by Matt “Bear” Novakovich

Why call me the bear? I like to think that a bear can adapt to its environment and not only survive, but excel, and perhaps dominate. I’d like to think that a grizzly bear in Alaska has become respected and feared because of the sum of that bear’s accomplishments, not simply because it is a “bear.” To survive in Alaska, a bear has endured the harshest weather from 90 degrees F to 50 degrees F below zero. No one feeds a bear- a bear finds its food or dies.  A bear is large and therefore strong, yet must stay lean and powerful to chase down and find its food. A bear will travel for 50 miles in a day to find food, only to burn those calories returning to its home. What does this have to do with Spartan?

Spartan racing has accomplished what no other sport in the world has accomplished to date, the same way the harsh environment in Alaska has made a bear the most vicious, most powerful, and most respected animal in the world. Spartan racing does not apologize for being difficult, even impossible. Spartan racing does not cater to any athlete, yet attracts all of us. Spartan racing is the first sport to demand speed, agility, strength, balance, endurance, fearlessness and to do all these things while being out of one’s comfort zone. Every other sport that I know accommodates only a couple of these attributes and typically leans towards specificity.

What did I do to become a Spartan and receive the title “The Bear” after winning the Virginia Super? I had no idea I was competing in this race until three weeks prior to it. In the months proceeding my first Spartan, I played basketball, football, rode motocross, roofed buildings, climbed mountains, jumped off cliffs, white-water rafted and did the occasional CrossFit WOD.

So how did I win? I won because I am an adapted athlete. I am ready and willing to go long, hard and fast. I willing to jump, sprint, fall and grind. I am willing to do all this while being tired, hungry and uncomfortable. I am willing to come back for more.

So how did I implode at the Reebok World Championships in Vermont? I respected myself and not the race. Norm informed us all, that this race would expose all of our weaknesses. He told us to bring water and nutrients or we would starve. He said it would be cold. I laughed in my head at the thought of “cold.” I’m from Alaska and swim in glacier water. Bring a hydration source? Not me, I go light and fast and I will survive. Weaknesses? Please, I’ll be the last to crack.

I wasn’t willing to sit in 3rd or 10th. I chased and hammered from the start and wasn’t willing to let any of my foes lead. As early as the monkey bars (5 miles) my first cramps were arriving. As early as the barbed wire (6 miles) I begged for a hydration source. As early as the water obstacle (7 miles) I felt like I’ve never been colder. As early as the memorization obstacle I knew I would quit.

I sat in a dilapidated, humbled, hypothermic state with cramps I’ve never faced at the entrance of the forest at only the halfway point. My lead of 9 minutes over the eventual winner, had now been replaced with a burpee penalty that took me over 30 minutes to complete. With my pride at an all-time low, with no reason to continue and with excuses mounting in my head, I decided to quit. The medic witnessing my plight suggested it was a good plan.

I did not quit. Somehow, all of the reasons that make Spartan the greatest sporting event on the planet came together and carried me to the finish line. From “The Bear” to “The Mouse” I sat on the ground and became a quitter. Then the mantras of being a Spartan rang in my newbie Spartan ears and I became “The Bear” again. I crossed the finish line.

Just as a bear adapts to his environment I will adapt to my new Spartan World. In the short week since the world championships, I’ve climbed over 40,000 vertical feet, completed four CrossFitWODS, thrown spears, played basketball and have run with my cross-country running team.

I will become “The Bear” again and will adapt and respect being a Spartan.

What will you become? Register today.

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Photo courtesy of Huffington Post

Standing in front of the fire jump flames rising towards to sky, Lance Bombardier James Simpson, 27, made a decision. “I’m just going to jump over it myself.” With just a few friends as support, one of them tasked with ensuring he didn’t start on fire in the process, James leapt over the fire and finished the Reebok Spartan Sprint in Ripon, North Yorkshire September 8, 2013 becoming the first British double amputee to accomplish such a feat!

