Jo Pearson doesn’t recall very much of her life before she turned 27. It’s not that she suffered a terrible accident or violent traumatic experience, it’s simply her coping mechanism.

“All the days I spent before that life-changing year are cloudy memories that I have stored in the recesses of my mind.  I’ve locked them away from others and myself because they are just too painful to remember and they do not bring any light or love to the life that I lead now”, she explains.

Deciding to change her life has not just made Jo a new person on the outside, the one within shines a thousand time brighter, illuminating her outlook and focus.

“The life I have now is one worth fighting for – it is one filled with joy, success, love, energy, zeal, and passion.  However, it also one that forces to me to suffer at times, to feel the pain of defeat and the frustration of setbacks, and to feel the weight of the world on my shoulders.  The old me would have cowered at these type of tribulations and hid among the darkness.”

That new found radiance has permeated her attitude and zest for life, but also her mentality of how she approaches life.

“That woman that cowered is gone.  I have evolved into a warrior – a woman who will fight for what is right, just, healthy, and good in this world and who believes in her ability to make a difference in her own life and the lives of others.  I am proud of my journey for the small steps I have taken along the way are the ones that help me stand strong at the foot of mountains and keep me poised to carry on with strength, courage, grace, and honor.”

There was a point in her life when Jo weighed around 415lbs and wore a size 28. Despite being a young woman in her prime, she felt that she hadn’t even begun to live and experience life. Travelling anywhere by flight wasn’t an option because she couldn’t fit into an airplane seat. Amusement rides provided the same difficulty. This meant she rarely went out to enjoy happy times with her family or friends. This led to a vicious circle of staying indoors. Accusatory and mocking looks, pointed fingers and stares led her to feel isolated, with only family and a tight, small circle of friends being around her.

“Physically, I can remember not being able to walk up the 16 stairs at my parents’ house without feeling like I had just ran a marathon.  And, I never ever contemplated setting foot into a gym because it would have been too embarrassing.  I had become a person that wasn’t truly alive and that was sad and depressed.  I knew that I ate poorly and that I didn’t get any exercise, but for years I wasn’t ready to make any changes. I chose instead to eat huge amounts of fast food, sodas, sweets, and processed foods and then not exert any type of physical activity.  I had fallen into a black hole lifestyle that kept me shackled underneath hundreds of pounds of weight – taking a toll on my body and my soul.”

Her epiphany came one day as she looked back at the woman that greeted her in her mirror. Tired of feeling so sad all the time and craving something better, the blanket of doubt that had stifled her for so long was beginning to lift. Jo began to move. Slowly at first, but it was a start.

“I began walking late at night around my parents’ neighborhood so that no one would see me walking.  I was too afraid of being made fun of to actually do my exercise in the light of day.  I was still hiding in the shadows, but I was making my way out – slowly, but surely.  I cut out sodas and fast food entirely and began researching ways to eat healthy.  There wasn’t one magical diet or workout plan that I followed in the beginning.  I was just taking baby steps to becoming healthier.  But, changing the way I ate and incorporating moderate physical exercise, helped me shed pounds over the first couple of months.  I kept up my walking and healthy eating for about 6 months and I ended up losing about 60 pounds.  Once that initial weight came off and I could begin to see a different face and body in the mirror, my whole attitude changed. I knew I could do it. I knew I could make even more progress.”

Home workouts were the next phase. Scheduling set exercises to work out to gave her something to work with. Still fearing what she believed to be the glare and audience that was a gym, she avoided the gym. This was one fear she wasn’t ready to face – yet. Not before long, she’d shed 100lbs. She took this as the signal to employ a trainer to help her push further.

“I found a local trainer, Jonathan Smith, to help me continue on my journey.  He incorporated muscle confusion, strength training, cardio, boxing, and outdoor exercise.  I lost nearly 115 pounds by combining training like this, along with another BeachBody program, P90X, in about a year.”

By the end of her turnaround, Jo had lost around 215lbs and dropped from a size 28 to a 10. The confidence this journey gave her then shifted to another aspect of her life. The classroom. Harnessing the willpower she’d shown throughout her weight loss journey, obstacles were no longer things to fear, but opportunities to conquer. While she attended law school, she knew that the stresses and strains she experienced in an academic sense could be alleviated with a good diet and continued physical exercise.

