The Super Spartan: 6 Miles of Teamwork and Triumph
On New Year’s Eve of 2022, a gauntlet was thrown down at the gym. A call to gather and complete a 10k “Super Spartan” in the fall of 2023. The invitation came as many members were celebrating and saying farewell to 2022. The Spartan would be a 2023 problem. A New Year’s Eve promotion made it even more enticing to sign up. Ultimately, 23 Spartans answered the call, and I was among them.
A Super Spartan race is a 10k outdoor running course boasting 25 unique, grueling obstacles. Despite being generally “fit” from three years of CrossFit, I still doubt my abilities. My CrossFit friends always try to convince me a “beast” resides within everyone, even me. No matter how hard I attempt to put myself down, they push me out of my comfort zone lovingly, sarcastically, and sometimes physically. If they were there with me, I knew I could endure.
When race day finally arrived, nervous energy filled the air. We checked in and covered our wrists in bands, indicating our status as athletes and recipients of complimentary beverages post-race. We were ready to hit the starting line, positioned behind a barbwire fence. There was barely enough space to crawl to avoid piercing your bottom with sharp barbs. Anxiety compromised any regard for my surroundings, and I accidentally kicked one of my teammates on my crawl to the start. No apology could cover how embarrassed I felt at that moment.
All the serious athletes darted off recklessly. Obstacles were spaced out between stretches of wooded and grassy areas. The trails were ever-changing levels of rugged ground, puddles, and inclines. The hurdles, over-under, and a 6-foot barrier were the first few obstacles. That 6-foot wall required MUCH more effort than anticipated. The next stretch of terrain opened up to monkey bars. Looking up at them, I saw that these were outside the playground variety I was prepared for. Chunky bars were spaced generously apart, making it a physical stretch to the finish. Volunteers were stationed at each obstacle to provide support. I gazed at the bars and muttered, “I don’t think I can do this.”
A volunteer encouragingly remarked, “But what if you can?” Inspired by his words, I successfully grabbed the first bar. However, my reach for the next immediately landed me on the ground. Biting the dust while trying to get across any challenge meant one penalty lap in its place.
Obstacles continued to be formidable. Some were slippery, like the lateral navigation of an A-shaped wall known as the “Olympus” none of us managed to cross. Others, like the 30ft “Bender,” constructed of six ladder-like rungs starting 6ft off the ground, were terrifying (I immediately took the penalty lap in its place). But it was gratifying to complete the ones I did, like the “Twister” and various weighted carries.
Onward, we struggled. We quit running individual races and worked together more and more. Tall and inverted walls were conquered by boosting each other over. Weights were shared on the heaviest of carries. Everyone was either keeping pace, holding their hands in an assist, or scouting ahead for intel. Working as a team pushed us along faster and more confidently. Accomplishing obstacles, sharing complaints, and forcing each other forward became our rhythm.
On Mile 4 of 6, waiting before us was another “Barbed Wire Crawl.” This one was filled with puddles of muddy water. Embracing the spirit of a snake, I slid and slopped through puddles, avoiding all barbs. Next was a climb up a tall, sloppy ramp of mud. Disgusting and dirty, I paused at the top to survey the other side—a steep slide into chest-deep water, ending in a blockade. Everyone around me confidently slid down to disappear under the wall. This was my nightmare; I hate being underwater and can’t swim.
Hesitant to take the plunge, I carefully lowered myself down the incline and into the small pond. Despite my efforts to stay composed, I was overwhelmed with panic and nearly in tears. One of my teammates noticed my distress and got to my side. She encouraged me to touch the bottom with my hand, demonstrating it wasn’t life-threateningly deep. It felt like I could crawl under after all! “Now, put your other hand down,” she told me. As soon as I got my other hand down, WOOSH, I was abruptly propelled forward and popped out on the other side. She pushed me!! I grabbed the first arm I saw and was dragged out, soaking wet and filthy from head to toe. Without that push, I was ready to tap out. It was an exhilarating challenge and just what many of us needed.
Finally, we reached the last obstacle, the “Fire Jump.” A leap over flames to the finish line. This is a guaranteed photo opportunity for all participants. We decided to make the jump as a team. Feeling the heat on my calves, I hesitated and hopped a millisecond later. The photo still turned out fantastic. My dad printed 8×10 copies of our jump, one to hang at the gym and another for my office at work.
Accomplishing the 10k was only possible with my friends and teammates. Most have already registered for the next “Spartan” event in 2024. Some even plan to complete three races (5k, 10k, and 21k) to earn the coveted “Trifecta” medal. I gave that race my best shot and can only do better on the next go of it. Overall, it was a proud highlight of my year, emerging victorious and claiming the title of “Spartan.”