“I kept my medal on for hours after!” he joked. “We thought it was a 5k… I found out afterwards it was actually 7.1k!”  Arguably the toughest Sprint in the UK line-up, the course was rugged and the obstacles difficult, but Simpson insisted on doing each of them without assistance.  ”It was just me and a few friends.  I did everything myself.”

The charming redhead from Yorkshire had been training for the event for four months and was prepared for most of what was going to face him on the course, until the mud towards the end. “The mud was so thick, I was afraid my leg would come out of the socket. That part took the longest!”

Simpson heard about the event from some of his American friends who finished a Spartan in the States in 2012 and knew he had to do one for himself. He told the Huffington Post, “I did not do it to break a record. I did it because I wanted to and hopefully it will encourage more people to do it and more amputees to try it in the future.”

Simpson was a part of the 5th Regiment, Royal Artillery stationed in Helmand, Afghanistan in November of 2009. While he was on foot patrol in Sangin and was the seventh man in line and stepped directly on an IED. He lost both legs above the knee and sustained injuries in both arms in the blast. “I remember just not looking down. I knew my legs were gone, but I just kept talking to myself to keep myself calm until the helicopter came.”

Simpson has also decided that he’s not quite done with his Spartan Racing adventures either. He’s found two friends to take on the upcoming Spartan Super in the Midlands on September 21st. “We’re going to give it a whirl!” he says.

With nearly double the distance and more obstacles than his recent Sprint experience, Simpson expects it to take a lot longer to complete. “I’m excited… and nervous… this means we’ll have to try the Beast as well!”  With a trifecta on his mind, Simpson will be taking on the Midlands course this weekend, two months after he may also be tackling the London Beast, and possibly even an event or two stateside in 2014.

L/Bdr Simpson has another exciting adventure awaiting outside Spartan Races.  He’s leaving the military for a new life as a University student studying film this fall.  He is also raising money as part of Spartan Journey for the Armed Forces charity SSAFA. You can find his website HERE to learn more and donate.

We’ll see you on the course this weekend, James!

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by Carrie Adams

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”-John Fitzgerald Kennedy

ground-zero-by-photosthatchangedtheworlddotcom

Today is September 11, 2013.  So many of us can remember where we were 12 years ago, what we felt when the towers crumbled and smoke rose in the sky darkening the landscape and leaving the world stunned in the shadow.  We recall the images as the Pentagon shook and we heard the final calls home from the brave passengers who fought back on United Flight 93 and crashed in a quiet field in Pennsylvania rather than let another building or target succumb.  The skyline of New York will never be the same, we will never be the same, yet the statue of liberty still rises proudly from her home on Ellis Island, the fortitude of a country etched proudly in her arms, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

We battled on.

Stephen Reid, right

After September 11, 2001 and as a country we mourned those lost, we shed tears of sorrow for the public service men and women who risked and lost their lives trying to protect the innocent, and for all those lost on that day in the violence unleashed on our unsuspecting nation.

One of our own Spartans, Stephen Reid was a detective in the New York City Police Department on 9/11. In Chinatown at the time of the first plane crash, he called his department, telling them he was there to suit up.

The losses were severe. Reid lost 23 police brothers and sisters that day. A heavy loss for the seasoned detective, “I joined the NYPD at age 21. I felt it was my calling and enjoyed police work. By the time I was 28, I was promoted to Detective. September 11… my life was changed forever.”

Reid ran his first Spartan last year in Boston. Following that experience, he began to run every day carrying the American Flag and a piece of steel from the Trade Center, they accompany him at every race. Known for his long beard, quick wit, and infectious smile, Reid draws inspiration from those he runs alongside, just as they are inspired by him.

Reid has finished several Spartan Races since Boston, including the Tri-State Spartan Super, the Virginia Spartan Super with Operation Enduring Warrior’s Community Athletes, the Tuxedo Spartan Sprint, and the CitiField Spartan Sprint. He also has a connection to the military in his family, “I hail from a family of veterans. My father served in the US Navy on the USS Croaker during Vietnam. His father was a decorated MP in the US Army during WWII who saw action in Germany. My mother’s father was an Army Captain who was killed in action in Germany during WWII.”