“So, in my last year of law school, back in 2013, I decided to get another trainer.  I was able to find Jason Johnson, through Independence Gym in Scottsdale.  Jason has helped keep me in shape and believe that I am more than just a woman who has lost weight.  I am an athlete that has been hidden for so many years.  He incorporates high intensity interval training with both boxing and heavy strength training.  I have defined muscles now that I never knew even existed! Through his training I felt poised to take on a challenge that I never thought I would ever have a chance to even think about. The Spartan Race.  I decided that my law school graduation present and the best way to celebrate passing the Arizona bar exam and becoming an attorney was to finally compete in the Spartan Race!”

Training for it with the same precision and determination she had shown throughout her weight loss victory and graduating from law school, she prepared herself for what lay ahead. She was ready.

“On February 8, 2014 I approached the starting line of the Arizona Spartan Sprint ready to face my biggest physical challenge ever.  My fiancé, Jules Demetrius, who is battling Stage 3 colon and liver cancer, had hoped to be in those spectator bleachers cheering me on, but due to his diminished physical capacities, he was unable to do so.  But, he voiced his support all over social media, touting his love and admiration for what I have accomplished.  Every day he endures horrible pain as he fights against cancer and his strength and courage only spur me to continue to face my fears and give 100% to everything in my life.”

“As I crossed the finish line I began to cry.  It had been the biggest physical challenge I had ever faced and subsequently conquered.  Years of hard work, determination, and struggles had culminated in the completion of this 4.5 mile race.  And as Arisotle penned, ‘We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.’ I have truly embraced the Spartan code of never quitting and never accepting defeat.  I will carry those virtues with me for the rest of my days, for I am, and always have been a fighter.  AROO!”

Jo knows now what it means to know at the finish line. Do you?

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The impact that Spartan Race is having on so many lives goes beyond that of the actual race. The lifestyle and mentality in forging people to become a healthier version of themselves is touching so many people. Seeing a stranger wearing the Spartan logo on their clothing instantly becomes a talking point and immediately you know they are family. Shane Small saw a Spartan Race staff member at Houston airport recently and felt compelled to write in with his story.

Dear Joe,

I wanted to share insight into my experiences with the Spartan Race. I have attached some pictures.

Just to share some background information about my adventure to becoming a Spartan at my biggest weight I was 320lbs I currently weigh around 240 and have goals of cutting around 15 or 20 more. I began training with a group of guys from church for my first Spartan Race which was the Dallas Beast near Glen Rose about three months prior to the 2012 race.

I ran my first Beast at around 290lbs, which was at the time the most difficult test of physical fitness and endurance that I had ever experienced. Surprisingly, the 2013 was as much a physical test at 245lbs. The Spartan Race changed my life in many ways.

I am excited to continue my pursuit of fitness and participating in Spartan Races. Please share this with the Spartan Race group.

Thank you,

Shane Small

Want Spartan to change your life, too? Find out more here.

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Lisa Greenbauer, of San Antonio Texas recalls the moment she finished her first Spartan Race. She smiles, “It was the proudest moment in my life! I use to be the girl who could not fit a seat belt around her in the plane!”

Her long journey saw her lose 110lbs to get to that point. Being somewhat larger her whole life made it a little more challenging than usual, but she was determined to change that.

“I struggled with my weight my entire life. I was the chubby kid who just couldn’t lose the weight… Throughout my life it defined me! After college I decided it was time to make a change! I decided to get gastric sleeve surgery. Many people think it’s an easy way. Little do they know! After the surgery I worked my ass off in the gym. I actually got into plus size modeling and got on the cover of a bridal mag at one point!” she happily explains. 

After two and half years of keeping it off my husband who is in the United States Navy asked if I would like to join their team. I watch the video on what a Spartan race was because I didn’t know about it. After seeing the video I was like, “hell no! Then I thought to myself what in the world was I thinking? I was allowing my old self to take over. I decided to do the race in Mississippi.”

Taking the bull by the horns Lisa attacked the race in her own inimitable style and despite a minor setback involving her shoes, as she explains, it wasn’t going to stop her.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life! I had to do half of it barefooted because my shoes would not stay on, but I wasn’t going to allow it to stop me from finishing it. I reached the last obstacle, which was the slippery wall. When I got to the top I could not swing my dang hip over. But one of my husband’s fellow sailors said ‘you can do this’. As I dug deep within me, I got it over! As I climbed down, all I could do was cry. I was the girl who would be scared to do something!”

