Dirty, Tired, Challenged, Accomplished- How a Spartan Race is Life Summed Up

Last weekend I completedIMG_5902 my first Spartan Super Race – an 8 mile, 25 obstacle challenge.  Some people clearly trained for this event. Others, like me, did not.

The date snuck up on me. But, if I’m really honest, I just couldn’t think too much about it. The last time I did a similar race it was a four mile event in Fargo with my Mom, sister…and Steve.

The Backstory

June, 2013. I signed up to do a mud run with my mom and sister. The week before the event, Steve said he wanted to join. Honestly, I was concerned. He didn’t run. He didn’t work out other than fixing things around the house or helping crews occasionally at work. He had back issues. I wasn’t sure he could do it without holding us back. 

Fast forward to obstacle one – a mud pit. I will never forget carefully stepping into the mud only to realize Steve took a running start and flew by me on his stomach as if on a slip-n-slide laughing like a little kid. Hard Charge_Fargo 2013

Oh, how I miss that laugh! Shortly after that, there was a pit full of water and mud that you are supposed to wade through. As I’m getting ready, I hear “CANNONBALL!” and Steve splashes in…and came up with his trademark laugh again.

Steve helped us through every obstacle with a helping hand, a gentle shove up or by cheering us on (loudly). I think I fell in love with him a million different times for a million different things that day. He had always been my biggest fan, and that day it was just out in spades…and that laugh…oh my heart.

How could I possibly do this race without him? 

This question is exactly how I felt about life after he died. How could I do this without him?

Fast forward to the Spartan Race today. To be honest, I had signed up for 2 other similar runs while living in Iowa. There was always a conflict that made it easy not to go – maybe, it just wasn’t my time yet. Clearly, today was different as I was standing at the starting line with a team of people I barely knew – a team that decided to join me in this crazy adventure after I put up a Facebook post to see if anyone at my gym wanted to participate.  They had no idea what this race meant to me or that I needed someone to say “yes”.

The race was on!

The first challenge was a decent size pool of water (about 8″ deep plus mud and cow poop…) to walk through. From behind me I hear “Let’s do this!” and Sam (a teammate) jumps in with two feet, covering me in muddy water. And she laughed. That joyous kid laugh that reminded me so much of that first water obstacle 6 years prior. My shoulders relaxed, a smile crossed my face, and I knew. Today, my team looked different, but I was not in this alone.

How is life like a Spartan Race?

The Spartan Race is the toughest event I have done so far. Just like adapting to being a widowed mom has been the toughest transition of my life.

There are times you feel good and you jog, talk, and laugh with those around you. There are times you are exhausted, but know if you sit down it will be twice as hard to get back up. There are times you walk, and even though you are exhausted, you are enjoying the view around you.

Then there are the obstacles.

Some obstacles are relatively easy although inconvenient – like crawling under barbed wire.

Others are gross, like dipping your entire body into muddy/cow poop water to dive under a wall.  Not unlike cleaning up a child’s puke (which I never had to do when Steve was alive!) – YUCK. You are going to do it, but that does not mean you enjoy any part of it.

Then there are those that make you think, “Oh, Lord, how do I do that?”. I realized just how true that is in my life, especially after losing Steve. There have been so many obstacles. So many times I’ve felt very much alone and the only way I found a way through was belief in something much bigger than me. Hundreds if not thousands of prayers these last 5.5 years. This race was a fantastic reminder of the amazing people I have in my life whether it was giving me a leg up to get a good hand hold to literally riding someone’s shoulder (not gracefully…and full of laughter) across a wall with only hand grips.  In turn, our team pulled other women (and men) up and over walls, coached them through obstacles, lifted heavy items until they could get the grip they needed, and shouted encouragement to those we met along the way. We used our individual talents (and muscle!) to serve our teammates, but also to serve others in the race with us.  Isn’t that what life is really about?

I would be remiss in not mentioning those obstacles that we failed. Not almost succeeded. Totally failed. For every individual failure we had to do 30 burpees. Burpees suck. They suck even worse after 8 miles and 23 obstacles. For me, my arch nemesis is the rope climb. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it – I can’t do it on my best day, I was tired, and the rope was slick with mud.  I tried once (miracles can happen, right?) and decided to just save my energy for the burpees. Life happens that way too. You don’t have to get through an obstacle by beating yourself up over something you just can’t overcome in that moment. The alternative may take longer, and you may not like it, but it can be done. Someday, I will get to the top of that darn rope…but for today, I accepted the burpees and moved on to the next challenge.

Then, there were the “others”. Those that I tried and failed. Then, decided to try again…because, burpees suck. And, I made it. I don’t know how other than sheer determination and this voice in my head that told me not to let go, not to quit, no matter how much my muscles might want to. This is the gold in life. When you can get knocked down, stand back up, and say “give me one more shot”…and you prove yourself right. It’s something that builds your confidence for the next obstacle, the next challenge in life. It is a defining moment. Strength and achievement does not come through the easy stuff. It comes through the willingness to persevere when you really don’t know how you will succeed.

My hope for you is that reading this inspires you to try something new, something out of your comfort zone. Try something that challenges you. Not just the life challenges that so easily weigh us down, but try something that you can look back on with pride. Then, find your team.

Six years ago I had my number one fan right by my side – I literally knew I could not fail with him next to me. My team for this race was different. The obstacles looked different. The race was harder. BUT the feeling was the same. For this race, on this day, I knew I would not fail because the team I had with me was exactly what I needed to get through all the challenges. People are put in your life for a reason – sometimes it takes a challenge to build a friendship.

Sam, Alison, and Chad – thank you for being my teammates through this Spartan race. You filled a larger role than you ever realized and I am so thankful for all the memories we made together.


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How will you challenge yourself? What goals do you have?