By Laura Stokes
“Come on mom! You can do it! Don’t look down!” yelled my 14-year-old son, Jacob as I carefully scooted my butt across a cargo net suspended 30 feet in the air. Never a big fan of heights, my son’s encouragement was just what I needed to get me though the Spartan Sprint obstacle. Reebok Spartan Race has enabled me to do things I never thought I could do and to become someone I never thought I could be.
When my husband, Kade, was killed in a motorcycle accident 2 ½ years ago, I was left to raise our 7- and 11-year-old boys alone. I felt weak and helpless. That was then. The weakness has left me, I am Spartan strong. I’m not alone in that strength. My son Jacob is also a Spartan. As a personal trainer, I took Jacob under my wing to help him get his body in shape to prepare him for the race. And on race day, he was strong. He ran and conquered obstacles like a champ. But he also gave me something I hadn‘t expected, he gave a lot of encouragement When he saw the trepidation in my eyes as I approached an obstacle. He stuck by me like glue to encourage me and give a boost when I needed it.
Jacob and I ran the Spartan Sprint March 9 in Conyers, Ga. along with three of my husband’s poker/cigar buddies and a neighbor. One Spartan chick, four Spartan dudes, and one Spartan teen equal one helluva team. I think it was a life changing experience for all of us. We all came to the race with different obstacles we were facing in our lives, but we all crossed the finish line and proved something to ourselves. As for me and my Jacob, we are hooked. The training and the race was an awesome mother-son bonding experience. It has given us something positive to focus on and prepare for. After the race we immediately went over to the registration table and signed up for the Spartan Super in Leesburg, Va. on Aug. 24. We also plan to run the Beast in Winnsboro, SC in November in order to earn the coveted trifecta.
During one recent training session before the race, I gave my son a little insight into staying motivated when the race gets tough. Losing his dad was the most difficult thing in his young life that he has ever had to endure. Our family has dealt with this tragedy and we have come out on the other side as stronger people and the three of us are bonded to each other like cement. We were Spartan strong before we even approached the Spartan start line. “If we can conquer that, we can conquer anything,” I told him. These obstacles are just a few things to slow us down on our journey, but we will get over them and get to the other side of them just as we have done in our lives.
Were it not for the tragedy, I would never have become a personal trainer. I never would have made miraculous changes in my own life and we never would have made it to the Spartan. I would trade all of that in a second to have my husband back. But that isn’t an option, so we have chosen to use our tragedy to make ourselves stronger. And as a personal trainer, it is my goal to make others stronger as well. And I’m not just talking about their bodies. To me that is just a nice side effect. The real transformation takes place in the mind, spirit, heart and soul. When that late-night knock on the door from the coroner turned me into a widow at the age of 42, I was a shy, stay-at-home mom and had no idea where to turn. After God, family and friends, I found my greatest source of strength to get up and tackle every day came from physical activity. There were plenty of days that I absolutely forced myself and my children to get out and go for a walk. There were plenty of days that I didn’t feel like doing anything, but I did it anyway because I know it is what we needed. Sometimes the spirit has to be stronger than the body in order to make it through.
When my husband’s friend first approached me about doing the Spartan Race with him, I was very hesitant. I went to the Spartan website to see if I thought I could do it and I just wasn’t sure. My whole life I have been afraid of everything – heights, water, roller coasters – you name it. My children informed me that I wasn’t the “fun parent.” I left that crazy stuff for my husband, but now it was just me. I decided I was ready to break out of my shell to become a better, stronger person. Being a part of the Spartan family is so much more than a group of people that finish a race together. Its principles translate into everyday life. When you conquer those obstacles, you realize you are stronger than you thought you were. If you can do this, what else can you conquer? At the Georgia sprint we witnessed a racer that had lost 400 pounds, one that was in a wheelchair and another missing an arm and a leg. That is what the Spartan spirit is all about – using the cards you have been dealt and being the best you can be, and perhaps in the process you will inspire someone else to be their best. I was a victim but now I am a victorious. Thank you Spartan for being a part of my victory. My next goal is to get my 9-year-old son Joshua in the Jr. Spartan Adventure Race so that it can be a true family affair. I’m also thinking about becoming a Spartan Group X certified coach in Greenville, SC. Everyone should have the opportunity to be a Spartan, and I welcome the opportunity to lead as many there as possible. Fitness has changed the lives of me and my family. I recently began a blog, Girlonfirefitness.blogspot.com, that I hope will inspire, motivate and educate others to give fitness its rightful place in their lives. There is no other drug on the planet like exercise.