“Many people think that weight loss surgery is easy. It’s not. It’s still a battle. But moments like this show and prove how hard I have worked. These moments, well, no one can take them away.  It showed me anything was possible if you believe in yourself. Thank you for having races like this they help define and shape us into believers.” 

When asked about whether her experience in Mississippi made her catch the Spartan Race bug, she nods as though her life depends on it. “Heck yes! I would do it in a heartbeat!  It is something I am very proud of.  I love when I wear my shirt out and people say you did that race.  I answer ‘heck yes, I can and so can you’.”

Lisa’s unbridled sincerity and infectious enthusiasm continues to pour before she closes her tale of conquering her first race. When asked if she has any advice to anyone that is intimidated by what they see in the videos and pictures, she smiles a broad smile and is quick to encourage others.

“Yes, it’s hard! Yes, it’s scary. But put your big girl panties on and give it a try!  Moments like these create who you are and your strength!  When you’re standing in line next to a soldier who is doing the race with no leg or no arm, well, seriously, what’s your excuse?  If they could put all their heart and soul into it, then you can too!” 

See you at the finish line…

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In 2006, Luke Opps’ life changed.

The resident of Columbia Falls, Montana was changing a tire of his tool trailer at the side of the interstate when another motorist, while speeding, fell asleep at the wheel. Her car struck the tool trailer he was repairing and threw him over 35 feet away into a ditch. The result was a broken tibia in 7 places, a fibula in half and a shattered ankle. The resulting convalescence and inactivity caused Luke’s weight to increase from 190lbs to 255lb at his heaviest. Additionally, he now has a titanium implant in his left leg that runs from his knee to his ankle with a gear on his ankle end.

 In August of last year, he decided enough was enough and began a new regime. He recalls how it started all too clearly, “over the course of the months and grueling pain in my left leg from the wreck and being out of shape, the weight started to come off and I felt better.. In November I made the final leap and decided to run the Montana Spartan Sprint and jumped right in.”

Using his previous days as a Marine Corps veteran as the mental training that he’d already done as the fuel he needed, it was only the physical side that was stopping him. Along with this, Luke knew the right foods was also very important. “Still eating certain macros and counting grams daily, ie: carbs, fats, and protein and meeting them to the gram for my diet daily, I started to get stronger and healthier, I could run on hard surfaces which I had not done since the Corps. Finally a very dear friend of mine and Professional NGA Bodybuilder came to town from Havre, Montana and my workout and intensity level TRIPLED!”

Luke decided to set a goal that would be a goal weight of 177lbs by his wife’s birthday of April 15th. When that day came, he weighed 174lbs and had lost 15% body fat. A remarkable achievement by any standards. With his last goal set – the Montana Spartan Sprint – he was ready. Choosing not to go for a time, given that the Sprint was an unknown quantity, he and his team attacked the course and finished in 1 hour 21 minutes. “My team finished 24th out of 292 teams and I told myself when I was done with the race I was getting the Spartan Race Logo Tattooed, and that I did and man do I wear it proud!!!! My regime ( this one) is finished, I am stitting at 168 to date and slowly putting on more lean muscle and waiting for the day when I can do the next one and show off the logo with pride! No fitness trainer helped me with this, it was determination.”

Getting to be where he wanted to be was a very simple procedure for Luke. With his focus, he explains how he got to be where he wanted to be, “When it comes to training, I wake up daily at 3:45 go workout and then go to work a twelve hour day running my own construction business here in Montana, I run my own show start to finish, I do log work and building. When it comes to thinking of giving up while training I have severe drive, early on in my training I would think of corporal Todd Love, and actually train for him to keep going and a lot of time I use the simple saying “if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”. I am very determined and driven mentally, like I said, you can tell your body to do anything.
I also contribute alot of my drive and strength to my wife’s support and my faith in Christ”. 

When asked about any advice he may want to give others about where he is and how he could help someone get to that point, he pauses briefly to collect his thoughts. Smiling, he says, “Everyone is tough in their own way…if it were easy everyone would do it…giving up is the first stage of quitting, never give up and push through the pain. I work for a living and find time to train…if you want it you will work for it.”

See you at the finish line…

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Heidie Bratlie pauses for a moment and ponders what it was that changed her life. “It’s really not hard to be healthy, it’s all in the choices you make’, she replies.

