by Jeremy Bongiovanni

I think I can officially call myself a Spartan after this weekend’s race in Tuxedo, NY… That was definitely a challenge, but so much fun! There is some odd joy that comes out of completing one of the most physically difficult tasks you’ve ever done, but I love that feeling! This obstacle course was about 5 miles, mostly uphills and downhills, with around 20-25 obstacles, most of them pretty difficult too!  I found myself struggling, but it was a good struggle. I felt challenged, and I immediately felt like I wanted to do that again so I signed up for the 8-mile Super Spartan! I can officially say I’m also addicted to the Spartan Race. It’s one of those experiences that you won’t get anywhere else—the camaraderie, even with people you don’t know, the challenges, the joy, the adrenaline rush, you can’t find all of that everywhere! Some may think you’re crazy, but when you come home with those cuts and bruises (and yes you will get a few), you have a reason to show off, and be proud of it! You have just completed something not many people can say they have. I highly suggest getting out there and trying this too. You will get to that starting corral and just feel so much more alive than you ever have! I also highly suggest bringing friends—it enhances the experience so much more to share it with others.

I have done two Spartan Races – the first one at Citi Field and the second in Tuxedo, NY, but the second time I was alone. It definitely is a lot more challenging to be alone, but you can go at your own pace, which some people enjoy. I enjoyed the camaraderie of the first time, so I would suggest bringing a few friends. Plus, if you’re 21, you can share a few beers afterward! The races themselves were very different—Tuxedo, NY was much more cardio based, with a lot more brute strength involved. I should warn you, if you sign up for any Spartan Race, no matter what distance, you will end up running a lot more.

In a stadium, the issue is that the space is smaller, so there is no mud and less running, but still a great experience! It’s not often that you can say you’ve run on the field that a big MLB team plays on! Spartan Race hosts their races on these fields from time to time, but more often than not, they will be in the middle of nowhere so everyone can experience a true Spartan Race, mud and all. I am planning on working my way up to a Spartan Beast to complete a Trifecta (all three levels in one year), so wish me luck! I hope I can finish with a good time at each, or even survive them! I’m excited though, and I know with a little training (well, a lot of training), I can do this, and I know all of you out there can too!

I recommend signing up for the Spartan WOD’s – www.spartanrace.com/wod.   These are very helpful training tools to add on or use as your workout for the day. And if you want a free race, you can always volunteer at a race and choose to race at any race you’d like for free! I’d highly suggest this, as I have done this as well. It’s also a good way to meet new racers if you ever want a racing buddy for the future! Anyways, good luck in future racers, and I hope you all get out there and race like a Spartan! Spartan Races – getting people off their couches and into Spartan shape since 431 B.C.

AROO!!!

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Read Part One HERE.

2013
At the end of 2012, prior to the Spartan Beast, I sustained a stress fracture to my right foot. I unknowingly ran the Beast thinking it was a minor injury, then went on to run my first half marathon two weeks later. After taking two months off to rehab my foot, I began training with my team (the Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners) for the Spartan Race in Georgia and getting excited about the 2013 race season!

Then I heard about the Biggest Losers Run/Walk Challenge that Spartan Race also hosted. I thought it sounded like a good idea, so I registered and was so thrilled over this chance to work with and motivate others. A set of fortuitous circumstances led up to me transferring from the Open Heat to the Elite Heat the week of the GA Spartan Race. Add yet another thrilling dimension to my Spartan experience! I was so nervous!

I thought, “What am I doing on the start line of the female Elite heat? I’m 46 years old, and I’ve never been known as an athlete?”

As I ran across the terrain and through the woods, I felt strong! I took on one obstacle after another, burpee-free! And then it happened…Somewhere in the 3rd mile, my right ankle found that random hole in a flat field, rolled, and snapped like a twig. My first thought was, “I HAVE to finish this heat and get back in time to help with the Biggest Loser Challenge.” The course volunteer asked if I wanted her to call a Medic. “No, I’m finishing this race”, I said as I heaved a sandbag over my head and walked up the hill, confident I could walk it off. I was jogging as I came back down the hill.

I finished the race in 1:15:34, ran off the course, grabbed my volunteer t-shirt and ran back on to the course to find Chris

The Fab Five

Davis and the Biggest Loser Challenge participants. I randomly attached myself to a group of ladies I wound up calling my “Fab Five” and journeyed with them throughout the course. As we approached each obstacle, I gave them instructions on how to successfully navigate through the obstacle… should they choose to do it. I was THRILLED that they chose to take on every challenge (with the exception of the rope climb). They were FEARLESS!

The Fab Five and I worked together as a team through each obstacle, over every hill, and across every mile. The bond seemed to solidify more and more as we continued on our journey, and I saw confidence exuding through the mud as the ladies proved to themselves they could do what they set their minds to. The encouragement they received from the Spartan Racers along the course bolstered their sense of determination as well! They began cheering for and encouraging the Spartans who ran past them in a show of camaraderie!

Almost to the Finish Line
As most of the time we encountered cold water, the pain of my sprained ankle was kept at bay; but I also believe the adrenaline and the endorphins were my saving grace. At the slippery wall, the only thing left between these ladies and their finisher’s medal was the wall, the mud crawl ,and the gladiators. A couple of the ladies took on the slippery wall, paying close attention to the instructions I gave them, “Keep your weight behind you, your feet in front of you, and use your hands to pull you along. I’ll be at the top to help you over.” The third, and final, lady in our group to attempt this obstacle stepped up to the wall, hesitantly saying she would “try”.

