By Sharla Hoff

Sharla and Anthony Hoff

I am overweight, non-athletic, asthmatic, have heart problems, serious nerve damage (from a compound fracture) in my left leg and foot, an injured elbow (broke it 2 years ago) but I didn’t want be defined by my limitations. I wanted a new story to tell. It was time to change. And I did. Now, I am a Spartan.

I decided, with one week’s notice, to do the Reebok Spartan Race in the high school heat in Arizona as a reward for my son, Anthony last February. He has always struggled in school but he reached a goal he had set for himself and I promised that I’d do the same for him. We joined the race and got five other teens and one mother to join us. We were all scared and very nervous. But agreed to NOT GIVE UP.

The kids were faster than me and the other mother. So we told the kids to do their best and we would see them at the end. The entire race myself and the other mothers were excited and proud that our boys were out there somewhere and finishing. But nothing prepared me for that moment when I saw the FINISH line just past the wall and barbed wire. I was so exhausted, but knew I had to finish. Then I heard the teens running down toward the wires screaming and encouraging me. I was doing it, slowly but surely. Then almost through the wire I heard my sister (she was sweeping the course) yelling for me. She jumped in and pushed me faster and helped get me over the wall and to the end. She asked to give me my medal. As she placed the medal around my neck and gave me a hug she had tears in her eyes. My son ran up and gave me a huge tight hug with an ear-to-ear smile. While I was still wet and muddy, I knew I impressed him.

On the ride home my son told me how worried he was at some of the challenges and how I would handle them. He checked with staff several times to see if there were any injuries on the course since I was so far behind. He told me when I crossed the line he knew he had a strong mother and he was amazed and proud to be my son. I guess this race was MY reward not his. Now I am more confident that I CAN do things if I WANT them bad enough.

I plan to continue to exercise and get in better shape for the journey ahead. I had an amazing experience. Since the Arizona Race I have lost 9 inches around my waist and I have changed my diet and exercise habits. I also went to Vegas and did the Biggest Loser Off-Road Challenge. I cannot thank the Spartan Race enough for helping to light this fire and determination inside of me. I’m a Spartan.

What are you waiting for?  Sign up today.

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One Spartan Chick tells her amazing story of leaving one broken life for a new one. Baptized in mud, she proved to herself that she couldn’t be broken. Here’s her story…

End and a Beginning

Early last summer my 14 year marriage ended. Over the past 10 months I have struggled to regain some sense of normalcy as I developed a new identity rooted in my own desires; for the first time out from under control and power of a man. After three unsuccessful suicide attempts and two hospitalizations I decided I want to live…but I needed a new beginning.

The Breakthrough

My breakthrough came in the form of a text message from my ex-husband and comments from his supporters who all accused me of abandoning my marital commitments for the “cult of fitness.” I wondered how a hobby I developed in my thirties to increase my physical well being could be such a bad thing. In fact, somewhere in my many trail runs and weight lifting sessions I found more than physical strength. I found I had the emotional strength I needed to survive my divorce and come out happy on the other side.

I decided to commit myself to my fitness goals…and what better way than “marrying” them? When I ran my idea by the wonderful ladies on my team they jumped on board eagerly and picked up rainbow tutus so they could be my bridal party. Every obstacle we conquered together at this Spartan Sprint put me one muddy step closer to starting my new life. In the end, trashing my wedding dress was cathartic and a load of fun. I thank all the folks along the trail who cheered me on and my wonderful teammates,as well as some other behind the scenes supporters who have become my moon and stars, providing light in my darkest hours.  Arooooo!

When will you find your Spartan finish line?  Sign up today!

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by Margaret Schlachter, guest blogger

2010 may have been the start of my Spartan journey when I was one of the original Spartans racing in the first Spartan Race in early 2010. 2011 marked my first podium and an invitation to join Spartan Chicked from the beginning, but it’s 2012 that will forever go down in the history books.

2012 was an incredible year, little did I know that in June when I started my 2012 season I would race nineteen official times and a few laps to help out, amass seven podium finishes and never out of the top 15. Little did I know I would travel throughout the country, race countless miles, make lasting friendships, and change careers all because of Spartan Race. I could write novels about the year but instead condensed it down to my Top 10 Moments in Spartan for 2012.

