d reward me with some Slayer. Slayer makes a great running soundtrack you know! Everyone listen to more Slayer!”, he laughs.  

In the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t as large of an obstacle as some of the other things he’s had to deal with. His biggest injuries, ailments and conditions were never physical. Divorce, bankruptcy and homelessness are but just a few of the darker chapters in the book of Cookie’s life. But bizarrely, he grins when these pages are mentioned to him.

“Yeah, not good times! I’ve certainly had better periods in my life. But, as perverse as it sounds, what I went through back then made excellent training. You can put Spartan Beasts in front of me, or challenge me to do 500 burpees or whatever. Those things or spider bites don’t even register. I’ll get all those things done, slowly of course, but they’ll get done. I’ve walked through my own personal hell made it through and now, there’s not very much that will put me off something that I’ve decided to do.”

This unusual way of channeling negatives into a positive works for this jogging enthusiast and essentially, all he’s doing is living his own version of the Spartan lifestyle. Every single person has something that they use in order to get through. Training, love, anger, hatred, fear, joy, reward… all means to an end. Find your motivation and use it as you see fit.


“I’m not sure how you’d label my motivation. I’m a happy guy that uses everything negative that I’ve had to go through in order to get to where I want to be. Hate can be a very powerful force. It’s just down to harnessing it. I’m just an oddball, I suppose. I’ll happily hold my hands up to that. Guilty as charged! But I’m an oddball that doesn’t quit. Quitting isn’t allowed”, he smiles.

See you at the finish line….

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image credit Michael Effendy Photography

by Harmony Heffron

“You are who you choose to be.”

I think wiser words have never been spoken. Every choice you make today determines the future course of your life.  If you make the choice to exercise today, you will be stronger for it tomorrow.  If you choose to compete in a race, you will run it.

If you choose to be a Spartan, by making that your decision, you’ve already fought half the battle to get there.

The hardest step is always the first one: getting started. Who do you want to be? Very few people would consciously choose a life of sitting on the coach and never accomplishing anything, but millions of people spend their lives doing just that. Why? Do they lack motivation? Are they chained there through some magic spell? Or, did they just never relies that they had the choice to live a life that was different?

After you’ve decided what you want to be it’s time to act like it. A new study by researcher Amy C.J. Cuddy  has found that by acting more powerful you become so. By posing in a more “powerful,” open way, your body releases different levels of hormones. This makes you feel more powerful, thus you end up acting more powerful. Simply by imitating the behaviors found in the type of person you would like to be, you become that much closer to actually being one of them. Try to act like you mean it and people will believe that you do. Once they start believing in you, you’ll start believing in yourself. Beautiful, huh?

Once you’ve started acting like the person you want to be, a little follow-through is in order.  What steps can you take to actually become the Spartan you aspire to be? Write them down! Put your list somewhere you will see it EVERYDAY. This way you will be reminded of your goals. Having them down on paper will also help make your task clearer.

Think about what thing on your list would be the best first step. GO AND DO IT! Don’t sit at home and think about doing it. Don’t call your mom and complain about how you can’t get anything done. Don’t make excuses, it doesn’t matter if your cat is sick or your back itches. Follow the wisest corporate slogan of all time (thanks Nike!) and JUST DO IT!

That’s it. Simple as pie. Choose who you want to be, start acting like it, make a list of steps towards your goal and follow them. You can choose who you want to be.

Let your motivation start now by signing up. 

By acting like a Spartan you’ll become one.

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