by James Korak
When I turned 40, I looked in the mirror. I didn’t like what I saw, my youth had slipped away, I had gained 50 pounds and had a soft body. I was on blood pressure medicine, cholesterol medication and was falling apart. I had just came through a dark time in my life where we lost a daughter, were having struggles in our marriage due to a failed adoption, and communication was weak at best. I was not being the leader of our family, so I started to get my body (temple) back into shape by attending boot camp 3x a week for over a year. Then I was asked by my trainer to run a simple three mile mud race (Ha- simple was not the term I use). I got my butt kicked and didn’t like that because I used to be a professional cyclist in my youth and competed at a high level with very structured training and diet. For me to be at such a high level physically, then go to getting my butt kick in a simple 5k mud run did not settle well with me and lit a fire again in my soul and heart for competition. As I tell my wife today, there are worse things to do when you turn 40 and have a midlife crisis than get back into shape and start competing again.
Then came Spartan. I did my first Beast race and still did not do well, so I upped my training and including running to my regiment of training. I ended up placing in the 25 among all males and 4th in age group in 2012. Now I am currently 1st in my age group and hoping for a top 30 finish by the completion of September’s elite racing season.
What changed? How are things getting stronger at such an late time in ones physical life?
When I started doing more races, and getting further into shape, I now was back to my high school weight, the best shape of my life and feeling no restrictions on what I can accomplish except a longer recovery and sore knees! Ha- The Spartan people challenged me to go harder than I ever had physically in life, and enjoy it.
The second component of my story is my family. My brothers, sisters and of course my mom and friends thought I was crazy and truly feared for my well being. When I started doing events like 24 hour obstacle races in sub freezing temps, the Spartan Ultra Beast, and most recently the 2013 Death Race, they thought I was going to kill myself because I was OLDER and should not be doing those things.
HA again, but when they saw the physical talents that God gave me to not quit and conquer what appeared to be impossible challenges, they now are starting to become believers on what one can do and overcome if your heart and mind is into it. But my wife and kids have and always are my biggest fans. My wife is my biggest supporter and fan and never tells me I can’t do something or its too hard! My kids, Grace and Abbie, cheer me on at the races. Whether I see them at the finish line holding a hand painting sign or out on the course trying to run with me for a moment or two, it gives me an enormous amount of strength and courage to push my body past its breaking point and to finish strong. When I cross the finish line in 10th, 20th, etc. and my wife and kids are there, I feel completely fulfilled in life and they look at me with love and compassion in their eyes making me want to challenge myself further. This is far better than winning a cycling race in my younger days. Besides, I do find some satisfaction on beating youth more than half my age, but it’s still more than all that.
My kids now see what hard work and determination can do; age/health is no longer a factor of limitations, but rather an excuse. I now have been told by friends, family and neighbors all around that I have been a source of encouragement to them, showing them there is no limit on what you can accomplish if you put your mind and body into it. I recently spoke at my daughters FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) to 60 plus kids in Junior High School, to give encouragement on finishing life strong in order to hear the words, “Well done” at the finish in life’s race. Spartan helps me strive to better myself as an individual to be the best I can be in life.
My goal is one of inspiration and encouragement to all ages of life. That when faced with adversity and challenges, how you struggle to find solutions and push through the pain and suffering to finish strong, not just in a Spartan Race, but in life. I believe the two our synonymous and I just want to help others help themselves and be a source of inspiration for them and my family to become active and change who they are!
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Tags: James Korak, Peak Death Race, Spartan Ultra Beast, weight loss