Look around any Spartan Race and you’ll often see groups that run together, wearing the same shirts and smiling for any nearby camera. They are there to not only beat the course, but to have a good time with their friends. Ranging in size from anything as little as 2 people to colossal numbers of into the hundreds, teams are now every bit a part of Spartan Race as the rope climbs and barbed wire crawls.

Dominating the West coast is The Weeple Army. Originating in Southern California, but now having “chapters” not only across the states, but worldwide as well, the familiar sight of swathes of green and black can be seen at many races. Boasting members that include Death Racers, Marathon runners and even Spartan Race staff, it’s a false assumption that they are an elite group of runners. All abilities – and indeed disabilities – are welcomed.

Also based in California are Team SISU, headed by Daren De Heras, regular Spartan Death racer and co-organizer of endurance events. Due to the appeal of the intense ferocity of the boot camps and events they put on, SISU has also expanded to the east coast, Midwest and now Texas. Team SISU teaches and coaches the team ethic whilst beasting trails and training hard.

“Team SISU was born a few years ago after my first Spartan Death Race. A few people searched me out to help them train for their first Death Race. When we started this it was long all day events meant to take people to their limits and beyond. It quickly grew as Spartan Races grew and we changed what SISU is. We have now merged with the Weeple Army and are the largest OCR team in the Nation. We have chapters on the West Coast, East Coast, Texas, and Midwest. We host Spartan Training events year long and modify every event so that all athletes of all levels can participate.”

Hailing out of Indiana, the might of the Cornfed Spartans, led by Jonathan Nolan, are instantly recognizable by virtue of their “wrap”-style shirts with the Spartan chewing on a corncob. Boasting over 1500 members, Cornfed members are rarely alone, something very useful as founder Jonathan Nolan explains, “Corn Fed uses the term “family” to describe our team. We use that because when one of us is down, the others pick him/her up, when one of us needs help, others are there, and that is what family does. No matter what, despite anything going on around us, we are there to help each other, whether they are teammates or not, and that is what makes us the Corn Fed Spartans. Next time you’re at a Spartan Race, yell out Corn Fed and see what happens!”

Out of Texas, the Lone Star Spartans follow a similar vein, as member Christopher Rayne explains, “Lone Star Spartans is a Texas based racing team dedicated to helping its members and others live an active lifestyle through the sports OCR, road racing, triathlons, and cycling. We strive to be team for people of all fitness levels that wish to challenge their mental fortitude and shatter their physical limitations. Currently we are at just over 400 strong and growing each day. One of the ways that we help new and current members get to know each other is that Paul Almanza (founder) is constantly looking for local races to join.”

In Canada, The Canadian Mudd Queens – with their team almost 300 strong – are an all-female group dedicated to staying together and helping one another. Pamela Kirk of the CMQ explains, “We just celebrated our first birthday in August. We came together as a group of about 4 online and later met in person. We’ve grown by word of mouth and indoctrinating our friends. We meet like-minded women at races and invite them to drink the kool aid. I believe my daughter is the youngest member [15] that runs adult Spartans and other OCRs. Our oldest member is in her 50s. We come from all walks and stations. No other joining criteria other than female.”

Hailing from Florida, self-confessed “goofy Asian dude”, JayTea Tran, a familiar face with the Spartan Race Street Team community, is a co-founder of Azn Armour which now has close to 500 members. “With our team being represented at most, if not all Spartan Races, it really brings home the close-knit community that we have formed. Our team runs together and we don’t leave any team member behind”, he explains. He continues, “with Azn Armour having teamed up with another east coast team, MudRunFun, it now means that the family is so large that no one person will ever have to run alone. We have a team page where we discuss training, diet, sport clothing among other things. We motivate each other by posting our daily workouts and training strategies.”

But these are just a few examples and barely scratch the surface of the multitude of teams out there. New England Spahtens, Team Braveheart, Chicago Spartans, WVVA Spartans, Team Ugly Fitness, Team Red White and Blue, Boot Camp Rhino, Warrior State Of Mind, Team Burgh all are familiar names across the country and are often seen destroying courses as a unit.

