By Leslie St. Louis, Spartan Elite Athlete

My feet and body are a symphony. My mind is clear and focused. The blue skies, the warm sun, the Colorado mountains embrace me as I crunch through brush, cactus and sage. I spy an orange arrow pointing into a ravine. I hustle down, see a stream, leap, feel the cool splash, the squish of mud, the jagged firmness of a river rock. I surge forward, grasping grass, weeds, bushes. I claw, use my legs, push up and out and am back to running.

The rhythm returns.

There’s another competitor ahead, and at least three more obstacles. What I can’t see is the finish line, but I can hear it. I know my husband and two daughters are there. I feel peace. For a brief moment, the Old Leslie butts in and whines “Can you really do this?” But it’s too late because I am strong and in synch. That doubting voice becomes a dimming hum, fading and floating away into the horizon. I surge forward even faster to a new confident beat. I am sure. I do believe. I am on a mission. I am Spartan.

The Colorado Military Sprint marks the one year anniversary of my first-ever Spartan Race (I came in third!) and the beginning of a life change. In the few years prior, I had quit my job as a teacher, had two girls 18 months apart and became a stay at home mom. On one hand, I was overjoyed with this new phase of my life, but on the other I was completely overwhelmed and exhausted. If you have young children, you probably know that feeling of being soooo busy, but not really getting anything “done.” Depressed and 15 pounds overweight, I had signed up for Spartan as a stepping stone to weight loss.

Amid the process of training, I rediscovered my passion for trail running and started working on my strength. My friends and I brainstormed workout ideas, integrating our little ones or switching off.
By the time I stepped up to the start line in Fort Carson, I had already forgotten about my initial goal of losing weight (that had happened along the way), and was more interested in putting all my new muscles to work!
The Colorado race, led to the Utah race, which eventually led to traveling the country, including scaling the mountains of Vermont (for 10 hours!) and swimming in the picturesque (frigid) lakes of SoCal. Through Spartan, I found “permission” to be competitive, and all within a very open and accepting community of inspiring and friendly athletes.

Every time I step up to the start line of a Spartan Race, I am a bit scared and nervous because I know that in the process of getting to the finish, I will feel exhaustion, fear, pain, uncertainty, surprise, exhilaration….I will be vulnerable and then build myself back up again. The secret of Spartan is that when you rebuild, you can construct any version of yourself and most likely it will be a stronger, more confident one than you ever imagined. This becomes a part of your everyday life too, and I think I am a better wife and mother because of it. In my best races, I am creating mental and physical symphonies: I am Spartan.

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