Stephen Reid

That left an impression on Reid, “Since that day our military has ceaselessly fought a War on Terror. So many young men and women have since gone off to fight this war and defend our country from those that do not appreciate our way of life. Many have come back forever changed. They have given so much of themselves. I honor them all.”

The flag and the steel are just a reminder, something to carry as he runs. Says Reid, “We carry the burdens for them that day,” Stephen explains, “because after the race, we can get rid of our burdens, and they can’t.”

We remember this day from 12 years ago with somber reflection and a commitment to looking forward to what lies ahead. In life there are obstacles to overcome, some seem insurmountable. Stephen Reid is a reminder of how to move forward again day after day with grace, kindness, humility, generosity, and most of all, with hope.

We salute him. We thank him.  He is a Spartan.

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by David Magida, Spartan Pro Team

Before the race began, competitors were all smiles. Eager to take on the course at Wintergreen Resort in Virginia, participants had no idea what they were in for. Hours later, when they finally finished the hardest (and steepest) Spartan Super in race history, the only smiles were those of relief.

Race Director Norm Koch gleefully told me before the race that this course was going to be the hardest Spartan Super ever and I laughed at him. After the race, I told him that he’s a, “sick and twisted man.” The eight mile course included 8,600 feet of elevation change, countless ski slope climbs and descents, a barbed wire crawl from hell and some fun wrinkles. A great deal of the course was off-trail through waist high grass and bushes that both impeded running strides and hid the hazardous rocks and holes that downhill racers fear so much. The mile-long descent down the mountain through a rocky riverbed spread out the competitors, as did the new log flip obstacle and of course, the seemingly endless log carry.

But what really shook up the race was the dark horse competition that arrived on the start line. Enter mountain runner and former professional cyclist Matt Novakovich. First of all, the guy lives in Alaska, so he’s automatically the toughest guy I’ve ever met. He looks like he lives off a diet of nails and caribou jerky. He also ran cross country at BYU and gets the majority of his climbing ability from hours of daily training at a 40% incline on a specialized treadmill in his garage.

Novakovich took over the race after the first descent, pushing all racers to their limit on each climb. He and Hobie Call raced side by side for the first ¾ of the race before Novakovich took off to win in a time of 1:50:14. That marks the first loss in a Spartan Race for Call this year, who finished in 1:55:51. Spartan Pro Team Member David Magida crossed the line in 3rd place with a time of 2:01:30.

On the women’s side, relatively new racers are beginning to dominate. Elise Fugowski continued to make her mark on the racing circuit with her second consecutive victory. Previously the winner of the Sunday heat at the Pennsylvania Sprint, Fugowski cruised to a finishing time of 2:22:51. She was followed by Debbie Moreau (2:26:32) and Kristen Zielinski (2:30:54). Zielinski was also a double podium finisher in Pennsylvania.

The event also featured an appearance by Olympic Steeplechaser Anthony Famiglietti, who did not reach the podium but left the race with a profound respect for the sport of Obstacle Racing and its athletes. After the race Famiglietti said, “That was the toughest race I’ve ever run,” and added, “Any road racer or marathoner who refuses to run a Spartan Race is just scared.” He plans to spread the word. Spartan Race is no joke.

Adding to the gravity of the day was the re-emergence of Operation Enduring Warrior. After 10 harrowing hours on the course, the team of men and women donning gas masks and including several Wounded Warriors and a team of community athletes crossed the finish line. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

What’s your excuse? Sign up today.

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by Michael Bacon

I returned home from Afghanistan on the first weekend in June, 2013. I had planned to do the races for my Trifecta in as little calendar time as possible because I would have the leave days from deployment to use up. All the dates, time and money lined up. Well, even they hadn’t, I would still have done it anyway…..that’s just me, The Baconator.

The week after I got back (Father’s Day weekend) and the following weekend I ran two other OCRs as a tune up for the Utah Beast. This resulted in five OCRs in six weeks. That is not really a tough schedule compared to many of my fellow OCR athletes, but it was quite adventurous with all the travel, training and racing.