One team that stands out arguable more than any other is Operation Enduring Warrior. Made up of military veterans offering support to the nations wounded heroes, their trademark masks worn by each member signifies the struggles each military member goes through and are worn in a show of solidarity. Their member Todd Love’s picture now being an iconic shot of everything that not only they, but what all teams and Spartan Race stands for; pushing through adversity.

So, get yourself a group of friends, start a website or group page and see where it leads you! Spartan teams stick together!

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by Carrie Adams

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”-John Fitzgerald Kennedy

ground-zero-by-photosthatchangedtheworlddotcom

Today is September 11, 2013.  So many of us can remember where we were 12 years ago, what we felt when the towers crumbled and smoke rose in the sky darkening the landscape and leaving the world stunned in the shadow.  We recall the images as the Pentagon shook and we heard the final calls home from the brave passengers who fought back on United Flight 93 and crashed in a quiet field in Pennsylvania rather than let another building or target succumb.  The skyline of New York will never be the same, we will never be the same, yet the statue of liberty still rises proudly from her home on Ellis Island, the fortitude of a country etched proudly in her arms, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

We battled on.

Stephen Reid, right

After September 11, 2001 and as a country we mourned those lost, we shed tears of sorrow for the public service men and women who risked and lost their lives trying to protect the innocent, and for all those lost on that day in the violence unleashed on our unsuspecting nation.

One of our own Spartans, Stephen Reid was a detective in the New York City Police Department on 9/11. In Chinatown at the time of the first plane crash, he called his department, telling them he was there to suit up.

The losses were severe. Reid lost 23 police brothers and sisters that day. A heavy loss for the seasoned detective, “I joined the NYPD at age 21. I felt it was my calling and enjoyed police work. By the time I was 28, I was promoted to Detective. September 11… my life was changed forever.”

Reid ran his first Spartan last year in Boston. Following that experience, he began to run every day carrying the American Flag and a piece of steel from the Trade Center, they accompany him at every race. Known for his long beard, quick wit, and infectious smile, Reid draws inspiration from those he runs alongside, just as they are inspired by him.

Reid has finished several Spartan Races since Boston, including the Tri-State Spartan Super, the Virginia Spartan Super with Operation Enduring Warrior’s Community Athletes, the Tuxedo Spartan Sprint, and the CitiField Spartan Sprint. He also has a connection to the military in his family, “I hail from a family of veterans. My father served in the US Navy on the USS Croaker during Vietnam. His father was a decorated MP in the US Army during WWII who saw action in Germany. My mother’s father was an Army Captain who was killed in action in Germany during WWII.”

Stephen Reid

That left an impression on Reid, “Since that day our military has ceaselessly fought a War on Terror. So many young men and women have since gone off to fight this war and defend our country from those that do not appreciate our way of life. Many have come back forever changed. They have given so much of themselves. I honor them all.”

The flag and the steel are just a reminder, something to carry as he runs. Says Reid, “We carry the burdens for them that day,” Stephen explains, “because after the race, we can get rid of our burdens, and they can’t.”

We remember this day from 12 years ago with somber reflection and a commitment to looking forward to what lies ahead. In life there are obstacles to overcome, some seem insurmountable. Stephen Reid is a reminder of how to move forward again day after day with grace, kindness, humility, generosity, and most of all, with hope.

We salute him. We thank him.  He is a Spartan.

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by Amanda Sullivan

I was an aid worker for the better part of ten years. I worked with orphans, refugees and abused women and children. I lived in Costa Rica, Chile, Panama, Jamaica and for about four years in Mexico. I worked with indigenous refugees in Guatemala and with people with Hansen’s Disease (also known as “Leprosy”) in Ecuador. I was a first responder during Hurricane Katrina (I arrived down to NOLA before the Red Cross did & even planned a wedding between two beautiful evacuees from The 9th Ward of New Orleans. The wedding was held in our Coliseum). I am very blessed to have followed my heart to distant villages and lands. I was taught how to shine in the face of adversity by some of the most spiritually-wealthy & courageous souls on the planet. While in Mexico, I ran an orphanage for little girls ages 6-14 and taught Spanish classes to children who speak Mayan in the villages.

I have been an athlete all my life. I was on a summer swim & tennis team from the ages of 5-17 and was the Captain of my Varsity Field Hockey, Basketball and Lacrosse teams in high school & was named as The Female Athlete of The Year when I graduated. I played club/intramural sports in college. I am trained in leading camping trips & teaching people how to white water raft and rock climb.

