by James Horgan

maslow-pyramidWhy 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.

Originally posted in the Massachusetts Spartan’s Street Team Blog.

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Introduction and Closure by Carrie Adams

“It’s simple…If you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history.  You’re denying who you are.” – Dr. Bramble

When Hobie Call crossed the finish line of the 2011 SoCal Super Spartan he was unknown.  His accomplishments, however remarkable, remained largely undiscovered and he was just a man with a plan that would take nearly a year to see through.   Crossing the finish in SoCal in early 2011, he was ending one race a champion but beginning another, the race of a lifetime for a man who thought his time may have passed.  While we, Spartan Race were introducing a new sport, Obstacle Racing to the masses, we were also unknowingly meeting the man who would come to define excellence in the burgeoning sporting event and who’s valiant efforts would inspire a community of Spartans to find their own path to glory.  He was featured in our SoCal video about Overcoming Adversity where we first heard part of his story. 

Hobie’s first Spartan Video, SoCal 2011

Venue after venue, race after race Hobie’s winning streak continued and almost every race he touched he owned. After SoCal, came many more races for Call to take on, even the Death Race, and despite his DNF at the Death Race and his loss at the Beast, his fans never faltered and the interest in what this humble man from Utah was pursuing grew.  His journey that began in California led him all the way to Glen Rose, TX and a shot at $10,000.  The cash prize heat was on the minds of many of our Spartan community when the heat took off at 3:30 on December 3, 2011 at Rough Creek Lodge.  With Xterra racer Josiah Middaugh hot on his heels the entire course, Hobie still crossed the finish line first earning him a check for $10,000 and the right to call himself Spartan Race champion. 

In his own words, he remarks on a year of racing and on where he started, how he’s changed, how very thankful he is as an athlete, husband, and father. 

081016_hobiecallOh what a remarkable year!  I was 33 years old and my best athletic accomplishments were virtually unknown to the world.  I’ve logged a 4:40 mile on a treadmill with a 40 lb. vest on, a 17:36 5k on a relatively slow course with a 40 lb. vest on, and I had lunged a mile with a 40lb. vest on in 34:01. (and I don’t use my hands to help when lunging, lunging is a leg workout). Guinness world records wouldn’t recognize my lunge mile because apparently lunging a mile without any weight is hard enough.

I was disappointed enough about the lunge mile, that I never bothered to see if there were even records established for the runs with the 40 lbs. Anyway, in the midst of producing these records, I moved to the city where the smog is too thick, the winters are too cold, and my new job took too much time and energy to train properly to continue to improve. Of course, I’m not one to settle for mediocrity, so I tried anyway. This just caused me to get injured.

I attempted for 1-1/2 years to get back into shape, but to no avail. My job was just too demanding. For the first time in my life, I decided that my chance to be a great athlete had passed. I would attempt a few marathons next year, make a few thousand dollars, and retire. It was a disappointing end to a lifelong dream. As winter settled in, I switched up my training, because running outside, in the dark, on cold icy roads, in the smog just didn’t sound like a good idea. I shortened my runs and focused more on building extra strength, which I could quickly transfer to endurance as soon as spring came. And I did aerobically intense upper body workouts a few times a week in place of my easier runs, so I could stay indoors to workout. 

Early in February, my wife showed me this race that someone had FaceBooked to her and she thought I would like it, so she showed it to me. I saw a picture of a girl crawling through a mud pit under barbed wire. I said no thanks, I’m not a big fan of mud. I don’t even like walking through it to get to my job sites!  But later, for some unexplainable reason, I decided to take a closer look.

310567_10150297865671861_251061411860_8456162_348277038_nAs I was researching the race, I came across an article where the race founder was offering $100,000 to any of the winners of the survivor show who could win his Death Race. And then on a whim (and just for publicity reasons I’m sure) he threw in “if anyone can win all of my other 2011 USA Spartan races I will also give them $100,000”. Nothing on his website said anything about this, nor any other article I could find. But that was enough to get me excited. I could handle a little bit of mud for a prize like that. I figured that as good as I was at running, I would actually be even better suited for a race like this because I had a lot more upper body stamina than a typical runner, especially considering the way I had been training for the last few months.

I talked to Irene (my wife), and we decided to give it a try. So, 2 weeks before the race, I clip_image005 (1)signed up, went and got some contact lenses, and spent every last penny we had to pay for gas to get to California.  And for the first time in many years, I remembered just how fun racing was supposed to be. I felt like a kid all over again. No boring road race here. I was running up and down hills, sometimes on trails, sometimes not. Over walls, under walls, through walls, crawling under barbed wire and through tunnels. Running through freezing water, jumping over a fire, pulling a bucket full of concrete up a pulley. Solve a Rubik’s cube, throw a spear…The list goes on. I was having the time of my life.

