As he took his place in the semi-final for the 400 meters at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, many eyes rested on Derek Redmond. He was at his peak and was widely anticipated to podium, if not win outright.

Many months – years, even – of training were behind him, all serving to sculpt and shape him, leading him to the path which would have Olympic gold at the end of it. He was only 400 meters from the end of this path.

Despite having a career that was riddled with injuries, he was no stranger to the podium and the clinking of medals around his neck. He was already a champion of the Commonwealth games, taking gold in the 4×400 meters, gold at the European Championships and both silver and gold in the World Championships. All that was missing was the Olympic medal.

The gun sounded and after a quick, clean start, he was cruising. He recalls;

“For once I had no injuries, despite eight operations in four years, and I’d won the first two rounds without breaking a sweat – including posting the fastest time in the first round of heats. I was confident and when the gun went off I got off to a good start. I got into my stride running round the first turn and I was feeling comfortable. Then I heard a popping sound. I kept on running for another two or three strides then I felt the pain. I thought I’d been shot, but then I recognized the agony.” 

“I’d pulled my hamstring before and the pain is excruciating: like someone shoving a hot knife into the back of your knee and twisting it. I grabbed the back of my leg, uttered a few expletives and hit the deck.”

Going down, clutching his leg and trying to collect his thoughts, he glanced up and saw that all the other competitors were out of sight. His chance of winning or even getting to the podium, were over. His Olympic dream ended after around 17 seconds.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening after all the training I’d put in. I looked around to see where the rest of the field were, and they had only 100 meters to go. I remember thinking if I got up I could still catch them and qualify. The pain was intense. I hobbled about 50 meters until I was at the 200 meters mark. Then I realized it was all over. I looked round and saw that everyone else had crossed the finishing line. But I don’t like to give up at anything – not even an argument, as my wife will tell you – and I decided I was going to finish that race if it was the last race I ever did.”

Doctors, other medics and even officials were on the track, waving at him to stop, but he simply refused to quit, despite already knowing it was over. With roughly 100 meters to go, a man ran on the track, barging past an official that tried to stop him. He ran up behind Derek and threw an arm around him, holding him up. It was his father, Jim.

“I just said, ‘Dad, I want to finish, get me back in the semi-final.’ He said, ‘OK. We started this thing together and now we’ll finish it together.’ He managed to get me to stop trying to run and just walk and he kept repeating, ‘You’re a champion, you’ve got nothing to prove.’ ”

He didn’t know it at the time, as the pain in his leg was screaming louder than the entire Olympic stadium, but everyone watching was cheering, a standing ovation to the man that had so cruelly had his chance at his dream snatched away from him.

“We hobbled over the finishing line with our arms round each other, just me and my dad, the man I’m really close to, who’s supported my athletics career since I was seven years old. I’ve since been told there was a standing ovation by the 65,000 person crowd, but nothing registered at the time. I was in tears and went off to the medical room to be looked at, then I took the bus back to the Olympic village.”

Four years earlier, an Achilles injury prevented him from running at the Olympics in Seoul. His name bore the letters ‘DNS’ – Did Not Start – next to it. In Barcelona, he was adamant that DNF would not appear next to his name.

‘When I saw my doctor he told me I’d never represent my country again. I felt like there’d been a death. I never raced again and I was angry for two years.  Then one day I just thought: there are worse things than pulling a muscle in a race, and I just decided to get on with my life.”

From there, Derek’s passion for sport meant he would try a new avenue. His love of basketball proved to be an outlet and such was his skill that after trials with various teams, he went on to play for the Great Britain basketball team. Not forgetting what his doctor told him about never representing his country again, Derek sent him a signed photo of the Great Britain team. His impish sense of humor rushing to the surface.

“Today I don’t feel anger, just frustration. The footage has since been used in adverts by Visa, Nike and the International Olympic Committee – I don’t go out of my way to watch it, but it isn’t painful anymore and I have the Visa ad on my iPad.