Top 10 Moments in Spartan Race of 2012

10.       The Perfect Race – finishing my first race with a single penalty burpee in Amesbury, MA Sprint.

9.         Finishing 3rdboth days in the Mid-West Super Spartan. It was an incredible weekend where two great races happened.

Margaret Schlachter and Juliana Sproles

8.         Watching the Spartan Chicked movement grow over 9,000 members. We started with a dozen women brought together with an idea by Carrie Adams and today it’s grown beyond what any could have imagined a year and a half ago.

7.         A Book Deal – Because of OCR and Spartan Race I am working on my first book due out in Spring 2014, dedicated to getting more people into racing and getting over the hurdles that stand in the way.

6.         Racing in Fenway Park – I went to college in Boston and that’s when I first got into baseball. Racing in Fenway was a surreal experience, hugging the Green Monster, burpees on the warming track, and seeing parts of the park otherwise closed to the public was priceless!

5.         The People – The Spartan Community is unlike any other in sport. The bonds and friendships formed are closer than many friendships I have had for years. Some of my biggest competitors are my best friends. The conversations on the trails during races are what sometimes got me to the finish.

4.         DNF’ing the Death Race after 25 hours of racing – More was learned in about myself in that DNF than I could have ever known.

3.         Finishing the Ultra Beast – it was more than a race for me, a goodbye to Killington, Vermont where I started my fitness journey. My last time on “my” mountain before moving to Utah, it was a race that transcended the rest.

2.         Chris Davis – Meeting and helping Chris to train for the Vermont Beast was an experience that not only allowed me to help train another Spartan but more importantly I got a great friend out of it. The first time he got over the 8ft wall in my backyard is a treasured memory of 2012

1.         Turning “pro” – In July, I quit my day job and simultaneously became the first female professional obstacle course racer. My life is my website, Dirt in Your Skirt, racing and training.

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by Carrie Adams

In 2012, Spartan Race crossed the United States from Boston to Malibu, Miami to Washington State.  We were in Canada and the UK, we found ourselves in Slovakia and we were even doing burpees down under in Australia.  Spartan Chicked grew from eight women in 2011, myself included to over 8,000 on FB.  And with 55 races in the 2012 books, it’s easy to get lost in the BIG numbers, the 130,000 women who have crossed a Spartan finish line, the average 124.8 miles Spartans would travel for race day, the first of its kind Fenway Spartan Race, the introduction of the world’s first ever marathon (plus, it was actually over 28 miles) Ultra Beast in Vermont and the nearly half a million dollars in cash and prizes given away in the calendar year.  It’s been monumental.

Yes, it is easy to focus on the big numbers, distracted by how quickly Spartan has grown and expanded.  But, for every one of those 130,000 there is a story… there is an impact and an impression left by finishing a Spartan Race, the medal placed around the neck of someone who arrived earlier that day unsure of what lay ahead.  And for all manners of women, those who are accomplished athletes to those who are just finding their inner athlete, lives were changed.  So, we’re going to tell a few of those stories to remind our readers that Spartan Race is still striving to be maintain the spirit of why we began in the first place: getting more people off the couch, empowering individuals, families, and communities to be healthy, to overcome obstacles, and to find out what they are truly capable of when they commit to finish what they start.

First up, is Sarah Keddel.  In her own words, she describes her Spartan experience in Tuxedo Ridge.

The Making of a Spartan Chick

By Sarah Keddel

When I entered my first Spartan Sprint at Tuxedo Ridge, I had no idea what I was in for. I figured it would be an obstacle course similar to the one I did in military basic training back in 2002. I thought it would be easy. I thought it would be something that I would soon forget about when it was over.

I could not have been more wrong.

It took me longer than I felt it should have to do that race. I thought I was in good condition with the little bit of maintenance work I did at the local gym, and this Spartan Sprint was a perfect mirror to make me realize the reality of my condition. I had caught mud madness. I found myself determined to do better at the next race, when before this race, I had not planned on doing more than one. I went on to register for, and volunteer at, as many races as I was able to handle with a full time work and homework load.