“People let others tell them what to eat and what to do, and they don’t even realize what they are doing. But it’s easier, not to stand up for yourself. People don’t want to tell someone that they don’t want to eat the unhealthy food that is being served. Most of us were raised that way, not to be impolite. I don’t see it as impolite, I see it as my choice. There are ways to decline trashy food without being rude. I haven’t found one yet, but maybe someday”, she chuckles to herself. 

But there was a time where Heidi’s life wasn’t quite as full with smiles and jokes. The long, hard road that the resident of Vancouver, Washington began travelling started over three years earlier.

“In July 2010, I was huge. Weighing in at over 400 pounds. I signed up for a weight management class that was offered through my health insurance, but I really didn’t think it would help me. But it did! That class taught me how to eat healthy and how to avoid emotional eating. It’s a good thing too, because I was going to need it!”

Six months later, Heidi had lost over 100lbs. Sadly, the milestone celebration was marred by what was supposed to be a routine carpel tunnel surgery on her husband Jimmy. It wasn’t routine and he became sicker and sicker. On April 19th 2011, he died from Amyliodosis, a condition whereby a starch-like protein is deposited in the liver, kidneys, spleen, or other tissues.

“That was and still continues to be, the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with emotionally. I still don’t feel normal, but working out and eating healthy – keeps me feeling alive. Since he passed away I have gone on to lose 229lbs so far. Nothing will stop me. I’ve changed my life, and I can’t imagine life without a food journal and working out.”

“The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. They did test after test. I do taxes for a living and this was my busiest time of the year, I worked about 60-80 hours a week during this time. I was still working my normal tax season hours and he kept getting sicker. We had no idea that he was going to die. I missed all that time I could’ve had with him.”

“Anyway, I would work my 12-13 hours then I would come home and I would go ride my recumbent bike for 20-30 minutes. One day in early April, he was so horribly sick and I came home and I went and rode my bike. He was so sick, I came back in the room and apologized for riding my bike and not spending that time with him. We still didn’t know he was going to die, but I felt bad for being gone at work all day and then taking more time away to exercise because he was so sick.”

It was what Heidi’s late husband then said that would become the most telling words in the time they would have left together.

“When I apologized, he said to me, ‘for what? Being healthy?’” 

“He was right, I was just trying to be healthy, but I still felt guilty. Then about a week later on April 18th he finally let me take him to the hospital. Within two hours they had him hooked up to everything under the sun and they had intubated him. The next morning, the doctors told me there was nothing left they could do and that I would have to take him off of the life support. That’s when I found out he was going to die. That was the hardest thing ever.”

But those words stuck with me – “For what? Being healthy?” –  I’ll never forget those words. The guilt was horrible, I had forced myself to ride my bike for about 3 weeks after he died. But then I realized that I had nothing to apologize for. Yes, I wish I could get those precious minutes back, but I will never again apologize for being healthy.  And I will NEVER give up being healthy. Anybody that can’t understand that, doesn’t have a place in my life.

This focused energy and single-minded purpose in Heidi’s life is now the catalyst for striving for all her better tomorrows. Recalling how she started, it was a simple choice that she felt she should make.

“I’m always up for a new workout, so when I heard about Train Dirty doing free workouts to prepare for the Spartan Race in the summer of 2013, I was in! I wasn’t going to do the race, but the workouts were free and there’s no better price!  I went to all but one of the training sessions. Even though I missed that one, I went and re-did the previous week’s workout. It was then that the leaders of my team made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I signed up for the Spartan Race in Washougal, WA. I had no idea what I was signing up for. I had never heard of the Spartan Race, but like I said, I’m always up for a new workout. 

Aware that others may read her words, Heidi quickly offers words of advice to those beginning a hard journey of becoming healthier.

“There are so many things I have learned along the way, especially in the beginning, that I would love to tell them. Take one day at a time, every day make a conscious decision to live healthier. Skip the diet, just eat healthy and remember that our body is not a garbage can.”

“There is no such thing as “blowing” your diet. If you choose to eat something unhealthy, it’s just a choice. After that your next choice can be healthy. If you choose to skip a workout one day, you can choose to work out the next, you have not “blown” anything. Everything is a choice. There is no such thing as the stereotypical “diet”. Everyone is on a diet. If it consists of fast food and candy, that’s still a diet. It’s just one that you might want to reconsider.”

Looking back at when she ran her first Spartan Race, she knows that turning her life around has reaped more than she has sown.