My goal was to knock out punch the Spartan Trifecta in the shortest amount of days possible. And….stay healthy in the process. The plan worked well: 22 days, lots of travel time, lots of bad road munchies and food, great times with family and friends, and putting it all out there on each course, and leaving nothing in the tank.

All my tough training (4-6 days a week for about 6 months and sometimes two-a-days) preparing for Spartan glory while deployed to Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan was about to become the real deal. The Utah Beast was first, and good thing, because it was the toughest and it had me a little reserved and worried. Family and friends noticed that I wasn’t my typical, over-the-hedge squirrel, energizer bunny self on the drive out and just before the race. The UT Beast pushed me to my never-before-reached limit. Halfway through at the rope climb, I contemplated the thing I said I would never do…..quitting. My friends and teammates, Jason Reed and David Tatham, responded to my waning resolve by joining me back on the course to give me some motivation. Success! The PA Sprint proved to be what many call the “Mini Beast.”  According to some who ran the previous year’s PA Sprint, this one was a little shorter, but arguably more difficult. The terrain, again, was the real challenge. Obstacles are just obstacles. You approach each one on its own turf and do it or don’t do it. The part of the planet that Spartan decides to put them is what kicks your butt!

The Midwest Spartan was FUN! I think what made it the most fun was the festival atmosphere with all my friends from many teams and the new people I met throughout the race and the rest of the weekend. The course start was nice because it wasn’t a vertical ascent to Mars. I actually had time to warm up and get in a pace groove before the hills and obstacles.

This is my 50th year of life on the planet. “Go and torture yourself, Mike….over 25+ miles of unforgiving terrain and obstacles….for your birthday celebration.” Thats what my brain said and my body replied with “bring it on!”

The Spartan Race Utah Beast
June 29th, 2013:
Seymour, Indiana to Cheyenne and Evanston, Wyoming and Midway, Utah 1600 miles, 26 hrs travel time.
Departure: June 26th, 2013
Round trip total: 3200 +/- miles, 50 hrs travel time
Corn Fed Spartans on the road trip: Michael Bacon, Kathy Bacon, Jason Reed, Jessy Reed, David Tatham.
Friends in Wyoming: Lisa Todd (thank you for letting us stay at your house!), Liz Roper and Valerie Cuecuecha.

Utah Beast: 12.2 miles in the Utah Wasatch Mountains
Elite Heat
Time 4:56:16

The Spartan Race Pennsylvania Sprint
July 13th, 2013
Seymour, Indiana to Carrolton, Kentucky, DeGraff, Ohio, Reading and Palmerton, Pennsylvania 780 miles, 14 hrs travel time.
Departure: July 11th, 2013
Round trip total: 1570 +/- miles, 27 hrs
Corn Fed Spartans on the road trip: Michael Bacon, Jason Reed, Jordan Hill, Dan Bacon
Friends in Pennsylvania: Dann Pitkapaasi and his wife, Mia (thanks for letting us crash out at your house!), Brian Tumelty (Team Limitless)
Extra: Sweeper Heat with Ron Zastocki and his wife, Kelly, Gary Belanger, and Kelli Parady
Pennsylvania Sprint: 4 +/- miles at Blue Mountain
Elite Heat
Time: 2:23:43

Spartan Midwest Super: 8.2 +/- miles at The Cliffs Insane Terrain
July 20th, 2013
Seymour, Indiana to Marseilles, Illinois 320 +/- miles, 5 1/2 hrs travel time. Departure: July 19th, 2013
Round trip total 610 +/- miles, 16 hours (slept at a truck stop on the return trip….exhausted!)
Corn Fed Spartans on the road trip: The Baconator, solo.
Friends in Marseilles at the race and campground: The Corn Fed Spartans, Chicago Spartan, Team Ninja, Midwest Vikings, and all the amazing Spartan Racers! AROOO!
Extra: Sweeper/Pull Heat Team with Missy Morris, Stefanie McKenna and Emily Brandstatter (All Corn Fed Spartans!)
Time: 3:14:27

Trifecta Completion Stats
Days to completion: 22 days
Distance traveled: 5380 miles
Time Travel: 93 hrs

To say Todd Sedlak is evil, but a really nice guy, creates an oxymoron. Like he said at my finish of the Midwest, “You hate me out on the course, but like me when you’re done, right?” Mike Morris – thanks for the Midwest. See you in Amesbury, MA!