SRFL_AB_0012Well, as you can imagine Joe DeSena (one of the race founders) was happy to see someone take on his challenge. As the races progressed, so did the excitement. Joe was happy to see me winning, but was also getting nervous that I would actually win the $100,000. They couldn’t find anyone to challenge me. But, as he was quick to keep reminding me, he still had his Death Race, and I had no chance of winning that. I did a total of three Death Race training workouts. I had never tried working out when sleep deprived, and had no idea what we would even be doing for the race. But, I was healthy and had been working a full time manual labor job while also training for the other Spartan Races, so I knew my endurance was good.

But, the theme of the Death Race is to “expect the unexpected.” We started out by lifting rocks for six hours. As monotonous as it was, I actually enjoyed it. Then we found my kryptonite. The cold. We hiked up a river in the middle of the night, in the rain, had to swim through a freezing pond seven times, and hike back down the river. The seven times through the pond were the seven hardest decisions I have ever made in my life. It’s amazing my body didn’t shut down on me. Anyway, I got held back with a small group of other people for going too slow, and had to wait until the very last person finished. By the time we finished doing group challenges, and arrived back at the farm, I was 1-1/2 hours behind the leaders.

262164_10150227079801861_251061411860_7837628_189769_nNo worries, the race was just getting started, and as long as I was warm, I was gaining on them. But it seemed that for every two steps forward, I took one step back. It was constantly raining, and my body was hypersensitive to the cold because of the night before. I had to wait out rainstorms, and change my clothes often to try and keep warm. Twenty-five hours into the race, I was approximately one hour behind the leader (Joe Decker, who would ultimately win the Death Race for the second year in a row), and gaining fast. Carrying a log up and down a mountain was my kind of fun. But just as things started to look up, a big storm hit as I was reaching the top of a mountain. I had to wait out the storm while my brother brought me a wetsuit. Then, while going down the mountain, I got lost. By the time I reached the bottom, I was over 2 hours behind. Now 29 hours into the race, I concluded that there was no way I could possibly win. So I stopped.

I still had a lot of races left this year, and there was no point in possibly injuring myself268274_10150227079701861_251061411860_7837627_4225439_n just to say I finished. I was not there to finish, I was there to win. So, the cold bested me before Joe ever got the chance to. I won’t be naïve and say that I would have won if the cold wouldn’t have been so severe. The endurance/strength, and sleep deprivation of the next 10 hours may very well have got the best of me. 

Leaving Pittsfield and the Death Race behind me, I had more racing to do before the year was done.  The agreement was, no Death Race win, no $100,000 but I wasn’t done.  People wonder why I continued to race after even when the $100,000 was gone, but if you understand me, it’s obvious. If my pursuit for excellence was driven by money, I would have quit 10 years ago. It’s always been my desire to inspire others to never give up, eat healthier, get out and exercise, take care of your body; it’s the only one you’ve got. These races were accomplishing that more than anything else I had ever done. Besides, I was having the time of my life. Well anyway, to keep this thank you letter from turning into a book, the rest as they say is history.

374691_10150389185026861_251061411860_8883400_172098013_nI would like to thank everyone for such a memorable year. I would try to mention names but would surely miss many of them. From everyone at Spartan Race (of which there are more than a few), the volunteers (many of which didn’t even race, but are just good people looking for an opportunity to help out), to those who donated money, those who put me up in their homes and drove me to the races and back and forth from the airports, and all of the fans with all of their encouragement and support.

I would also like to thank my wife and children, who for most of the year only lived on the386409_10150389197686861_251061411860_8883570_1579919594_n sacrificing end of things, but supported me anyway; my brother who took the time off of work to come to many of the races, and help make a workout video (that you can get at www.hobiecall.com). I would especially like to thank my Heavenly Father for blessing me with the knowledge, ability, and opportunity to be where I am today.

“I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.”  – William Shakespeare

We at Spartan Race would like to extend our own thanks and congratulations to Hobie Call for an epic year.  His kindness, generosity, dedication, and work ethic has come to represent the Spartan spirit.  Whether it was voluntarily pitching in at a pre-race packet pick-up in Malibu when we were overwhelmed with racers wanting bibs and chips, to chopping wood for fellow Death Racer, or posing for pictures, signing autographs, giving tips on training and nutrition to eager racers, and making fun videos and commenting on FaceBook questions, he’s a class act.  Always with a smile and always with honor and  integrity leading him we’ve loved having him as part of our Spartan community and look forward to 2012.

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A Spartan Race White Paper

By Joe Desena, co-founder, Spartan Race, Inc.

Nov. 9, 2011

thebeast-61As the Spartan Race hits the 110,000 competitor mark in 2011, with over 625,000 Facebook likes, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the difference between an obstacle race and its forerunner, adventure racing. The two are often used interchangeably to the detriment of race organizers and competitors alike. And we should know: our founders are former adventure racers themselves. We’ve paddled with gators, walked through swamps in the jungle for hours, and have been lost at night with just tree bark for food.

