John Yatsko doesn’t have a smartphone, doesn’t care for computers and sleeps under the trees the night before a big race. He’s no frills, no big show and all drive. He’s also the newest addition to the Spartan Race Pro Team.
Coming from nowhere to blaze an impressive trail of podium placings and courses that begged him for mercy, the runner from Flagstaff, Arizona is a fierce competitor with a no-holds-barred attitude is aiming his sights high and doesn’t have any distractions.
“I try to waste as little time as possible on the internet, which isn’t hard since I don’t own a computer or smart phone. I really don’t care what people have to say about the sport. I see a lot of chest pounding and machoism, but few serious athletes. Let the talkers have the internet – I’ll be up on the mountain.”
This focused determination from the long distance runner has already yielded many impressive results. His footprints are on the Spartan Race podium any time he is found at a race, but what is most surprising about him is that he never aimed to be on the Pro Team. Winning Spartan Races was merely his way of paying student debt. He replies honestly, “My aim from the start has been to win Vermont and pay off my student loans, but making the team is an added plus.”
He continues, “I am very hesitant to accept any kind of sponsorship. Accepting support from a company as a sponsored athlete carries with it the expectation of promoting that company and usually helping them to sell some kind of material product. I am decidedly not a salesman and have no interest in promoting consumer culture any more than I have to.
“Working with Spartan Race is different though. As a company, they don’t seem nearly so profit-driven and they’re not asking me to push any product on anyone. I have seen firsthand what an effect these races can have on people’s lives, middle-age women losing 100lbs in training, that sort of thing. Our values seem to be in close alignment, so signing a contract with Spartan feels like a partnership rather than a sell-out.
“I was also surprised at how welcoming the Spartan community has been to a newcomer in the sport, particularly the other top athletes. Signing with the Pro Team feels like making the roster for the first time in college (I was cut my first seven seasons).”
Bouncing back from these cuts shows the resilience and determination of the man whose background lies in running. “Up until the Austin race with Hobie, I wasn’t actually training for Spartan Races – I was training for ultra-marathons. After that, I decided to put trail racing on hold for a while and focus exclusively on OCR. So my training has changed considerably since then.
“I incorporate a lot more obstacle-specific training into my regimen now, with the largest emphasis on sandbags, bucket carries, and tractor pulls. Although, I still maintain my aerobic fitness with a good long run each week and a high emphasis on vertical gain.”
John Yatsko is a man with determination and the drive to win. We’ll be sure to see him in Vermont. He’s upped his game and may have what its take to find himself a cozy spot on the World Championship podium.
We’ll just have to wait and see. See you at the finish line John!