Happy Mother’s Day, Sparta!  For all the mothers out there, we honor you and are proud to share the story of  Leyla Di Cori, a Spartan regular, and her inspirational mother, Johanne Di Cori, age 72 years young, who took on her first Spartan race daughter by her side.

Here is their story, told by Leyla herself.

When we finally arrived at the race site in Mont Tremblant, I was ecstatic to see some familiar faces from the Spartan Staff. They came from Vermont to help out with the races in Montreal.

I took part in the competitive heat at 10:00am. Finishing in the top 8, I was pleased with myself and my mom was pretty proud of me. As we posed together at the picture booth, my mother looked at me and said: “I want to race with you tomorrow.” I looked at her in dismay. I had tried to convince her in the past to try a Spartan Sprint but she refused. And there she was, my 72 year-old mother saying she wanted to race! I was thrilled with the idea. That evening I wrote an email to Steve Halstead to explain my mom wanted to race. We started preparing that same night. I decked out my mom in my thigh high socks, my race shorts, my trusty Salomon Speedcross 3s and a Spartan Tech T-shirt. If she was going to race, she was going to look the part too!

Sunday morning arrived. Believe it or not, my mother only told my father that very morning she would race. He was stunned and by the look on his face and a bit worried. You have to understand, my mother was not training for a Spartan Race. Despite her age (and trust me, you’d never think she is 72 when you look at her!) she is quite active. She bikes, walks in the neighbourhood and is used to going to the grocery store and walking back with bags. Add to that the fact that she gardens and doesn’t mind getting dirty! My concern was yes, she was active, but clearly she had not been getting ready for the challenges a Spartan Race presents. My biggest concern remained that my mother, Johanne, also suffers from asthma! I vowed to not leave her side. I was going to stand by my mother no matter how long it took. We were in this together!

Once we arrived at the race site, I decide I would go ahead and race the competitive heat at 9:00am. Originally, we were both going straight into the 10:00am but I wanted a lay of the land in order to be the best guide possible for my mother.

At 10:15, arm-in-arm with my mother, I led her to the front of the start line. I explained the shoving that would occur, the smoke, the fire that was at the beginning and how she should expect hilly terrain for the most part. The siren went off, and off we ran! The smoke affected my mom’s breathing from the very beginning but she managed to run the first kilometer.  Racers were not noticing a 72 year-old was racing with them.  As the hills grew higher, we slowed down and power walked through the mountain. The forest was hilly and muddy. It certainly was tough terrain for her but she was doing awesome. Funny enough, two other men, probably in their late 40s were walking the trail as well. I am glad to say we Chicked them!

Never leaving my mom’s side, we made it through the woods. The course made us go in and out of the woods several times. We did all the obstacles from the sandbag carry, to the rope ladder and so many others. My mom was amazing, strong, and determined.  She was not giving up. Despite the thirst and the fatigue she was committed to finishing. The only thing that worried her was the 220 yard barbed wire crawl. The mud was incredibly deep and she even got stuck in it. The suction was so strong she was knee high and couldn’t get out. Her legs cramped up and she couldn’t move for a good minute. Fellow Spartans helped her out of the crazy mud pit. With every crawl, I would say, “You got this, mom! You can do it! Don’t give up!!!” Other racers couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw my mom. Imagine this white haired woman racing next to them. So many racers encouraged her and were in awe. With every step we took, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly proud.  I kept telling her how remarkable she was for doing this. She is a grandmother after all!!!

My mom was determined to finish and kept a smile the entire time. She even joked with me that giving birth was easier than a Spartan Race.

Less than a mile away from the finish line, there were a series of obstacles. The only one my mother missed was the spear throw. I did the burpees for her. I knew she was getting exhausted but with every step she took I pushed her, saying we were almost there. If we got this far, we were not giving up now!!! I could see how tired and dehydrated she was. It was about 104F that day. She climbed up theat 8 foot wall like a cat! She went through the tunnels. She made her way to the electric barbed wire. She went up the cargo nets with great agility and she conquered the inclined platforms. Then came the final obstacle before facing the gladiators: the inclined slippery wall with rope. I guided my mother telling her how to position her body. We were side by side. She barely had any strength left in her arms. She said she couldn’t take another step.

