The gate was open, and the next 15 of us stepped up to the bottom of the ramp where fifteen red and black Spartan icons ominously lined floor. There we stood, each on our mark. I stared at the man with the microphone, this herald of the day, as we patiently awaited his shout.
Now is the time to see how capable and resilient this body can be. I’ve always taken great pride in my fitness, and this race would provide a very real and formidable challenge to that mindset. Could I do it? Could I do it well? I had 9 weeks of training since we registered back in summer, but I wasn’t diehard about it by any means. Knowing very little about the competition kept me cautious, but now that I found myself within the stadium, I felt fine. But still. I felt good. I felt capable. I felt confident.
The announcer moved the microphone to his lips. Off I stared into the awaiting ramp, unsure of what was lying in wait around the corner. This stadium was meant for baseball, but today it was transformed and constructed into a monstrosity I was aiming to defeat.
And we were off.
Around the corner we were met with a series of ropes. Some low and crossed so they needed to be jumped over, while others were about chest height, so you had to either crawl or crouch. They were handled with ease, though I felt the sting in my legs I was hoping I wouldn’t experience quite yet.
The first obstacle loomed in the distance: 30 pound medicine ball. Pick it up from a squat position and slam it down. 30 times. Completed with ease, but I did have to remind myself that this race had the potential to go up to 2 hours. Don’t burn yourself out early.
We ran the length of the stadium countless times on a path that took us up the bleachers, and down the stairwells, inside above the waiting area, then outside on the upper levels under the blazing sun. The route through this twisted fun house was long, and we were just getting started.
Then my second, and most pausing obstacle presented itself. Doubt. The goal was to lift a cement block to the top of some very high scaffolding using the rope that hung dangling before me. I sprinted to the first open lane, grabbed the end of the rope and gave it a huge pull…nothing happened. I pulled again, this time I wrapped the rope around my arm and changed the my leverage. Still, the block remained firmly planted. All around me blocks were going up, yet mine still rested comfortably in front of me.
In a last effort, I grabbed the rope with both hands and jumped up on it, using my entire body weight. Nothing. The stone remained untouched while I hung in the air. It was obvious the stone weighed more than I did and there was nothing I could do about it. I let the rope go and tried for the women’s (lighter by 50 pounds) stones. I got it about half way up before the guy running the station came over and said “I couldn’t do that”. “The stone weighs more than I do, I can’t lift that” I said. He gave me a dismissive shrug and said “Well, go do 30 burpees then“. I let loose on the rope and the stone slammed into the ground. I walked off the line to go do the penalty, all the while feeling a little cheated.
There’s absolutely nothing I could do, no amount of training, lifting, or pulling, that would allow me to make up for my stature. I think the race would be better suited and segregated by body weight, rather than an unwavering male vs female.
“Is this the rest of the race for me? Just doing burpees because I’m not tall/heavy enough for the next obstacles?” Why even bother? It’s like going to an amusement park where everyone is on the rides, but you have to sit in a chair and spin while being told “You’re having fun too”
By the end of my 30 I told my brain to “Get over it and push forward” but my confidence was still shaken. On I ran. Doubt was replaced with determination. I was mad at what just happened, but remained focused with a desire to finish strong.
The next obstacles stood no chance while I was partnered with my anger. The Rowing Machine, the Rubber Band Hop (giant rubber band wrapped around your ankles, you have to hop a length of the stadium) and the Long Bars were satisfyingly dealt with. Even the Wall Climb, which at its tallest was around 9 feet didn’t slow me down. I hit that thing with such speed and momentum that my wall-jump sent me soaring up and over with a slight pull.
The Spear Throw was close, but I was left doing 30 more burpees. The Rope Climb looked a bit daunting after that many burpees, but I’ve always been good with upper body strength/pullups. I took a breath, threw my gloves off and climbed up with such speed my brother waiting below was shocked. Even the girl working the area said that was the fastest she had seen all morning. Yes!! Reinvigorated!
Unfortunately in my haste and glove removal, the friction from the rope literally burned a hole in the first layer of skin on my hand. Not good, since the next obstacle was a large ball of cement, the Object Carry.
The rage that carried me was finally slipping, and eventually ran out by the time I made it to the second Object Carry, two water jugs, weighing about 50 pounds each. These damn things were the bane of my momentum. Up and down stairs, through the narrow seat rows for the length of half the stadium, I just couldn’t do this one without taking multiple breaks.
I was holding up traffic. Wewps!
After that Carry my energy was gone. I had to keep going, but I was hobbling at best. Thankfully the next few obstacles were meant for my lower half. I continued on, navigating the route through the stadium before I came to a long, dark corridor with daylight at the end. One more deep breath, one more sprint, then I found myself out on the field of the stadium itself. 5 obstacles remained
The wall jumps were no problem , but the Half Wall squat/jump was absolute torture on my calves/legs. The Rock/Traverse Wall grips were soaked with sweat (from someone else), but I maintained. Two to go. The Tower and the Gladiator Pit.
My brother’s voice shouted from behind me. “Two to go. Let’s burn it!” he said as he sprinted by me. With a nod, and my motivation re-lit, we sped toward the finish line together.
The Gladiator’s Pit is the final challenge, usually where a group of previous contestants line up and do their best to stop you from crossing the line with pugil sticks (Has since been removed because people were getting creamed)
My brother and I decided to hit em at a sprint, at the same time. Maybe they’d get one of us, but the other would be able to get through (honorable enough sacrifice!). One final sprint. I ran toward my Gladiator, she was of similar stature so we were at an even advantage.
Perfectly timed, she swung a second too late, by the time her momentum allowed her a backward swing, I was already behind her. Enlisting the help of one more wall jump, I hit the barrier and propelled myself forward and over the finish line.
Sweet, sweet victory. Total Race time was 1hr 39minutes. 90+ burpees.
I really, really enjoyed that. Despite being wiped during the race, immediately after, and for the next few days I was still hyped up! I finally put my body to the test and delivered a decisive “Yes” to the question of whether or not I could match some of the goals I set for myself.
I would highly recommend doing one of these, at least once. I’m getting hyped up just thinking about it hah! Can’t wait for the next one.
Run the Spartan Race