by Aja Varney, guest blogger
Last year, on a whim, I posed an idea to a smallish group of Spartan Chicks: let’s do a Secret Santa, Holiday Gift Swap. Many of the ladies had been my inspiration through that inaugural, formative year of my Spartan Shape-Up, and it seemed like a great way to spread out the love and camaraderie that we’d all found in the Facebook group, on the muddy courses, and frequent email exchanges.
Our Holiday Gift Swap that year had just about 100 participants. This year, with the uprising of women into obstacle racing, subsequently finding the Spartan Chicked group at a staggering 9000+ women strong, our gift exchange garnered roughly 250 eager participants. While I can claim to be the facilitator, the Chicks involved brought the event to life, creating searchable posts introducing themselves to each other, brainstorming useful and creative gift ideas and making sure there was no chick left behind (“Yes! We’ll figure out how to get a Chick gift to a woman stationed in Korea in military training! Aroo!”).
From the Pacific Northwest to the tip of Florida, the United Kingdom to Australia, Mexico to Canada and beyond, the Chicks embraced their giftee like long-lost family. Some mailed gift baskets of practical use: their favorite fueling bar or gel, training gloves to prevent blisters, anti-chafing sticks for those long runs, or technical socks to keep our feet running the treacherous mountains. Others decided to pamper the inner goddess that makes the Chicks special, shipping out relaxing bath salts, salves for sore muscles, nail polish in feisty Chicked Pink shades, or shiny delicate baubles (ironically) shaped like kettle bells or barbells, to keep our head in the game when not clad head to toe in spandex.
Finally, there were the socks… oh the socks! While all sorts of t-shirts and gear were mailed around the globe, the Chicked movement has embraced socks as a personal, feminine, yet practical, statement. Bright colored tall socks, striped knee highs to protect your shins during mud crawls, dramatic thigh-highs to pair with your shorts and every incarnation in between, were gifted from chick to chick. My personal favorite, all the tall socks that proclaimed loud and proud, statements of Spartan Strong Women: “Bad Ass,” “Burpees Suck,” “Lift Strong” and “Girl Power.”
While the gifts were a wonderful surprise (almost all the Chicks will tell you that they were waiting anxiously by their mailbox for their Spartan Santa gift to arrive!), the thing that differentiated our Chicked Holiday Gift Swap from any other Secret Santa I’ve ever participated in, was the expressions of community. Every package reached its recipient with hand-drawn cards, lengthy letters sharing holiday well-wishes, motivational notes for the year ahead and a lot of support from one Chick to another, regardless of age or distance. One package even included a small token addressed to the Chick’s child, from one mother to another, because the time had been taken to learn something about the recipient and acknowledge her as a person – not “just” an obstacle racer.
As the year draws to a close, I count myself extremely lucky to be grouped in among the Spartan Chicks. Although I know they are a spectacularly determined, driven group of women, sweating their butts off to show their stuff on the race course, every year this gift swap reminds me that they are so much more than that; the women of Sparta are group of ladies, ready to welcome you with open arms and support you through whatever life throws at you. Come tall, muddy walls, a difficult personal situation, a training plateau or a bad day at work, Spartan Chicks are there – worldwide – to keep your head up and your feet moving forward.
A big Thank You! To all the Chicks who continue to inspire one another and were willing to share some Holiday cheer with their fellow ladies. Our gift swap went off without a hitch, and I cannot wait to see how much Spartan love we can flood the Postal Service within 2013! AROO!
[Editor's Note: Aja Varney is a Spartan Chick many times over. You can follow her adventures on her blog, What a Beautiful Wreck. Varney was recently featured as a writer in the new Obstacle Racing magazine. Her story about how Spartan Races changed her life begins on page 38.]