When you first hear about Spartan Racing, you expect hundreds of burly men with chiselled abs to be throwing your carcass about the countryside as they trample their way to glory.
Though that is far from what you find among the challenges in distant lands, brought forth by Sparta!
When you question anyone on the matter, they utter the words “you’ll know at the finish line” these words fill my head, floating conscious, within the void in my mind.
I never felt that comfortable living within my own mind. It took me a long time to understand and control the energy within me, still more to become mindful, or to practise being more “still” at times.
Normal people don’t just grit their teeth and train in all elements to break themselves down as human beings; they don’t just run in hail, snow, rain, through 40mph winds and muddy trenches, dragging sandbags or shifting 40 kilo buckets half a mile up the road, just before they reach the rope climb (which you haven’t done since school by the way), followed by some monkey bars and hanging rings…
But this world of OCR (Obstacle Course Racing), it’s something more people are drawn to all the time. And why?
In this life we are becoming too civilised, if the lights went out, most would likely cower under a desk, or pinch some tinned peaches from the local supermarket.
Ultimately, we are oppressed and have been for too long, by this social protocol that defines our level of success and accomplishment. It’s choking us. From the moment we leave higher education and enter the real world there’s a timeline that we must adhere to in terms of our money, our job title, our car, our house, our spouse, the wedding, future babies and beyond… but the Spartan methodology focuses on completely stripping back everything you thought you knew about yourself and galvanising what’s left in the reality.
My journey has led me to compete throughout the mountains in Poland, Slovakia and Czech, the forests and military sand plains that surround Berlin; it’s led me baking in the sun across the arid fields and vineyards of Italy and crawling through bogs in Windsor before running every inch of Twickenham Stadium and it’s given me something so much more valuable than a focus, it’s given me my soul back.
I spent a long time feeling empty; as individuals we always dwell too much on what’s happened previously in our life and we let that gauge how we feel emotionally, we also focus too much on what we want in the future, as we rush towards it with open arms while it evades us. But most of us are rarely ever truly present.
A Spartan Race will make you feel as present as you can get, almost as immediately as your foot leaves the start line!
The best metaphor for what I have faced is this; when you’re deep in the woods in the middle of nowhere and you’re completely alone, all those about you have been left behind or deserted you, everything within you is exhausted and you are aching to sit down and rest, but you realise, just how far from the end you are, from the finish line, from the energy and buzz within the crowd of spectators as you claw your way over that threshold into Spartan history…
It’s in that moment that you find yourself, you are conscious, present and you just allow yourself to acknowledge that you are the only one that can move your physical form further forward. It is in that moment, that you know who you truly are within, you’re a soul within a vessel and by hook or by crook you’ve got to move that vessel out of the darkness. Now the vessel is not always supportive, but you know the voyage is down to you.
Nothing that you face physically as you pit yourself against a Spartan Race is ever any different from what you feel capable of in life. We all know exercise is good for us, but we’re generally apathetic as to making it habitually part of our lifestyle. What Spartan does is force you to realise that you are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for… you may sit at a desk all day, but it doesn’t mean you can’t scale an 8 foot wall, throw a spear or carry a sandbag up and down a hill and it’s when you achieve these physical goals, your mind is organically more open, you feel as if there could be other lies in your life you’ve been telling yourself… I mean, male and female alike, before Spartan you’d never have thought you could lift an atlas stone, but you did!
Lots of people who nip out for a jog won’t go out in the rain… Lots of people who own a dog, won’t go out in the rain… Why? What’s the damage? The truth is, there is none, there is only growth!
Some of my most profound and resonating moments in my life have been while running up a mountain in the middle of a storm or tackling a forest after dark. Sure, it’s not comfortable, but my want to become immune to anxiety has led me to a point where it’s leaving me slowly for good and it’s because I choose the discomfort I suffer, that I might become wholly more resilient both physically and mentally; indefinitely.
In choosing discomfort, you are opening yourself up to the unknown. The unknown is a scary place, it’s where all those things that you can’t do live, it’s where all the stuff that makes you feel nervous lives, it’s where you store that anxious energy… You’ve got it nicely wrapped up in a box of no review, but there’s a warrior in a helmet pushing you to empty that box and harass and tread on what lingers! What choice do you make?
In the Matrix it’s the difference between a red or a blue pill. On one hand you can continue subdued and ignorant, onward with ease and angst to the societal end gain, but on the other you can ache, bleed and bruise your way to a different state of mind.
Now I didn’t make the latter of the two choices sound very appealing, but that’s because it’s not. It’s only there for the deserving, it’s only there for those who seek to find… It’s only there if within your heart you ache for something more.
Since taking that pill and choosing my path of hardship I’ve evolved. I’ve evolved my mindset, I’ve evolved my exercise, I’ve evolved my nutrition and my eating habits, I’ve evolved my sense of self.
I’ve genuinely just found myself again, at the edge of the suffering shell I was existing in previously. I have less negative days (sure the dark moments still come but they’re different now, I feel as if I’m looking out of the hole and I know there’s a ladder or a way to form my escape if I adapt), I have far more positive and energising experiences and my time with family and friends is more precious; savoured as I’m present.
And the thought of that energy as I stare back down the mountain I just ran up; it consumes me over the thought that I might wither and pale into non-existence.
So when I say that this ‘Spartan Methodology’ might be healing my disorder, it’s because I know more of myself than I did at the start of my journey, I know these walls and barbed wires won’t kill me, it’s just become evidential that there’s nothing that will hold me back or slow me down in this path through life. You will always hit hurdles, there will always be that sandbag of anxiety to heave around the next corner and over that cargo net that is our working life, but when the cargo net ends and you throw the sandbag back in the trough, the next segment seems lighter, you feel as if you’re floating towards the next challenge, the next challenge that you will most certainly find a way to overcome!
So, here’s to the Spartans, the fleet of foot, the end gamers and the boundless, I am with you, I am one of you and long may our limbs drag us through the mud that binds us…