Spartan races take place all over the world, but they have two things in common: vast quantities of mud and over 20 military-style obstacles. What does it take to become a Spartan? Here are 5 tips that got me to the finish line on my first Spartan race.
1. Be afraid, but don't quit.
In the weeks before the race, my stomach was knotted in anxiety. Several of our team members had to drop out due to injuries or other plans, leaving only three of us. On top of that, in Spain, people eat bread more than they breathe. I have an "open-mouth" policy when it comes to carbs, so I had definitely gained a pound or two. I felt sure I would be unable to finish the race, and the possibility of failure terrified me. Everything in me wanted to drop out, but I'm so glad I didn't. Fear is the worst excuse for quitting and the best reason to persist.
2. Enjoy the ride.
The first leg of the race involved hiking up one of the mountains. When we reached the top, I was winded and irritated that I had been moving too slowly, but the view made all of that disappear. I was in the mountains of Northern Spain slogging through mud, rocks, and trees, pushing my body to its limits. I wanted to be challenged, and this was the perfect opportunity. Always take a brave, wild moment to soak it all in.
3. Rely on your tribe.
I would not have survived without Elaina and Kate. These gals were two beautiful buckets of positivity, and I relied on their energy to keep going. During the race, there were many exclamations of "Hey, give my butt a little push!" or "Here, I'll give you a leg up!" We encouraged each other throughout the entire weekend. We literally carried each other through an obstacle or two. Find your tribe of fierce Spartan warriors that will both challenge you and carry you.
4. Embrace the burpees
Failure happens. Climbing to the top of a muddy rope was not in the cards for me. Nor was accurately throwing a spear to hit a target. I hadn't practiced my spear-throwing at all because I couldn't find a single person that would stand still and let me throw spears at them. In a Spartan race, the penalty for failing an obstacle is 30 burpees. Embrace failure, and remember that every burpee makes you just a little bit stronger.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with burpees, here's how to do one:
1. Drop to a plank position.
2. Lower your body to the ground.
3. Push yourself back up to a plank position.
4. Bring your feet up to your hands.
5. Put your hands in the air and jump as high as you can.
6. Begin picking out your casket 'cause you got 29 more of these, sweetheart.
5. Realize that you are capable of so much more than you think.
I stared at the apparatus in front of me with wide eyes. To complete the obstacle, one must hang upside down by the arms and legs and use the rungs to get to the other side. The bars got higher and further apart as the obstacle progressed, slippery mud caked on every rung. My arms could best be described as having the brute strength of angel-hair pasta noodles, so I was fairly certain I was going to end up flat on my back in the mud with the wind knocked out of me (like the grape stomping lady). But something happened as I grabbed the first rung. My doubt disappeared, and only one thing held my focus: the next rung. The further I progressed, the more I wanted to succeed. When the girl in front of me froze midway through the obstacle, I held on as tightly as I could until my path was clear. When my leg slipped off the bar behind me, I quickly wrapped it around the next rung to keep from falling. Suddenly, I was slapping the bell at the end of the obstacle. There is nothing more rewarding than overcoming odds and succeeding; don't let the fear of failure keep you from trying.
Jumping over fire with my fellow warrior queens and jogging the last few steps to the finish line will forever be one of my favorite memories- and of course, receiving that shiny new medal hanging in my room...