I said to her, “Mom! This is the last one!!! Now give it all that you’ve got! And I know you have it! Now pull!!! PULL!!!! YOU CAN DO IT! Take baby steps and pull yourself up there!!!” Another Spartan Chick was at the bottom and helped me by guiding my mother as I was extending my hand from the top of the ramp. The crowd was going wild seeing my mom. She was near the top and said she couldn’t get over. I remember yelling “ YOU GOT THIS MOM!  Do it!” And she did! The crowd soared!  It was a magical moment. I think my heart stopped when I saw her legs make it over. We made our way down cautiously. I looked at her, hugged her saying how proud I was to be at her side, and how incredible I believed her to be.  As we turned around, a few yards ahead of us the gladiators were waiting. I had promised my mother I wouldn’t let any gladiator tackle her.  She was going to stay at my side and I was going to shove them if someone dared to approach her. As we made our way towards them, I eyed them cautiously. All four of them bowed down in front of us.  They looked at my mother and applauded her. Everyone around the finishing area was applauding and cheering. Arm in arm, mother and daughter crossed the finish line with tears in our eyes. We had made it! My mom Johanne made it!

My father was waiting for us at the finish line. His face said it all. He hugged both of us and then held my mom in his arms. Clearly you could tell how emotional he was to see his muddy wife, that against all odds finished a Spartan Race, despite not having trained for it and suffering from asthma.

I can tell you my mom was a Spartan Super Star! She was being stopped left and right and everyone wanted their pictures taken with her. The MC even made an announcement about Johanne Di Cori, the 72 year-old Spartan Chick/grandmother  that just finished the course. I was tearing up for the most part after the race. Words couldn’t and still can’t express how proud I am of my mother. She is the reason why I am strong and determined. I just can’t stress that enough.

My mother is such a down to earth person. She doesn’t realize her achievement. For her it was a race she completed, a challenge she wanted to try.  I told her she was an inspiration for many after completing this race.

That’s a Spartan mom, if we’ve ever heard of one!?

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16 Responses

  1. avatar

    knowing from experiences what an amazing thing she did i still cried reading the story. good job with the writing.

  2. avatar

    Age is a state of mind. I’ve met some people in there 20′s who’ve never lived nor do they have any plans to be an active participant in life. Johanne is some one who lives a life without excuses. Solid, true and admirable.

  3. avatar

    Very inspirational. I think that how you run a race can say a lot as to how you live your life. I also believe that running a Spartan Race can also change the way you race your life!

    Only Spartan women give birth to true Spartan warriors! ;-)

    To all Spartan chicks out there, of all ages, I salute you AROO AROO AROO!

  4. avatar

    Why am I crying? Wonderful job!

  5. avatar


  6. avatar

    Damn! I saw her on Sunday, here I was thinking she was a marathoner! Amazing work!!!

  7. avatar

    Thanks for sharing your story, it was beautiful. I needed a good little cry :)

  8. avatar

    Great, now I’m crying. At work. I shoulda saved this story for later! Congrats to you both, and thank you so much for sharing, now where’s the damn tissue?

  9. avatar

    What a fantastic story! You two are both amazing women!!!! What an inspiration.

  10. avatar

    One of the most amazing stories of athleticism I have ever read. You are an inspiration to me!

  11. avatar

    My nefew and son were waiting for us at the finish and our friend is the one who helped you and your mom! He filmed everything! I cried watching it! If you would like, i could send you the film! Very touching seeing you and your mom… I wish i am an ispiration to my kids the way your mother is to you! And, as we say in french, “merde” for your Death Race this weekend!

  12. avatar

    To Johanne, AROO!

  13. avatar

    Incredible. What an emotionally joyful experience. My eyes welled up just reading about it – wish I could have seen it in action!

  14. avatar

    All I can say is wow!
    I was there on sunday in Montréal… It was my first Spartan Race ever, and i’ve been training on and off for the last year with school, work and all.. All I can say is the spartan race was my big challenge this year.. I did it with my boyfriend, who stayed with me and encouraged me throughout it all… So I now what she wen through! I find it amazing that you did it with your mom… She is utterly and totally amazing! I hope she see’s all the positive comments the everyone has posted on the Facebook page, because she is truly an inspiration!!!!

  15. avatar

    As I was reading, the story played out in my mind. Visualizing Mom and yourself. I could feel the struggle and the triumph she went through. Exhausted in the end, I too cried.

  16. avatar

    Incredible tail. I am 65 and have been inspired by the Spartans to get off the couch and get into an exercise routine. Never thought I could complete a race. Now you have my thinking and wondering. Thank You!

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