Technically, when it comes right down to it, the only similarities that obstacle racing has with adventure racing is the running component and the use of obstacles. What might not be as apparent is that both events force you to overcome unpredictable and non-traditional challenges that you would not find in many types of “traditional” endurance events, yielding a greater sense of satisfaction, reward, and much better stories to share for months, if not years after.

For example, in adventure racing you might have to paddle a three-person kayak on thethebeast-20 third day of a race on six hours of total sleep in the pitch dark across a 15-mile lake, battling nausea, literally going in circles (and not knowing it), experiencing poor nutrition and hydration, and challenged team dynamics. In an obstacle race you might have to overcome crawling on your belly uphill under 100 yards of razor-sharp barbed wire in the mud. Both are completely different experiences but the outcome is the same: reward for getting through a challenging moment.

desena_lgHowever, let’s be honest here: certain adventure races involve a lot more hardship and deprivation than a two-hour obstacle race. Adventure races are tough and only feasible for the top 5% of obstacle racers. The requirement to be proficient at navigating, mountain biking, kayaking, running, and operating on very little sleep makes adventure racing not for everyone.

That’s where obstacle racing comes in. Like a steeplechase for humans, obstacle racing, often compared to “mud runs,” forces runners to race a course that mixes road racing, trail running, and cross country running with a variety of obstacles throughout the course to test endurance, strength, speed, and dexterity. Obstacle races vary in distance and challenge level from three mile races to near half marathon distances with race organizers generally traveling the country setting up race venues in large cities and encouraging athletes of all types to participate. 

Runners are often unprepared for impending obstacles that may include going over, under or through various challenges that add additional physical and mental effort. The obstacles run from the traditional – crawling through mud, scaling walls, crawling under walls, and traversing balance beams to the non-traditional: carrying buckets of water, jumping fire, solving puzzles, walking tight ropes, and swimming under wooden planks. 

Obstacle racing is popular among runners and non-runners alike as competitors must adapt to new and differing elements in the race itself and the training regime for preparing for such events. 

Nothing against adventure racing mind you, but a well-designed obstacle race is designed to challenge, to push, to intimidate, to test and even to break those brave enough to try. “Fun run” doesn’t apply here. It’s about being uncomfortable, overcoming obstacles and finding out what’s possible when what you expect of yourself is everything.

Spartan Race, based in Pittsfield, Vermont, plans 35 obstacle races in 2012 in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. For more information: spartanrace.com, spartanrace.tv, Facebook.com/spartanrace.

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by Carrie Adams

Creating an international obstacle racing series is not an easy task.  Logistics alone are enough to make it a dizzying headache of epic proportions.  The race venues crisscross the globe and span such long distances that there is a need for constant traveling, scouting, and having teams spread out over wide expanses of the world trying to find the best and baddest places to have the events.

You need course designers who are visionaries that look at the landscape and not only design but set up a course only to have it deconstructed days later. There’s the task of finding sponsors, determining and procuring materials to build the obstacles, finding volunteers to put them up, take them down, assist before, on, and after race day, and runners for the event itself.  There’s parking to manage, racers to get bibbed and chipped, to get fed post-race, and to keep entertained.  Before an event, you have to manage registrations, a constant barrage of questions, accounting paperwork, all just to get one event in the books.  The marketing, advertising, and pounding pavement to tell people your story and get people to show up on race day is an effort of epic proportions in and of itself!

But there is a whole other side to creating an international obstacle racing series.  It’s defining the spirit of the event, the very soul of what it will represent to the runners themselves who will struggle, fight, and claw their way through the miles and the tests that are put in front of them.  It isn’t about getting dirty, but you’ll get dirty.  It isn’t about having fun, but you will have fun. It isn’t about the costumes, the beer, and the after-party.  It’s about who you are when you run, and what is brought out of you when you falter, what you do when you want to give up, and how you feel when you finish.  It’s about what you have inside you to get you across that line.  How do you create something that changes a person so that they are better when they cross the finish line?

The Spartan Race was created by eight ultra-athletes.  It was created by people who have spent their lives redefining what’s realistic and finding out what’s possible by living lives without limits.

The Spartan Race was built on a code:

  • A Spartan pushes their mind and body to their limits
  • A Spartan masters their emotions.
  • A Spartan learns continuously.
  • A Spartan gives generously.
  • A Spartan leads.
  • A Spartan stands up for what they believe in, no matter the cost.
  • A Spartan knows their flaws as well as they know their strengths.
  • A Spartan proves themselves through actions, not words.
  • A Spartan lives every day as if it were their last.

Recently, we told the story of Richard and Selica, two of the initial founders of the Spartan Race.   You’ll be hearing all the stories of the founding few.  The originators of the Spartan Race who gave life to an idea but more importantly gave soul to a movement: living a life without limits.  You have one life to live, strive for greatness!

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