Luckily, I attend a college where I get to design my own curriculum. The Spartan races, and training for them, became my main focus of study for the last semester. I taught myself about endurance training and sports nutrition for science credits. I also had the good fortune to interview a couple of the elite Spartan racers in a comparison study about endurance sport psychology. I watched, and reflected upon, the evolution of the post-race videos and Spartan advertisements as a study on women in sports advertising.

As time passed and the races grew longer and more difficult, I grew stronger. As I became physically stronger, and I discovered I have more self-confidence than ever before. I used the knowledge and strength I gained to complete the VT Spartan Beast in September. Meeting that challenge alone has changed my world view in a positive way that only experience can explain fully.

The Spartan races have been fun, but they mean much more than that to me. I’ve made friends who run the races, and friends who design them and set them up. Each race feels like a wonderful, crazy, and supportive family reunion. The Spartan races have helped me stay focused in pursuit of higher education. I’ve become physically, mentally and emotionally stronger in one year than any combination of time and experience before this point, and I’m proud to be considered a “Spartan Chick”.

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by Carrie Adams

Race reports have been flowing in by our athletes who were lucky enough to be a part of the first EVER of it’s kind inside the walls (and stairs) of Fenway Park.  We’ll be sharing our own race report as well as the accounts of our Spartans willing to share their incredible stories of how the Fenway Time Trial excited and delighted all those in attendance.  Athletes had unprecedented access to the park as they ran, jumped, climbed their way through one of the most beloved American landmarks in a Spartan style tour.  

Here is one story, told by Adrian Syso, a true Spartan Chick and a six time Spartan Race finisher!  

Saturday morning, November 17th, I was up at 4 am to eat breakfast and be on the road by 4:30. I live in NY and don’t ask me why I thought 9 am heat would be a good idea! I made myself some oatmeal which almost immediately after I took the last spoonful decided it didn’t want to stay with me. It was starting already, my pre-race jitters. I am positive my anxiety was turned up high because I was running SOLO! I had never run a Spartan by myself before, I always had a sister with me, or my teammates. But my sisters are off at college and my team signed up for a later heat. So it was just ME!

Walking up to Fenway Park was a surreal experience. I saw people running in the stadium and I knew that would be me in a few short moments. I got my racer packet and signed my son up for the kids race and headed inside. I found the starting line, kissed my son good-bye, my mom and brother wished me luck, and I was gone.

A spot opened up for a single runner so I made my way to the front and stood on my spot. We started off with Joe DeSena showing us proper form of a Burpee and before the race even started we had to do 10, that was just a taste of the massive burpees I knew would be in my future.

And off we went, in true Spartan fashion up the incline ramps to the top of the stadium, I just can’t get away from Spartans with hills huh? At least it wasn’t a mountain. The air was so cold. I wasn’t used to running in the cold weather so immediately I could feel the effects on my lungs. But I was determined not to make that an excuse to stop. “Keep running, deep breath, in through your nose out through your mouth.” I kept repeating in my head until the air didn’t bother me as much.

Honestly I don’t remember what order the obstacles went in. I was focusing on getting through them and NOT WALKING! I had no one with me to cheer me on. usually I have my sister Rosy with me and we are constantly encouraging one another, or talking smack, you know how sisters are. I just had to keep pushing even when I didn’t want to.

My favorite Obstacles would have had to been the medicine ball slams, women had 15 pounders and had to lift them over their head throw them to the ground and pick them back up 20 times.

The rope climb, my arch nemesis. In Tuxedo, NY I got all the way to the top only to realize I was too short to hit the bell!  In PA I only made it about halfway.  This time around, I was determined to get to the top!  I took my time and focused. Reassessed my grip and footing at every knot I made it up. I got to the top and hit that bell and was ON TOP OF THE WORLD. I felt like I was flying.

The traverse wall and I have a love/hate relationship, I am about at a 50/50 when it comes to being able to get all the way across. I picked what I thought the best wall would be, and it was UNTIL I got about three pegs away from the bell to realize they were spaced out a tad farther than my 5 foot tall body could reach. I just had to keep telling myself I could do it… Sure enough, DING! I hit that bell and took off running again.

I did my fair share of burpees though, got to about 85 meters left in my row only to see “Burpees for You” come across my screen.  Missed the spear throw, another 30 burpees, and of course the 30 burpees “Just for Fun” Come one really?? Who does Burpees for fun??