Unforeseen circumstances

My story after this point is very bizarre and the only way I have been able to understand it, is that God must have a very big plan in mind for me.  I was actually in two different accidents within a 6-week period. I came home to the NYC area from Mexico for Christmas of 2008. I was setting up a new shelter which was scheduled to open on March 1, 2009.

I was at a complete stop on a main street, waiting to turn into the gym’s parking lot. There was a woman exiting the parking lot in a large Suburban and taking up both the exit and entrance. So I motioned to her that she could pull out first. She waited and was looking past me. I looked into my rear view mirror & saw a car, pretty far back, in my lane. But, since no one was in the lane next to me, I just assumed he would switch lanes & this woman could exit. I waited for what seemed like a really long time & looked back up at the woman in the SUV, as if to say, “Yo lady, are you gonna go or what?” I just remember seeing a look of complete horror on her face. She had a few children in the car and I saw little faces in the windows looking at me, and they too were looking at me in sheer terror. I looked into my rear view mirror, almost right at the point of impact. I saw a man with his face lit up from his cellphone, looking down at his phone, with one hand on the wheel and no idea that he was about to drill right into me. Luckily, I somehow thought quickly enough to cut my wheel to right and step on the gas as I was struck. This shot my car off at a different angle and I avoided getting crushed into the SUV. Even though it wouldn’t have been my fault, had any of those children been injured, I would never have forgiven myself.

Needless to say, I was struck from behind by a man who was texting and speeding. He admitted in the deposition to looking away from the road for thirty seconds, while speeding, after seeing me stopped way ahead of him. I am very fortunate to have many witnesses who all saw the same thing and were there to help me before the police and paramedics arrived. Even though I was wearing my seat belt, this man who I will just call “Dave”, crushed my car from behind and, in turn, me into my steering wheel. I fractured my skull, broke my nose/sinus, suffered traumatic brain injuries, severely sprained and strained my neck and back and tore the muscles in my arms.

I was bed-ridden for about five weeks after that accident. I had (and still have) daily post-traumatic migraines and had been rushed to the Emergency Room a few times in those first weeks, due to blood & Cerebrospinal fluid leaking from my ears & nose. I was finally cleared to begin physical therapy and was excited to start healing, so I could head back to beloved Mexico again.

On my way into my first physical therapy session, an elderly man was leaving a Cardiologist appointment in the medical building (where my PT was held). He had a heart condition and promised his doctors that his wife, who was with him, would drive them both home. Apparently, he didn’t even know his own name when he left the office. Needless to say, his wife let him get behind the wheel. This man, who I will call “Alek”, later told the police that he must have put his car in reverse and stepped on the GAS instead of the brake. “Alek’s” car shot up towards a walkway, in reverse, to where I was walking. This happened around 3pm. It was the first nice day in a really long time, so there were a bunch of people sitting in the sunshine outside. The back of the building is also all windows. Unfortunately for them, but good for me, a lot of people witnessed me get hit.

I was struck on my right side and was tossed up onto the back of the car, cracking the right side of my head on his back windshield. “Alek” told the cops in the police report that he didn’t know anyone was even on his car and only slammed on the brakes because he heard people screaming. I got shot off the car and cracked my head a few times on my left side. I ended up pretty much injuring everything from my skull to my toes. More traumatic brain injuries, pretty much tore/ripped/injured every muscle, ligament and tendon in my body. My right leg ended-up dangerously atrophied (from being in bed for so many months). My doctor’s told me if my leg atrophied any more, it would become a “peg leg” and I would need it amputated. That scary news turned my Beast Mode switch “ON” and I began doing double sessions of physical therapy the next day.

I am about 5’7 and the police said I should have gotten sucked under the car, instead of being able to lock my arms and go on top of the trunk (witnesses say I started off with my ankles/feet dragging and was able to push myself up as I was struck.) I wouldn’t have survived if I went under that car. It was going at the perfect speed for this to happen. Any slower or faster and I would have gone right under.