“If I hadn’t pulled a hamstring that day I could have been an Olympic medalist, but I love the life I have now. I might not have been a motivational speaker or competed for my country at basketball, as I went on to do. And my dad wouldn’t have been asked to carry the Olympic torch in 2012, which was a huge honor for him.”

Derek Redmond is truly an honorary Spartan in our eyes. An unflinching, unquestioning belief of never quitting, epitomized in one man.

Do you have this mentality? Prove it and we’ll see you at the finish line.

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by Jess Murden

Some people say it’s a texture thing; other people say it’s the green coloring that deters them.  I say, get over it and start stocking up on avocado.  This weird-looking fruit actually provides some of the most essential nutrients that our body needs on a daily basis.

Avocados are native to Mexico, with the first evidence of avocado use dating back to 10,000 BC in a cave near Puebla, Mexico (reference to the Paleo Diet connection).  They tend to have a pear shape and are therefore sometimes referred to as an alligator pear.  The avocado is considered a fruit because it is a large berry that contains a large seed.  Avocados mature on trees but ripen off of the tree.

The average avocado tree produces roughly 500 avocados annually.  Thank the lucky caveman drawings for this because CrossFitters and Paleo Diet advocates alone eat enough avocados to keep the market on the up swing.  So let’s side track to the nutritional benefits.  Avocados are of the good fat family; meaning they are the kind of fat that a person should include in their diet.  Roughly 75% of an avocado’s calories come from fat (monosaturated fat, however; the kind of fat that has positive affects on health, such as lowering cholesterol).  They are also sodium and cholesterol free.

Avocados naturally contain the following vitamins:

Vitamin K – known as a clotting vitamin; it helps the body’s blood clot.

 

Vitamin E – acts as an antioxidant; it is also necessary for the formation of red blood cells.

 

Vitamin C – used in the growth and repair of tissues; it is also an antioxidant.

Vitamin B6 – helps the immune system produce antibodies; it also helps maintain normal nerve function.

Potassium – essential for the proper function of cells, tissues and organs; it is necessary for building muscle.

Avocado Fun Facts:

The word ‘avocado’ comes from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl, meaning testicle, a reference to the shape of the fruit.

Avocados were known by the Aztecs as the fertility fruit.

San Diego County is the avocado capital of the U.S.

Avocados contain more potassium than bananas

Avocados have the highest protein content of any fruit.

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image credit Stuart Gregory/Photodisc/Getty Immages

by Keith Grogg

Core strength training is a constant buzzword in the exercise industry. Basically turn your TV on at any time, day or night, and you’ll be able to find somewhere some device being advertised on one of the countless infomercials that promises to help you twist or wiggle, swing or stretch your way to a perfect six pack.

And yet try as one might with that little wheel rocking back and forth on the ground the results are indeed varied. Meanwhile many athletes seem to have a six pack without any of the infomercial gimmicks. This is because they understand that core strength is a whole body affair and not just about your abs. Yes you heard right.

CORE STRENGTH TRAINING ISN’T JUST ABOUT TRAINING YOUR ABS!

Your core region includes your back, your obliques, your pelvis, and all the muscles in between that work to stabilize your spine when you are in movement. All the potential physical energy your body produces is generated from your core. Yes young grasshopper, that means the key to your athletic power comes from your center.

If you want to build strong abs, try a workout that targets your core muscles together in harmony. Running is a great way to work your core, as long as you keep your back upright focusing on good posture.  You’ll use both your lower back and your abs to greater effect as your spine seeks greater stability.

If you are looking for a more direct approach to working your abs, try using a medicine ball. These little gems in the gym can help you work both your lower back and your abs through rotating motions, the way they would be used naturally in day-to-day life.

Working to build a strong core is important for the stability of your spine and can help you perform better at your next event. Try not to give into the hype of six pack abs being the end all measuring stick of physical fitness. If you work your core and have a low enough amount of body fat,  your six pack abs are there already.

