by Carrie Adams
What does a race day mean to Spartan Athletes? On August 6, 2011 at 9 A.M. the hotly anticipated Spartan Beast began with a boom! The competitive heat set off across the start line through rising pillars of smoke and raging rows of fire to tackle 12 then unknown and brutalizing miles in the Vermont mountains. By 8:45 that night, the final racer would cross the finish line.
For nearly 12 hours, waves of racers battled the single track trails, the steep elevation, the challenging obstacles, the voices in their heads telling them to quit, and their own physical limitations that left them panting and sweating. It was common to see athletes bloodied, soaked, dirty, hurt, exhausted in their efforts and lying on the side of the mountain. Lungs screaming, and legs shaking, they’d rise and forge ahead, ultimately overcoming all the obstacles they faced that day.
The first racer would cross the line at 2:56:09, but on this day, it wasn’t Hobie Call who would claim victory. In an unexpected outcome of events, it would be 25-year old Quebec biathlete Marc-Andre Bedard, 2010 Olympian who would take the top prize at the Beast. The soft-spoken and humble French Canadian was unknown to race organizers when the race began. He is known now. Bedard has vowed to return.
“I will be back if I can defend my title and I’ll bring my team (Canadian National Team) with me!” He went on to say, “I know a lot of athletes who would die for an experience like that and that can definitely win it.” When Call handed over the Spartan helmet, it was clear that more and more athletes are gravitating towards this sport and challenging Call’s supremacy in obstacle racing.
All Spartans started at the same line, ran the same course, and chased down the same finish line. They each had different goals, reasons, weaknesses, and something to prove to themselves. Spartan employees, including founder Joe DeSena and myself, raced the Beast knowing we had to experience this race, the first of its kind. Team Spartan Chicked raced together for the first time in uniform and had one of their own, Margaret Schlachter, walk away with a third place finish and a pretty wicked sword as her prize.
Top female went to Caitlin Hickin of New York who finished with a time of 3:46:29 second place going to Claude Godbout, also a Canadian Biathlete and girlfriend of Bedard. A major theme at the Beast was the high level of performance demonstrated by the female athletes who took on the towering mountains and obstacles fearlessly. There was a large contingency of women at the Beast, even with the harrowing reputation the race carried even before the race began and they performed with an inspired effort, carrying the same weighted sandbags up and around the mountain that the men carried, ultimately holding their own in a competitive field and finishing strong.
A race of this intensity and of this magnitude is not easily explained outside the experience. For those who have never crossed a Spartan finish line, finding the right words is nearly impossible. Stories continue to emerge of heroism, selflessness, and dedication.
Our Spartans never cease to amaze us on and off the course. For example, two brothers, Bruce and Jeff Foster from Rhode Island who placed second and third in the Death Race, took on the Beast together and lugged a tractor tire with them on the rugged course.
Spartan Race has always been a platform for charity. Just one example to come out of the Beast was the story of Heidi Smith and her friends and family who raised over $13,000 for ALS. Smith’s husband Frank was diagnosed with the illness just one year ago. There was a particularly touching moment when Frank walked to the start line with his mother, a reminder for all the friends and family involved in the cause as to why there were taking on such a challenge. Everyone cheered.
Says Smith, “Lots of friends and neighbors participated and would never have done anything like this before but because it was for the ALS association they took it on. Seeing their faces when they were done, the sense of accomplishment and empowerment. It was amazing.”
That selflessness and graciousness was evident on the course as well. Countless times on the trail there were helping hands, encouraging words, and quick jokes to keep spirits up and keep people motivated to finish. Saturday was a day when so many would leave the mountains of Vermont changed for the better.
We’ll continue to share race reports, stories and experiences of the inaugural Beast, a race that we are sure we’ll be talking about for a long time. We are proud to have shared this experience with so many brave Spartan athletes.
Ultimately, we all pursue personal growth by expanding our horizons of possibility, and pushing our known limitations. We do so in order to gain self-knowledge and acceptance and to recognize that more is possible for us. We strive to encourage ourselves and others to know that we are better than we realize and that there is something on the other side of the suffering. Greatness.
Get registered today. Find out for yourself.