Thanks to LegendBorne Sportswear for the great race jerseys and tech t-shirts. They fit like a glove and make me feel like a superhero. The gear made the race! Thanks to Inov8 for my Roclite 315s. They gave my feet the performance of a mountain goat!

Special thanks to my wife Kathy for being there. Special thanks to Jason Reed and David Tatham at the Utah Beast. In my 50 years of life and 23 years in the US Army, I have never done any event so tough, ever. Thank you two AWESOME Corn Fed Spartans for jumping back into the Beast and giving me the sometimes silent, reassuring coaching and motivation to “Just keep going!”

What’s stopping you?  Get registered TODAY.

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Like moths to a flame, the Spartan Race community was drawn to Cliffs Insane Terrain Park in Marseilles, Illinois for two days of intense trails and obstacles that would test all those who were willing to push themselves. With this being the Super Championship for the year, the men’s elite line-up read like a who’s who of Spartan Race with the Spartan Pro Team seeing a lot of the podium all weekend.

On the men’s side the competition was tough.  Spartan Pro Team men Brakken Kraker, Hunter McIntyre and David Magida finished in a 1-2-3 ahead of so many highly skilled athletes.  In fact, the top three finishers in the elite heat Saturday and Sunday on the men’s side were all Spartan Pro Team athletes.

Amelia Boone kept her winning streak alive by winning both Saturday and Sunday, despite getting lost on Saturday for over

Iram Leon with Spartan Race Race Director Mike Morris

ten minutes and clawing her way back to the front of the pack. Boone has never failed to podium at a Spartan Race and her Sunday finish saw only five men finish before her, nabbing not only first female but sixth overall.  Behind Boone, Spartan Pro Team females rounded out the female podium Saturday with Hannah Orders in second and Leslie St Louis in third. Orders made many jaws drop at the fact that despite losing a shoe mid-race, she finished just two minutes behind the leader on Saturday. Leslie St Louis fought off brave competition for third in a highly competitive field.

Also racing in the elite heat both days was the quiet and unassuming Iram Leon. A terminal cancer marathon winner, Leon is an inspirational runner. Leon placed high, despite being very new to the concept of obstacle course racing. The marathon champion charged at the course, wearing a shirt with a runner being chased by the Grim Reaper, with the caption, “Make Him work for it”.

Brad Kloha, who is running 100 races in 52 weeksto raise money for Alzheimer’s was on-hand in Illinois. He is running to

honor the memory of his grandmother and great-grandmother who he lost to the disease and hopes to raise $1 Million to aid the charity. Kloha runs every race with a photo of his grandmother strapped to his forearm to remind him of his purpose.

The Unbreakable Joneses, a father son team we recently profiled who often does multiple laps, also took to the highly technical trails, mud and obstacles in Illinois.   Last seen sprinting around the Texas Sprint multiple times, the father and son team known affectionately known as “Thing 1” and “Thing 2” successfully completed the course 3 times; once for speed, once carrying sledgehammers and once tethered together.

AC Auld – a Biggest Loser participant – remarked that finishing is, “an achievement that no one can take away from you.”  He smiled cheerfully and held up his hands bearing two wounds opened up while low crawling under the barbed wire.  Spartans wear their cuts and bruises with pride.

Love was also in the air!  In what is quickly becoming a tradition at Spartan Races all over the country,  Megan Pritchard happily accepted Michael Manning’s request for her hand in marriage amid huge cheers and applause at the finish line.  We wish them the best!

Danny Rodriguez

The longest and hardest journey of the weekend was that of someone who is no stranger to what a Spartan Race can offer. Weighing over 400lbs, Danny Rodriguez, along with some friends and a couple of staff members, hiked and fought his way through an epic nine hours to cross the finish line to a flurry of high-fives, knucklebumps and teary-eyed hugs. Personifying the “sign up, show up, don’t quit” attitude, Danny is now undergoing the very same regime Chris Davis went through with Spartan Race founder Joe Desena in Vermont in a bid to emulate the same weight loss and lifestyle change. Everyone at Spartan Race would like to wish Danny good luck for the next few months.