I had a ton of silent victories. Not going to lie every time I passed a guy I grinned to myself in true Spartan Chick fashion. Knowing I was able to do the race by myself was a huge victory in and of itself. That I didn’t stop to walk for longer than a few seconds. I ran the whole race. I carried that ridiculously heavy sandbag through the stadium bleachers with only one stop to adjust. I just focused on one step ahead of the other. Not worrying about what was next. As I was crossing the finish line running full force INTO the gladiators I saw my mom and my son.  I fought my way to the finish line had my time chip cut off and was shacking with adrenaline! I was handed the most beautiful Spartan medal and t-shirt I have ever seen, its such an amazing feeling to know that you EARNED that.

The slogan is right, you do know at the finish line.

I scarfed down my banana and two glasses of water. Found my son and gave him a huge kiss!  In addition to me running my 6th Spartan Race, I also had a six year old who was running his 2nd Spartan. We headed down to the starting line. He wanted me to run with him so I ran alongside to take photos. I have a ton of proud moments as a mother, but I have to admit watching him participate in the Kids Spartans are up there on my proudest. He is fearless, he doesn’t even think twice about an obstacle. He is a true natural and I can not wait for him to be able to run along side me and be cheering me on in a few years.

I am thankful to Joe DeSena for creating such an AMAZING race. One that I am able to share with my sisters, friends, family, and most importantly my son. To be setting a good example that fitness can be fun, that it is something to do with the people you love. I am grateful for the entire spartan community. I have met so many amazing and driven people who motivate me to be the best me I can be.

My 2012 Race Season is over for the year, I am looking forward to 2013 and what the Spartan Race has in store for us next year! and possible Death Race 2014! Who knows? All I know is that I am determined to beat my results next year and to make 2013 the best one yet!

 

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by Michael Levine

In preparation for attacking the Spartan Amesbury Sprint, Jen Fleury hired a local training guru Angela Garcia to get her into fighting form for her first ever Spartan Race.  With her confidence and fitness levels elevated, she set off for Amesbury to conquer the sprint.  A devoted mother of two who works out in her spare time, she’s also attending school at night.  Fleury is a busy Spartan!

As the race began, Jen was off amongst the crowd of racers heading up the first hill.  She emerged from the woods and approached the first obstacle head-on as a new racer should.  However, as she jumped into the first mud pit, she landed on a rock and let out a deafening scream.  Pulling herself out of the mud she continued on into the subsequent pits, refusing to give up, cursing with every step she took.

Even after several members of the team encouraged her to tap out, she still refused.   Hobbling in pain, she managed to finish the entire course in one hour and forty minutes.  A short while later during the post-race celebration, people started to think that she may have broken something.  After a night reeling in pain, it was off to the ER for a CT scan.  The test showed that Jen had four breaks in her Talus bone (the bone between your two ankle bones).  The doctor immediately restricted her movement and ordered no weight bearing.

In just another two weeks, Jen will find out how she is healing, and more importantly, if she needs surgery to correct the issue.  Here at Spartan Race, we wanted to wish Jen the best in a speedy recovery.  Hope to see her out there soon!

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by Carrie Adams

Our community of athletes has grown substantially since we first took off from the start line of our Vermont Sprint in 2010.  From a sport that was virtually unknown and mostly coined “mud runs” and “fun runs” we’ve gone into a whole new stratosphere where familiar faces are more and more often seen on the course and their racking up some major mileage, and mud, to follow us across country.  The bruises, bumps, and breaks on the course become badges of honor, the friendships forged on the course become immediate and life long, we’re kindred after all.

One of our repeat Spartans, Rayn Boncie, created this incredible top ten… and we knew it needed to be shared.  We saw her in Leesburg and in Vermont just this last weekend taking on the Beast, but she knows Spartan better than just about anyone.  And if you’ve raced with us, you’ll get it, and find yourself nodding along and even shouting out, “Right?  YES!” as you read through the list.  Thanks for sharing, Rayn.  We’ll see you on the course  again real soon.

You are officially a Spartan Athlete when…

1. You have the uncontrollable urge to show everyone you come into contact with, the bruises and cuts you obtained from a race.

2. You are completely comfortable taking off your clothing in a parking lot, despite how many people are around.
3. You plan your work, dates, family time, etc., around races.

