Life Lessons From a Spartan

In May 2015, my wife, Mary, was invited by a group of people from her gym to compete in a Spartan Race to be held in Miller Park in Milwaukee. Spartan races are varying distances of runs that involve also completing various physical challenges along the route. Our three kids and I went along to support Mary’s effort. Our son Caleb, 13 at the time, went from an initial response of “Why would anybody want to do this?” to wanting to give it a try after watching that first race. He and I joined Mary for the Spartan Chicago Sprint in August 2015. We were hooked! Eventually, the three of us decided it was something we would like to do together as a family.

Spartan has three races called the Sprint, the Super, and the Beast. This year our goal was to do the “Trifecta”, which is completing the Sprint, Super, and Beast all in one calendar year. The Spartan Sprint is a shorter race (usually 3 to 5 miles) focused more on speed than the others. Sprints include 20+ obstacles. It is a great starter distance for beginners. The Spartan Super is both a physical and mental challenge, covering over 8 miles and 25+ obstacles. The Spartan Beast is the most physically demanding of the three. It challenges competitors with over 30 obstacles along a 12 or more mile long course.

These races are not all about having the fastest time, although you can compete like that. It’s not even about conquering the obstacles, although the analogy to Life is clear in that. The primary goal is to finish.

Before the race, an announcer gives an inspiring speech about being a Spartan. The speaker has you to look to your right and left; these are the people that will draw their strength from you and you will draw your strength from them. This is the way life is meant to be lived, not going solo but people relying on each other. So when you get out on the course and you see someone struggling with a 10’ wall to scale, a cargo net to climb, or the 20+ foot “Wall to Sparta” to scale, you are encouraged to jump to their aid and help each other out. It is the ultimate race to defeat your “I can’t do that” mentality and to show yourself that you can finish anything you put your mind to. Trudging through 8” deep mud felt impossible until we witnessed people around us enduring the same thing. It pushed us to keep going.

Throughout the trifecta we have met so many incredible people with inspiring stories. The most memorable example that we encountered was a man in a wheelchair who had a whole team of people carrying him through the race to overcome obstacles he couldn’t do alone. I do not know his specific story but witnessing this was amazing none-the-less. We also saw a man with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder doing the race with his dog, carrying the dog through the mud.

So far this year, we have completed the Ohio Beast in May (14.2 miles, 30 obstacles), the Chicago Super in June (8.5 miles, 27 obstacles), and the Chicago Sprint, just the day after the Super(5.5 miles, 24 obstacles), to complete our Trifecta for the year. Goal accomplished! Then, for good measure, since our Sprint was on the same course as our Super, we completed the Minnesota Sprint also in June (5.2 miles, 24 obstacles). The Minnesota course was brutal, starting at the bottom of a ski slope and heading up the incline. The temperature at the end of the race was 95 degrees with a heat index of 105! Crazy!

Our family has gone through a lot during all of this time; the type of things that most people don’t talk about because they want to project having it all together. The Spartan races have taught us about life lessons, team work, and about the way that we look at life. Difficulties, differences, emotions, all the hardships of life; these are not meant to be obstacles, but opportunities. Opportunities to conquer what you never thought you could!

If you are looking for a way to be challenged, a way to step out of your comfort zone, a way to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, a way to face your fears head-on; then the Spartan Races may be for you!

Berners-Schober since 1898