“I had no idea what I was signing up for. I had never heard of the Spartan Race, but like I said, I’m always up for a new workout. The Spartan Race in Washougal was tons of fun and very challenging. This year my goal was to finish, I did that. Now I have my sights on next year. If everything goes as planned, I should be at my goal weight, or very close, and I want to have even more fun, only faster than this year! The Spartan Race made me realize exactly how far I’ve come and also how far I to go. I work hard every day, and by next year, I will conquer!

Heidi knows what it means to ‘know at the finish line’. Fighting on through it all. Now it’s your turn.

 

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Blair Christie beams the smile of someone who is very happy with her achievements.

“I am currently smaller now than I was in 4th grade!” she exclaims, probably showing her midriff. But it wasn’t always a case of smiles and true happiness. 

Poor eating and in her own words, “a sedentary lifestyle” saw her become another victim of the couch. With the vicious cycle of depression simply adding to the problem, it became a downward spiral. Blair grabbed hold of herself and fought against that spiral.

“In 2009, I was just shy of 300 pounds and really struggled with depression.  I had such a horrible self-image and just had enough. At that point, I could not even bend over to tie my shoe laces without getting winded much less even consider doing a Spartan Race!”

“I still have about 30 more that I would like to lose but currently I am just working on getting stronger and building muscle to tone my loose skin. Over my span of 3.5 years of working on getting better and stronger not only have I lost the weight but I have run a full marathon, a half & am now a certified TaeBo(R) instructor. That has allowed me to give back as I have been teaching for a year and a half and helping others overcome their own challenges.”

“I have maintained small victories every day that have added up to huge ones. I will be participating in the upcoming Spartan Beast run on Nov. 9 in South Carolina with a group of all dudes that are like my brothers! They have been a huge encouragement to me the whole way and have always believed in me. I just wanted to say thank you for putting on a race that has challenged me to push to a whole new level of fitness that is out of my comfort zone.” 

The lady that fought back brought back from her own private battleground, lessons she learned in her victory. Lessons of how humility can greatly aid the fight anyone has with whichever obstacle that stands before them.

“I am thankful that I know that you don’t get any better if you don’t push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I am excited about always getting better and stronger. I cannot lie and say that I am not nervous about race day, but what a sweet victory it is going to be when I cross that finish line!”

She’ll know at the finish line. Will you?

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by Andi Hardy, Spartan Pro Team

One day I woke up and just couldn’t bear it anymore. Somehow I had let life get the best of me and I had tipped the scale to a number that totally disgusted me. It wasn’t just the number that glared at me from that little square thing on the floor beneath my feet, but it was the discomfort of my clothes, the zippers that took an extra jerk to get up, the buttons that pulled a little too far to side of the buttonholes and the tire that wobbled around my middle.

It was April Fool’s Day and I felt like I was the fool. I just couldn’t stand the way I felt in my own skin anymore and I was going to do something about it starting that very moment. Yes, I had tried diets in the past as my weight had crept up in number each year. I tried cutting out certain foods, I tried New Year’s Resolutions, I tried one thing after another. Each attempt ended with a big bowl of ice cream topped with peanut butter and chocolate syrup. Not this time, this was it; I had had it with myself.

In horror I jumped off that blasted scale and into the shower. I hurried to get dressed, fix my hair, and makeup. Then, upstairs I scurried to the deadly kitchen to have breakfast. Or not? Should I try skipping the most important meal of the day again? It worked for some people, but I knew myself. I would be even hungrier by 9:00 AM and then would grab whatever edible thing I could and gorge myself. I decided I had better eat something. So I settled for oatmeal and fresh strawberries, with a bit of sugar. That had to be healthy, right? I ate that down and made myself drink a 16 oz. glass of water. I knew water would help ease the hunger pains. After all, I was used to a big bowl of cereal with my fruit.

I quickly packed a few “healthy” items I found in the fridge for my lunch. I had been a fairly healthy eater up to this point, so chips, candy, and other junk foods were not a staple to my current diet. I had been a vegetarian for several years and fresh vegetables, fruits, and lentils were always on hand, but so were breads, cereals, cheeses, pasta, and potatoes.