4. You could be sick or injured and will whine about such, but when someone advises you to skip an upcoming race; you look at them as though they just admitted to killing baby animals.

5. People who mention they also do Spartan Races, instantly become your best friends, and are invited to your home, despite the fact that you have never even met.

6. Mud has become sexy, and barbed wire excites you.

7. Despite how much difficulty you may have had with a run, you have the uncontrollable urge to sign up for more.

8. Your finisher’s medal becomes your most prized piece of jewelry.

9. You and burpees have a love hate relationship, mostly hate, but you do them anyway.

10. You are constantly added to groups, and invited to challenges with the words death and pain in the title, on the other side of the country, and at least momentarily consider going.

How do YOU officially know you’re a Spartan athlete?  Email carrie@spartanrace.com with your story.  And if haven’t signed up yet, what’s keeping you?  Register today.

Editor’s Note: Spartan’s give generously and Rayn Boncie more than proves that.  Boncie is a mother, a Spartan many times over, and the Executive Director of a very special charity – Things of My Very Own.  Things of My Very Own, Inc. (TOMVO) is a 501(c)3 Non-profit Corporation that provides innovative programs and services to children that have endured the most extensive abuse and/or neglect within New York State.

Feel free to contact them at (518) 630-6137 or by email at info@tomvo.org

To donate: http://www.tomvo.org/donatenow.html

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by Katie Idle

If it is important enough to you, you will find a way. If it is not, you will find an excuse – and this has never been more true that in the case of Lise Gillis, mother of three, who is training for her second Spartan in Calgary, while looking after her Dad with dementia and her Step-Mom, who is dying of cancer.   Like a true Spartan, Lise shows bravery and an inconquerable spirit by taking on the challenges head on, and giving back to others every inch of the way.

In December last year, Lise signed up and started training for the Toronto Spartan, to be held on June 24th, and persuaded her brother in Calgary to join her for the Calgary Spartan in August. Lise’s life was already busy with three kids and her son’s girlfriend at home, a husband, three dogs, and a full-time job as an Office Administrator.  In May this year, just one month before the Toronto Spartan, Lise found out that her step-mom, the sole caregiver for her father who has dementia, had been diagnosed with cancer, with just seven months to live.  Attempting to cope with an aggressive course of Chemo, Lise’s step-mom became very sick and was physically and mentally unable to take care of Lise’s seventy-five year old Dad, whose dementia was progressively worsening.   Lise stepped in to take care of them both.

“Everyone was telling me not to do the Spartan race, that I had too much on,” says Lise, “but I had to have something to look forward to and get excited about, I needed to do the Spartan for myself.”   Through a supreme effort, Lise finished the Toronto Spartan with her son and daughter, and now proudly hangs her medal in her car so that she can look at it every day.  “It reminds me of what I have achieved.  I was so happy to finish the race, I hugged the gladiators – they must have thought I was crazy!”

Now Lise is busy training for the Calgary Spartan on August 18th.  She goes to a bootcamp at 6am, works 9am,-5pm, and spends the evenings either cooking for her step-mom and dad, or taking her dad for walks or swims.  Every Saturday, Lise takes her step-mom to the hairdressers, and she takes her Dad out for trips to the driving range or other activity.

“I’m very thankful for the support I have from my husband and kids which enables me to do all this,” she says.  Since the Toronto Spartan, Lise was also bridesmaid at her brother’s wedding and took on organizing the bridal shower and some of the other wedding preparations.

Lise is unstoppable!  “I go full out as I truly believe that if you do something, you need to do it 100%,” she says.  Lise loves a challenge and she learned to skate and took up ice hockey a few years ago, and this has become a passion for her.  At forty-five, she also took up snowboarding, does hot yoga in her ‘spare time’ to bring her calmness and is taking a bootcamp to train her for her next Spartan race.

“The Spartan Races are the best thing.  The obstacles are crazy – who comes up with these ideas?” she laughs.  “Everybody should do them.  It doesn’t matter if you come in last, just finishing is a huge achievement.  It’s such a great atmosphere – you see everyone out there – young, old, all shapes and sizes, races  – and the everyone helps each other.”

We look forward to seeing Lise at many more of the races – maybe a Super next?

What about you?  When are you signing up?  Why not today.  

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