A big thanks goes out to the Cornfed Spartan team whose volunteering, work and course sweeping for the Midwest race was an immeasurable asset.  Thanks, Cornfed!

Next up, the Sprint championship in the Pacific Northwest. Who will come out on top? You’ll know at the finish line…

Sign up today! 

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by TyAnn Clark, Spartan Pro Team

The pressure is officially on for this weekend at the Midwest Reebok Spartan Spartan July 20th and 21st! Located at the Cliffs Offroad Park in Marseilles llinois, runners can expect to have heat, humidity, thick mud, unique obstacles, beautiful terrain, and competitive heats. The park is an off-road ATV trail park that winds through trees and trails – with plenty of dips perfect for a Spartan mud pit. Though the hills are not as steep as we’ve seen in other races, there will be plenty of them to keep it challenging. Don’t expect an easy course though. For the past two years, the mud has been extra deep and plentiful.

There were many obstacles unique to the Midwest Spartan in the past two years. In the past, logs have dominated the landscape: logs in the water, logs to cross, logs to climb. With the addition of severe muddiness, things will probably get interesting. If the rope climb and log hop looked hard before, try it covered in a nice thick layer of slop on top. Last year, cold temperatures had runners reeling, this year the hot and humid forecast will be a whole new challenge for those returning to the Midwest.

There will be plenty of strong athletes present to make the competitive heats worth watching. On the women’s side, there will

Amelia Boone

be several present that know how to win a Spartan race. Amelia Boone, the 2012 Midwest champion and recent winner of the Indiana race will be there, as well as Canadian and Spartan Pro Team member Rose Marie Jarry fresh off of an injury. The 2012 2nd place points champion, Leslie St. Louis will also be present. Other strong female competitors include: Sue Luck, Melinda Branch, Spartan Pro Team member Angela Reynolds, and Tonya L Stogsdill.

On the men’s side, there will be many athletes that will be hoping to challenge Spartan Pro Team Hunter McIntyre’s strong performance this year. Hunter is fresh off a win at the Citi Bank Spartan Sprint and has placed high in every race that he has competed in. Fellow Spartan Pro Team members Brakken Kraker (2013 Carolina Sprint 1st place) and Elliot Megquier (2013 Texas Sprint 1st place) came in first and second last year on Saturday’s course. Other men that to watch from the Spartan Pro Team are Shawn Feiock, David Magida, Miguel Medina, and Alec Blenis. Rounding out the stiff competition is Joseph Kauder and Brian Hoover.

Iram Leon

Two other notable men will be on-hand in the Midwest. Brad Kloha is running several Spartan Races this year as part of a campaign to run 100 races in 52 weeks to raise money for Alzheimer’s. He was featured on the Spartan blog earlier this week. See that story HERE.

Also, Iram Leon will be participating in the Chicago race. Leon is a well-known endurance athlete, who won a marathon in 2012. He is also a terminal cancer patient who participated in the Austin Spartan Race earlier this year and who won the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont, Texas, finishing in 3:07:35 and pushing his six year old daughter in a stroller. You can read more about his story HERE.

Make sure to check up on the race results this weekend to see who will be crowned the Spartan Super Champion.

Ready to run?  Sign up and find your own Spartan finish line HERE.

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Take a venue with rugged terrain, forests and water obstacles. Sprinkle over this a liberal number of obstacles that test your skill, strength, agility and determination. Stir in thousands of Spartan Racers then bake under a hot Texan sky for a weekend. The result? A delicious Reebok Spartan Sprint from which many people took a bite.  And boy were they hungry!

With the course boasting both shaded and sunny trails, elevation changes, water crossings, mud, rocks and even dry and sandy riverbeds, there was more than enough to keep everyone on their toes.