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Why Race?

by Jason Jaksetic

Timing mattered to me when I was an overweight, back-of-the-pack road runner at charity 5k’s.  If I was 63rd in my age group (AG) at the Turkey Trot, I damn well had better be 62nd at the St Patty’s Day Race.

Timing matter to me when I crossed the finish line at the 2006 Ironman World Championships.  I was competing for the amateur 18-24 AG win.  I wasn’t fast enough to get it.

I raced to be as fast as I could be.  And that was, and still is, good enough for me.  Because I’m still breathing.  I’m still racing.

Competition drives you.  Racing rewards you.

This is why when I transitioned out of triathlon into adventure, obstacle, and ultra-distance racing, I immediately gravitated to Spartan Race.  I couldn’t see focusing on events that wouldn’t push me by holding me accountable.  Just not my thing.

Spartan Race provides the clock, you can choose to use it or not.  Show up either way.

Racing gives you important data for improving.  Racing teaches you (if you can get over your ego) to examine why you came in last place.  That’s the only way to get better.  Isn’t it the same with losing weight.?  With changing your career?

This is why timing matters.  This is why you race and why the Spartan Points System is so beneficial for an athlete such as myself. Whether I’m competing for overall contention or my age group, or trying to win overall, I know the competition.  I always paid attention to my national rankings on USAT and USATF when raced there.

I really don’t believe in having to be the best.  I do believe in getting better.  That’s why as I’m gearing up for the Ultra Beast in September I’ll be watching the Spartan Rankings.

See you all out there.  Looking forward to racing you.

 

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Bob Spartan

by Alec Blenis

(Editors note:  Alec Blennis was 4th in our Miami Super Spartan and this weekend he will being doing our Georgia Spartan Sprint with his entire family.  Thank you for submitting this, Alec!)

Start From Now

Crossing the finish line of the Georgia Spartan Sprint, exhausted, Bob Blenis glances at his medal, downs a cup of water, and hugs his family. “That reminded me of Quantico”, he exclaims, recalling his military training, “…just tougher”.  After driving 400 miles directly to the race, finishing was the easy part. Bob drives over 100 mile to work every day, typically working 60 hour weeks. He would get home at 5:00 or 6:00pm, but night time workouts often keep him out much later. Impressive?

 

Bob is 67 years old.

Since the Georgia event in March 2011, Bob has finished three Super Spartans and the Vermont Spartan Beast. He has even signed up for at least eight races this year.  So, what made Bob sign up for his very first obstacle race? “Family,” he says, and that’s what keeps him coming back. Bob believes Spartan Race is a great opportunity for families to have fun together. “I would never travel across the country just to run,” he says, “ but Spartan Races are different. You get to see new places, spend time with family, and meet some really great people.” Bob is pretty great too, and at 67 years old, he has been the oldest finisher at every race. He doesn’t take his age to seriously though. “I have lived nearly 68 years so far, and feel like I’ll live 68 more… [Spartan Race] is saving my life.”

Along with a desire to live a long and healthy life, Spartan Race has motivated Bob to train harder. He takes fitness classes at his local gym, goes to “boot camp” every Saturday morning, and runs after work, weather permitting. He takes no medication, just a multi-vitamin. “I exercise so I can eat what I want. I do eat mostly vegetables, but I exercise so I don’t have to watch what I eat.”  Whatever Bob is doing, it’s working. Not only has he been the oldest finisher at each of his Spartan Races, he’s finished respectably, outperforming more than half of his competition. In fact, he placed in the top 40% of all finishers in last weekend’s Super Spartan in Miami, Florida. He’s not trying to beat anyone though. Well, except for his daughter-in-law.

“A lot of people my age just sit around,” Bob says, “but I’m running Spartan Races and don’t plan on stopping any time soon.” Bob thinks too many people don’t participate because of age and that they’re really missing out on the fun. “Being able to associate with guys like Hobie Call is awesome… and spending time with my family is just great.”

With three generations of the Blenis family competing in Spartan Races, we’ll be seeing a lot of Bob and his family this year.

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