I still had ten minutes before having to leave for work. I ran to my computer and googled “online weight loss programs.” I knew that I would not stay committed to Weight Watchers, but thought if I had a program like it that I could easily do at home; I’d do it if I set my mind to it. And my mind was set. I just needed a little help. Many matches were found, oh what to choose in my remaining nine minutes. I clicked on one called “Spark People.” That was it! I quickly entered my name and created a password. This was what was going to save me from obesity!! In those 9 minutes I learned that each day I would have to enter every food that passed through my lips, including chewing gum. I would have to log my glasses of water and every minute of exercise. There were calculators that would help me limit a number of calories, fat grams, carbohydrate grams, and protein grams each day. I would log my weight and body part measurements each week. This would help keep my accountable.

I filled two huge water bottles and took off for work with hope. Finally I was going to do something about this uncomfortable skin I was in. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I was determined. I ate my measly lunch at noon, resisted junk food that was around the office, and threw out emergency snacks stored in my desk. I drank water like I was a camel preparing for a trip across the Sahara. The hour long commute back home seemed forever as I was anxious to enter all of my info into the “Spark People” program.

I started out exercising three days per week for 30 minutes a session. I walked, rode bike, lifted a few weights, each time logging my exercise and time into the program. It was only a few weeks before I increased those days to five and sometimes even to 45-60 minutes. I was super religious about logging my food intake. It didn’t take me long to realize that my favorite food of mashed potatoes was not helping my diet. I learned that squashed cauliflower gave my tongue a similar experience without all of the carbs and starch. Bread and pasta were soon replaced with veggies. Cereal and oatmeal was replaced with Greek yogurt. Ice cream was now being measured to ½ cup even. I bought a little food scale and carefully weighed each portion of veggie chips, cheese, or whatever it was I wanted to eat. Going out to eat at restaurants was difficult. I stuck to salads without cheese, dressing, or croutons.

Not going to lie, it was incredible difficult. The hunger pains were miserable. It was so hard watching others around me eat my favorite things while I chomped on carrot sticks. But the weight was dropping. My confidence in myself was increasing and I started feeling better and better in my skin. Three months into this new me, I decided to step it up and sign up for a triathlon, something I’d always wanted to do. I had been biking and swimming, as well as walking and hiking, so I knew I could complete the event. But knowing myself, and knowing how much of a competitor I am, I wanted to do well. I started training harder, but still accounting for every calorie I took in. Three months later I did that triathalon, and placed in the top ten in my age group, of over a hundred. I wasn’t completely satisfied, but tried to reason with myself; after all I had “bad knees” and hadn’t run for years. That day was the first I had run, and my 5K time wasn’t all that bad for my first time running. I celebrated the success of my goal at IHOP allowing myself to eat anything I wanted. Eggs, pancakes, and hash browns it was. Then home to recover.

Upon returning home I had a lot of energy left, I got online and signed up for a local 5K mud and obstacle run for two weeks later. I got back on my “Spark People” plan and ran 5 kilometers every day until the race. I placed first in my age group of 129 women. I was so excited and felt so good, too! I am so happy to be able to race in spandex shorts and not be too embarrassed by my reflection in the mirror. That day I heard about Spartan Race, supposedly it was the “best of the best of obstacle races.” I just had to find out. I went home and signed up. Training for that first Spartan Race was not easy either. I knew that I had to train hard, but also really had to watch what I put into my body. I kept learning about food and portions.

It has now been over two years from that miserable April Fool’s Day. I no longer count calories on a daily basis. However, I do watch what I put in my mouth very carefully. But I do not deny myself the foods that I still love and thoroughly enjoy. I am comfortable in my skin. I am not the skinniest woman, nor do I have the body of a model, but I wear what I want and race in a skimpy outfit and don’t feel embarrassed by my skin (or what used to jiggle around under it.)

Remember, losing fat is not easy for most people, especially when this thing called the aging process happens. But it is something that can be done naturally. You must give it time, you must be patient, and you must be diligent!!! Don’t give up, even if you have a cheat day here and there.

What’s your excuse?  Find a race for yourself!

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by James Korak

When I turned 40, I looked in the mirror. I didn’t like what I saw, my youth had slipped away, I had gained 50 pounds and had a soft body. I was on blood pressure medicine, cholesterol medication and was falling apart. I had just came through a dark time in my life where we lost a daughter, were having struggles in our marriage due to a failed adoption, and communication was weak at best. I was not being the leader of our family, so I started to get my body (temple) back into shape by attending boot camp 3x a week for over a year. Then I was asked by my trainer to run a simple three mile mud race (Ha- simple was not the term I use). I got my butt kicked and didn’t like that because I used to be a professional cyclist in my youth and competed at a high level with very structured training and diet. For me to be at such a high level physically, then go to getting my butt kick in a simple 5k mud run did not settle well with me and lit a fire again in my soul and heart for competition. As I tell my wife today, there are worse things to do when you turn 40 and have a midlife crisis than get back into shape and start competing again.