The elite heats boasted many familiar faces rubbing shoulders with not one, but two UFC fighters; Jamie Varner, fresh from his conquest of the Vegas Super, joined by Johnny Hendricks to see how a Spartan Sprint shapes up next to a fight in the octagon.

Jamie came through first of the two, coming in at 56m 44s, with Hendricks not far behind on 1h 10m 3s – both extremely impressive times. Hobie Call added another win to his already expansive resume with a time of 38m 17s. Second and third place were claimed by Chad Trammell and Brakken Kracker respectively. The ladies saw TyAnn Clarke romp home in 52m 18s, with Janice Ferguson and Jillian Kenney not very far behind in second and third place.

And sure as night follows day, like tock follows tick, stories of inspiration poured forth from the event like the feel-good machine a Spartan Race is. Elizabeth Rivera, putting behind her the issues of excess weight, diabetes and even spine damage, employed the same fiery passion that changed her life and crossed the finish line. Robert C. Wood put to bed the memory of his broken vertebrae after falling 25ft in a freak accident some time before. Turning his life around with his wife and young daughter behind him, he sees no fear anymore. Steve Carlisle rose from reconstructive back surgery to finish, despite knowing that, “if my doctor knew I was doing this, he’d kill me.” Many people were lucky enough to spot “Thing 1” and “Thing 2”, otherwise known as Eston and Andrew Jones, a father and son team that decided to do 6 laps of the course.

One of the biggest cheers of approval from the event spectators was when they saw they young Spartan Jake DeFiley struggling with the rope climb. In true Spartan Race tradition, fellow competitor Jeffrey Parish climbed the rope and leaning away, allowed the younger competitor to use his shoulders, hands and even his head as a “stepping stone” in order to ring the cowbell.

Even before stepping out of the course, many people brought battles with them, but refused to bow to them. David Villareal, who traveled from Monterrey, Mexico in order to take part, didn’t let the issue of his Celebral Palsy affect his attitude or performance, cheerfully pointing out that, “I’ve still got one good arm!”. On the course, Dereck Johnson repeatedly shooed away offers of help despite fracturing both ankles. Simply grabbing a nearby branch and making a rudimentary walking stick/staff, he completed the course in 5h 57m, punching the air in delight at having beaten 6 hours.

Staff Sergeant Jonathan Leal of 6 10th Security Forces Squadron, Fort Worth, was running for his charity “Running For A Cause”. Deliberately weighing himself down with an elevation mask, weighted vest and extra bricks that would symbolize the struggle injured veterans go through on the road to recovery, he successfully powered through every obstacle and burpee that presented itself.

Matthew Pevoto of Louisana – a sufferer of Spina Bifida since birth – was inspired by the video and pictures posted by Spartan Elite Ella Anne Kociuba and decided that he was going to take the Spartan Race head on. Failing only two obstacles, he pointed out that, “there’s nothing you can’t do if your mind can keep up with you”.

And if ever there was a fitting line that perfectly summizes what Spartan Race is about, that’s it.

As such, it was announced over the weekend that next year’s event in Burnet has been upgraded to a Super with a harder, longer course. Judging by the reaction of those grinning and rubbing their hands in glee at this news, it will be yet another event that the Spartan Race community will attend by the thousands. Will it be another punishingly hot weekend? Will it break people? Will it produce yet more stories of heroism?

You’ll know at the finish line…  get signed up today!

Check out more race day photos HERE.

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By Laura Stokes
Finding Strength

“Come on mom! You can do it! Don’t look down!” yelled my 14-year-old son, Jacob as I carefully scooted my butt across a cargo net suspended 30 feet in the air. Never a big fan of heights, my son’s encouragement was just what I needed to get me though the Spartan Sprint obstacle. Reebok Spartan Race has enabled me to do things I never thought I could do and to become someone I never thought I could be.