I yelled, “You’ve got this!” One of her teammates stood next to me on the back of the wall, ready to help her find her way over.  She grabbed the rope and began to climb, strong and confident. Then a look of hesitation flashed across her face. Self-doubt started to gnaw at her resolve, “I just don’t have any upper body strength.”

I yelled, “You’re halfway here! You’re doing it! You’ve got this! Keep coming!”

Another Spartan Racer was scaling the wall, and he stopped to help assist my Fab Fiver in her quest up the wall. She wanted to quit. She wanted to let go. I knew I couldn’t let that happen, so I grabbed her hand and yelled, “I’m not letting you go!” She didn’t realize at the time that I was leaning backwards. If she chose to let go, I was going to tumble off the back side of the wall. I believed in her. So did the crowd who was cheering her on! The Spartan Racer who had been behind her climbed over the wall and reached across to help us as another Spartan Racer got behind her and started pushing.

As we got her left leg over that wall, the emotions burst forth in uncontrollable sobs… it was ME who was crying! The crowd was cheering her on! Her teammates were cheering her on! So many emotions of that day all released at once as I grabbed her at the bottom of the ladder and hugged her tightly! The team laughed at the fact that I was crying!

We still had the mud crawl. I ran from the first of the team to the last, encouraging, and cheering, and redirecting! When the final one cleared the barbed wire, I had us link arms and said, “Let’s do this!” We ran through the gladiators across the finish line together! My team was THRILLED to see the blood from the scratches and scrapes! It was a personal victory for each and every one of them!

I’m still in contact with each of those ladies and have added them to my team! They are signing up for more OCR’s and are still on an incredible high from their accomplishment!

The Street Team provided this great opportunity for us to share our Spartan Spirit with our fellow athletes of the Biggest Loser Run/Walk Challenge, and for that I am grateful. That race changed me in a positive way. Yes, I sprained my ankle and tore a ligament, but I finished strong in my Elite Heat (because I had a purpose); and my team of Fab Five finished as stronger ladies because of the experience they had.

I’m 46, almost 47, and I AM A SPARTAN CHICK and STREET TEAMER! AROOOO!

Spartan isn’t just a race it’s an experience!  You’ll know at the finish line.  Sign up today. 

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As Spartan Race gears up to head back to Times Square on January 17th, we made a pit stop in the Rockaways with a dedicated group of Spartan Race Street Team members to give back to those hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy.  Partnering with NYCares, Spartan Race Street Teamers proved that, “Spartans Give Generously” with their hard work on the devastated coastline.  After the volunteer event, emails came pouring in from those who were onsite.  The photos were startling.  Months later, the damage is still severe and the work far from over.  Over the weekend Spartan Racers gave their time, talent, and brute strength to give back.

Said one Spartan Race veteran and volunteer Eric Sperrazza, “Saturday’s Spartan Racers Muck Out Queens event was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done!  The staff of New York Cares were so accommodating and passionate about their mission and meeting new Spartan Race friends, while helping a needy community, was created a camaraderie that I am confident will carry over beyond this event. Further, the neighbors that were out, within the community, were so appreciative of our work that it really quantified the purpose for us being there and galvanized us a team to see through all of our tasks.”

Keri Foley gave us a recap of the day that served as a reminder of how much work is still left to be done and how a group of people can make a difference when they set out to help out those in need.  Here is Foley’s story.

On Saturday, January 12th, myself and several other Street Team members boarded a bus in Manhattan headed for the Rockaways.  None of us had ever done a Muck Out, nor did we know what we would be getting ourselves into, but we were all eager to help out those who homes had been ruined by Hurricane Sandy.  We arrived at “Base Camp” in the Rockaways, and were given the basic gear for our protection; a mask, a hardhat, gloves, goggles, and a Tyvec suit.  Everything we were given was to protect us from debris, dust, and the toxic black mold that now overwhelmed each home.  After listening to a brief explanation of some of the conditions out there, we re-boarded the bus and headed to our location for the day.

On the drive, we passed washed away sidewalks, homes with sand past their doorways, and arrived at beachfront condos that were across the street from what used to be the boardwalk.  Now it was just pylons.  Our leader, Jeff, informed us that the condos we would be working on had already had their drywall gutted, and that we would be ripping up the floorboards and preparing for future detoxing of the black mold.  We donned our gear, and entered the first condo, not knowing what to expect.  Jeff gave us a basic demonstration of how to tear apart the floorboards, and we set to work.  The first condo was our “learning home”; we learned which tools worked better, which way was easiest to tear up the mold infested floorboards.  We trudged through each room, working faster and harder as we went.  By the time we reached our second and third condo, we had each found a rhythm, and the work, though physically challenging, became easier with each sledgehammer and chisel slam.  The day was as exhausting and challenging as many Spartan Races are, but I was so humbled by the experience and the strength of those whose homes had been destroyed.  A couple of the homeowners treated us to pizza, but their gratitude for our being there was more than any ‘thank you’ I could have imagined.  At the end of the day, Jeff told us that we worked faster and harder than any team he had ever worked with.  Our response…  “Of course, We’re SPARTANS!”
A sign over one of our condos read, “No Retreat, No Surrender, Not NOW, Not EVER, Rockaway Forever”.  I felt that captured the essence and strength of the people and the spirit of any Spartan.   I left that day being ever so grateful for Spartan Race giving me this opportunity; I am hoping to be able to do it again in the future.

[Editor's Note: The Spartan Race Times Square Challenge is set for Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., at Broadway Plaza between 42nd and 43rd Streets, in Manhattan come down and see Spartans in action!]

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