Then came Spartan. I did my first Beast race and still did not do well, so I upped my training and including running to my regiment of training. I ended up placing in the 25 among all males and 4th in age group in 2012. Now I am currently 1st in my age group and hoping for a top 30 finish by the completion of September’s elite racing season.

What changed? How are things getting stronger at such an late time in ones physical life?

When I started doing more races, and getting further into shape, I now was back to my high school weight, the best shape of my life and feeling no restrictions on what I can accomplish except a longer recovery and sore knees! Ha- The Spartan people challenged me to go harder than I ever had physically in life, and enjoy it.

The second component of my story is my family. My brothers, sisters and of course my mom and friends thought I was crazy and truly feared for my well being. When I started doing events like 24 hour obstacle races in sub freezing temps, the Spartan Ultra Beast, and most recently the 2013 Death Race, they thought I was going to kill myself because I was OLDER and should not be doing those things.

HA again, but when they saw the physical talents that God gave me to not quit and conquer what appeared to be impossible challenges, they now are starting to become believers on what one can do and overcome if your heart and mind is into it. But my wife and kids have and always are my biggest fans. My wife is my biggest supporter and fan and never tells me I can’t do something or its too hard! My kids, Grace and Abbie, cheer me on at the races. Whether I see them at the finish line holding a hand painting sign or out on the course trying to run with me for a moment or two, it gives me an enormous amount of strength and courage to push my body past its breaking point and to finish strong. When I cross the finish line in 10th, 20th, etc. and my wife and kids are there, I feel completely fulfilled in life and they look at me with love and compassion in their eyes making me want to challenge myself further. This is far better than winning a cycling race in my younger days. Besides, I do find some satisfaction on beating youth more than half my age, but it’s still more than all that.

My kids now see what hard work and determination can do; age/health is no longer a factor of limitations, but rather an excuse. I now have been told by friends, family and neighbors all around that I have been a source of encouragement to them, showing them there is no limit on what you can accomplish if you put your mind and body into it. I recently spoke at my daughters FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) to 60 plus kids in Junior High School, to give encouragement on finishing life strong in order to hear the words, “Well done” at the finish in life’s race. Spartan helps me strive to better myself as an individual to be the best I can be in life.

My goal is one of inspiration and encouragement to all ages of life. That when faced with adversity and challenges, how you struggle to find solutions and push through the pain and suffering to finish strong, not just in a Spartan Race, but in life. I believe the two our synonymous and I just want to help others help themselves and be a source of inspiration for them and my family to become active and change who they are!

Now it’s your turn! Register TODAY!

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by Colleen Gilleran

I weigh 320 lbs. I am by no means the definition of a healthy or a fit person. I am a cubicle rat, book worm, socially awkward, kitty rescue working, Rock Star Boot Camp attending, dedicated woman out to change my life…one step at a time and this is my story of my Arizona Sprint experience in February of 2013.

In July 2012, my beginning weight was approximately 387 pounds, I almost quit boot camp from embarrassment. Instead, I buckled down for a wild ride. August 2012, I register for the Arizona Spartan Sprint! What the what!?!?! Naysayers…they crawled out of the darkest corners of places I had never been before. Who did I think I was registering for a Spartan race? How could I possibly make it half way, let alone finish? Wasn’t I embarrassed for myself? What have I gotten myself into…obviously I enjoyed setting myself up for failure, public failure at that! I then begin to train harder, eat smarter, get closer to the people I train with and connect with the women on the Spartan Chicked Facebook page. I asked questions like they were going out of style. I got answers, I got support, I got excited!

Race day was upon me. I was a bundle of nervous energy that didn’t know whether to throw up, have a breakdown or get the race started! There were 6 of us that would be doing it together, a small little pack of slow movers that were intent on not quitting, putting one foot in front of the other. A little more than a mile in, one girl injured her knee, but wanted to keep going. We kept going, slower, but going. Every obstacle was attempted and every obstacle debt was paid, whether it was success or burpees. We banded together to get up severe inclines and down the declines. Spartan strangers offered hands of help, cheers of motivation and words of encouragement when we would pause to let them pass.