Forgiveness
“Alek” passed away nine months after we “met”. I have no anger towards this man and feel sorry for him. I know he didn’t mean to hit me and had no idea where he was or what he was doing that day. I put everything into God’s hands and also let go of my feelings about everything his wife did to hurt me. LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO FEEL LIKE A VICTIM OR TO FOCUS ON ALL OF THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE HURT ME. I have recently forgiven “Dave” as well. I realize that he must live a miserable life, based on the little I know/have seen of him. I hope that someday he can feel the love, hope and light that engulfs my soul on a daily basis. I guarantee he doesn’t have incredible people loving and supporting him, the way I have! I have handed everything over to G-O-D. Ultimately, he is the only one who can judge us. I need to just focus on being my best, healthiest and happiest self.

I know that I will eventually fully recover from these debacles. I consider myself extremely fortunate to count on the love, prayers and support of my amazing friends and family. In the meanwhile, I have been keeping my heart and mind opened to all of the lessons that the Universe is trying to teach me right now. Inspiration is my motivation! This way, as I recover, I can emerge a more spiritually-beautiful version of my pre-accident self.

Finding Hope When all seems hopeless

I had two back-to-back surgeries in the fall of 2009. My doctors had just informed that I would be permanently disabled & were convinced that the extreme atrophy in my body was irreversible. Having traumatic brain injuries sets people up for being severely depressed, as well. I started isolating myself and fell into a deep depression. It was difficult to think clearly while being in constant pain. I felt like I couldn’t really open up to anyone because no one understood what I was going through.

My body was deformed and I didn’t know the face that was looking back at me in the mirror. I started questioning every decision I had made in my life that lead up to my accidents. I felt scared. Meeting new people & having them see me as someone who was “disabled” scared me, because I didn’t know who the person they were seeing in front of them was. I realized that I needed to focus on what made me happy and simply avoid anything that could hurt me. I went into survival mode & thought about all the things I would do when I was better.

I made a HOPE BOARD- A poster board filled with post-it notes. Each note has a dream or goal of mine written on it. The point of this was to ALWAYS see what I am working towards, to always remember THE BIGGER PICTURE, and keep my eyes on the prize. I started doing random acts of kindness for people, even from my bedside, and INSTANTLY FELT BETTER!! I realized that even though my body was broken, my soul was intact. Doing nice things for other people removed me from my own situation & made me feel like the old me. After awhile, I realized that if I start learning lessons every day, even if it’s a bad day, then I am blessed. I started to thank the Universe for both the good and the bad. I started to tap into the warrior inside of me. I started to fight as hard for my own recovery as I would for someone else’s. I started to love myself again.

I’m still recovering from numerous traumatic brain injuries, have herniated and bulged discs poking my spinal cord, extensive nerve damage throughout my body and my right leg doesn’t work. I have many surgeries left. I spent close to 3 years bed-ridden (if you add it all up) and have been in and out of the hospital for most of these 4.5 years. However, I REFUSE TO GIVE UP. I’m using this experience as a unique opportunity to learn life lessons from adversity. I do at least four to six hours of physical therapy six days a week. I use forearm crutches and a wheelchair to get around. Miraculously, my teeth were not injured in either accident. I took this as a direct sign from The Universe to KEEP SMILING NO MATTER WHAT!

I’ve learned that I don’t need to be “who I was” before my accident in order to love this new life I was given. I decided that it was time to take my health to a new level, so I began playing adaptive sports and joined a regular (able-bodied) gym in June of 2012. The most incredible experiences of my life have occurred since I began loving this “new me”. With each goal accomplished, a wave of inspiration, hope, love, confidence, strength and motivation engulfs my soul. I realize that I am way more today than I was before. I am braver, more positive, more loving, more motivated, more hugging, more spiritually-beautiful, more compassionate and more “me” than I could have ever been otherwise.

In the last few months, I’ve crutched through four 5k races, a mini-Go Ruck Challenge in the woods and a Spartan Race! At first, I was extremely nervous about placing myself in a large group of able-bodied athletes. I thought I may be trampled in the crowd. I didn’t know if people would make fun of me. When I did “The Tunnel To Towers Race” last September, a bunch of my Wounded Warrior friends came up from Walter Reed Hospital to wheel, crutch and run the race with me. Even though I finished last out of over 30,000 people, the memories I made that day and the friendships forged will last a lifetime. Two of my friends are triple amputees and had just been fitted with their legs in the days before the race. Watching them walk along side of me, as thousands of firemen, military, civilians and onlookers cheered us on, ignited a fire within my heart that will never be snuffed. I was walking amongst Giants. Their vibrant spirits, courage and smiles were contagious.