Ted Rodgers, Tommy Duffey, Stewart Armstrong, Jacob Stokes, Laura Stokes and Chan Graham

When my husband, Kade, was killed in a motorcycle accident 2 ½ years ago, I was left to raise our 7- and 11-year-old boys alone. I felt weak and helpless. That was then. The weakness has left me, I am Spartan strong. I’m not alone in that strength. My son Jacob is also a Spartan. As a personal trainer, I took Jacob under my wing to help him get his body in shape to prepare him for the race. And on race day, he was strong. He ran and conquered obstacles like a champ. But he also gave me something I hadn‘t expected, he gave a lot of encouragement When he saw the trepidation in my eyes as I approached an obstacle. He stuck by me like glue to encourage me and give a boost when I needed it.

Race Day
Jacob and I ran the Spartan Sprint March 9 in Conyers, Ga. along with three of my husband’s poker/cigar buddies and a neighbor. One Spartan chick, four Spartan dudes, and one Spartan teen equal one helluva team. I think it was a life changing experience for all of us. We all came to the race with different obstacles we were facing in our lives, but we all crossed the finish line and proved something to ourselves. As for me and my Jacob, we are hooked. The training and the race was an awesome mother-son bonding experience. It has given us something positive to focus on and prepare for. After the race we immediately went over to the registration table and signed up for the Spartan Super in Leesburg, Va. on Aug. 24. We also plan to run the Beast in Winnsboro, SC in November in order to earn the coveted trifecta.

During one recent training session before the race, I gave my son a little insight into staying motivated when the race gets tough. Losing his dad was the most difficult thing in his young life that he has ever had to endure. Our family has dealt with this tragedy and we have come out on the other side as stronger people and the three of us are bonded to each other like cement. We were Spartan strong before we even approached the Spartan start line. “If we can conquer that, we can conquer anything,” I told him. These obstacles are just a few things to slow us down on our journey, but we will get over them and get to the other side of them just as we have done in our lives.

Jacob Stokes, Laura Stokes, Tommy Duffey and Stewart Armstrong

Moving Forward
Were it not for the tragedy, I would never have become a personal trainer. I never would have made miraculous changes in my own life and we never would have made it to the Spartan. I would trade all of that in a second to have my husband back. But that isn’t an option, so we have chosen to use our tragedy to make ourselves stronger. And as a personal trainer, it is my goal to make others stronger as well. And I’m not just talking about their bodies. To me that is just a nice side effect. The real transformation takes place in the mind, spirit, heart and soul. When that late-night knock on the door from the coroner turned me into a widow at the age of 42, I was a shy, stay-at-home mom and had no idea where to turn. After God, family and friends, I found my greatest source of strength to get up and tackle every day came from physical activity. There were plenty of days that I absolutely forced myself and my children to get out and go for a walk. There were plenty of days that I didn’t feel like doing anything, but I did it anyway because I know it is what we needed. Sometimes the spirit has to be stronger than the body in order to make it through.

When my husband’s friend first approached me about doing the Spartan Race with him, I was very hesitant. I went to the Spartan website to see if I thought I could do it and I just wasn’t sure. My whole life I have been afraid of everything – heights, water, roller coasters – you name it. My children informed me that I wasn’t the “fun parent.” I left that crazy stuff for my husband, but now it was just me. I decided I was ready to break out of my shell to become a better, stronger person. Being a part of the Spartan family is so much more than a group of people that finish a race together. Its principles translate into everyday life. When you conquer those obstacles, you realize you are stronger than you thought you were. If you can do this, what else can you conquer? At the Georgia sprint we witnessed a racer that had lost 400 pounds, one that was in a wheelchair and another missing an arm and a leg. That is what the Spartan spirit is all about – using the cards you have been dealt and being the best you can be, and perhaps in the process you will inspire someone else to be their best. I was a victim but now I am a victorious. Thank you Spartan for being a part of my victory. My next goal is to get my 9-year-old son Joshua in the Jr. Spartan Adventure Race so that it can be a true family affair. I’m also thinking about becoming a Spartan Group X certified coach in Greenville, SC. Everyone should have the opportunity to be a Spartan, and I welcome the opportunity to lead as many there as possible. Fitness has changed the lives of me and my family. I recently began a blog, Girlonfirefitness.blogspot.com, that I hope will inspire, motivate and educate others to give fitness its rightful place in their lives. There is no other drug on the planet like exercise.

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