I cannot speak of each person’s journey, as each one is individual, but for me I was surprised at how well I could complete some obstacles, despite looking different than the majority of the Spartans that day. I realized that I may not have been fast, but I was strong. I had a strong base of support, I had a strong will, and I had a strong heart. When I found myself facing the slippery wall after more than 5 hours on the course, I dug deep to get over that wall, even if it took 4 attempts, and the help of many people I do not know and never got a chance to thank. I had to finish…we had to finish…even if it was taking much longer than I had originally planned.

I jumped the fire. I wiggled through the Gladiators. I stopped to pick up and help another broken teammate across the finish line. I got my medal. I stopped to breathe…I…got…my…medal. It wasn’t until later, when I got to my car, that I cried. An emotional dam had opened and would not be closed until every last drop of everything was out. At first, the more I thought, the more I struggled. I struggled with the knowledge that I know I could have done better, gone faster, finished stronger and the satisfaction of knowing that in the end, I chose to leave no team member behind and that given the same choice again, I would not change that answer. I came to learn that sometimes the race isn’t about how fast you can go, sometimes it is about learning about who you are deep inside. On the day I lost my Sparkle at my first Spartan Race, I may have been bloodied and bruised, but my light shone brighter than it had ever shone before!

Going forward, it may take me a bit to get my Trifecta, but be Spartan sure that I will do just that! In the meantime, I will be whittling down my waistline, volunteering at Spartan races where I can and working to inspire more people who think they can’t, who think they aren’t ready, who think they aren’t fit enough to get off the couch and start putting one foot in front of the other!

[Editor's note: What motivates you to get off the couch and hit the course?  Have a story you want to share?  Email carrie@spartanrace.com with the details and a few photos and you might end up on our blog!  In the meantime, get signed up for an event today!  Click HERE.]

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by Michele McBride

Michele, left,  at 240 lbs

My name is Michele and I am a 41 yr old mom of 3 kids (2 boys and 1 girl ages 23, 18 and 7) and have been married for 24 years! When I was little I was always a skinny little thing, but when I hit 14 I gained some weight. Around age 15 almost 16 I decided to loose it and did! Man, it’s funny to see how boys who wouldn’t talk to you before but they sure wanted to talk to me then!

I got married at 17 to the greatest guy who loved me for me not my size! Well after two babies I had kept on the weight! After my 2nd I weighed 180 pounds. It was then when my darkest time entered. The weight continued to pile on and by the time I got pregnant with my 3rd in 2005 I weighed 240/245 lbs! It was the heaviest I had ever been and felt so depressed. The pregnancy was hard as I had many problems by the time I had her in December of 2005 I weighed 224!

It was then that I started watching The Biggest Loser! That inspired me big time! I first just changed little things – giving up soft drink except for one every now and again – but I knew I had to change, I’d developed Type II diabetes. Then I actually started eating right! I used to only eat supper and now I eat breakfast, lunch, snack, and supper! I also changed my white carbs to wheat and am making better food choices.

So I changed my eating but I knew I was still missing exercise! I admit I am lazy but I was wanting something different! I was

Michele (far right) back to 180 and counting

looking at all the Biggest Loser contestants and how they looked and looked like they felt and I wanted that. One day while searching a Biggest Loser event I stumbled across Spartan Race! Oh MY! It looked fun but I wondered if I could do it. My self-esteem had gone down as my weight went up! Even now I am not sure… but I WANT TO! My husband is very supportive and said of course you can do it honey!

I recently joined a gym and got a trainer and am preparing for my first race! I feel great now! I currently weigh 180 and have started noticing body changes. I am scared to death but I have to overcome some other fears during this Race! I have a bad fear of heights so that’s going to be hard! But I want this! I need this!! I want to be around for my little one to graduate and to one day have grandbabies to hug and run with! Plus, maybe finally I can out-kayak my brother! I love kayaking and my brother goes with me and we have so much fun but he can out paddle me! Well, watch out brother here I come! I am losing weight and inches but gaining so much more again! I have been inundated with support from Spartan Chicked Facebook page, so if you need the support they rock!

Are you a female Spartan looking for a cool crew of chicks to hang out with? Spartan Race has a Spartan Chicked closed network on FB that connects like-minded women to talk about training, nutrition, and staying healthy, strong and active. No boys allowed! Click HERE to request to join!

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