I wasn’t sure if I could finish those races. But, with each step I took, I learned that it’s not about being in first place, or last place, or looking a certain way or having a certain body. These races are about encouragement, friendship, celebrating life, shining in the face of adversity and overcoming odds TOGETHER.
My disabled veteran friends scuba-dive, rock-climb, handcycle, crutch/walk/run/wheel as far as they can, sky-dive, participate in “extreme obstacle challenges,” have wrestled alligators on “Gator Boys” and love the lives they were given. They practice an attitude of gratitude. Watching my friends smile through tears has taught me how I want to handle my own circumstances. They know no limits & accept no excuses. They are making the most of every day, no matter what.

I’ve learned that we don’t need to wait to be “better” in order to start living the lives we’re meant to live. The day I played wheelchair basketball for the first time, a part of my soul that I thought was gone was reborn. When I started going out and doing fun things again, I began making new memories with this new body of mine. Sometimes our bodies need to break in order for our souls to be healed. I’m doing the Super Spartan in Virginia on August 24th, a “Spartan Sprint” & “Tunnel To Towers 5k” in September, and I’m going to handcycle “The Army Ten Miler” & “The Marine Corps Marathon” in October, all with Team Operation Enduring Warrior. Inspiration is my motivation!! Watching my body become stronger and healthier every day is amazing. I’m taking my vitamins, eating healthy foods, surrounding myself with positive, empowered people and I feel unstoppable! Life. Is. Beautiful.

I’m really happy to be writing this chapter of my story, after having the pen taken from me for so long. I bet that your story can be just as awesome. It’s time you picked up the pen and started writing it.

Remember:
“The only one who can tell you ‘you can’t’ is you. And, you don’t have to listen…”

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by Stephen Reid aka Steve-o Bones

Memorial Day is a holiday that takes on a special meaning for me. It is a day that is meant to honor and remember those who served our country with military service. Some lost lives. Others lost limbs. Many others lost their youth and innocence to the horrors of war. This is a debt that can never be repaid. Yet their sacrifice can be remembered and our gratitude and respect can be displayed even through small gestures like putting out the flag or attending a parade.

I hail from a family of veterans. My father served in the US Navy on the USS Croaker during Vietnam. His father was a decorated MP in the US Army during WWII who saw action in Germany. My mother’s father was an Army Captain who was killed in action in Germany during WWII. At that time my mom was a year old and my uncle was a newborn. Here is a summary of his military achievement:

REILLY, WALTER J. (KIA) The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Walter J. Reilly (0-400672), Captain (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company K, 71st Infantry Regiment, in action against enemy forces on 18 November 1944. Captain Reilly’s outstanding leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty at the cost of his life, exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

I joined the NYPD at age 21. I felt it was my calling and enjoyed police work. By the time I was 28, I was promoted to Detective. A few years later, on September 11, 2001, our country was attacked right in front of my eyes and my life was changed forever. Since this day our military has ceaselessly fought a War on Terror. So many young men and women have since gone off to fight this war and defend our country from those that do not appreciate our way of life. Many have come back forever changed. They have given so much of themselves.

I have a very strong bond with the Men and Women of Operation Enduring Warrior, formerly Team X-T.R.E.M.E., a non-profit organization whose mission is to honor, empower and motivate America’s wounded military service members. These warriors took the time to bring me to Ground Zero after the NYC Spartan Demo. Many enlisted post 9/11 and these are the ties that bind us. I have forged a great relationship and have a lifelong bond with many of them.

This Memorial Day, I implore you to take the time out from your barbecues, your pool parties, and your trips to the beach to reflect on the gravity of this day.  Thank a Veteran.  But please, remember the reason for this day.  Take a moment to think of all those who didn’t come back when they left home for hostile battles in foreign lands, those brave men and women who made it possible for you to have your freedom; it has been paid for through their blood, sweat, and tears.

[Editor's Note: Spartan Race wishes to say a collective thank you to all those who have served and who serve still.  Thank you.   And this Memorial Day we honor those who have given everything and paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we can all breathe free.   Flag Photo courtesy of Kevin High Photography.]

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