Obstacle after Obstacle – What my first Spartan Race adventure taught me
Imagine this scenario: It’s Saturday morning, 5.15 am, pitch-black outside with a temperature of -3° Celsius and icy winds. Your alarm clock rings. Your job demands from you to get out of your bed, put on your running shoes and head off to run 5k, spiced with hundreds of stairs, sandbags, medicine balls, ropes, walls and other obstacles. For some who have no clue, this might sound like a job in which you’d better polish your LinkedIn profile soon. For Reebok employees like me, moments like these are why we’ve chosen to work for this brand. But let’s start at the beginning. Before last weekend, we hosted a media event at the Reebok Global Headquarters in Canton, Massachusetts. In order to give the guests from all over the world a taste of the true Reebok spirit, the agenda included the participation in the Reebok Spartan Race in Boston for all of us. I’d seen Reebok Spartan Race set ups in Germany before and though they had looked pretty tough, a Spartan Sprint means only 5k and claims to be “a true adventure that anyone can do and everyone should try”. On top of this, I was of course equipped with the perfect shoes, so how difficult could this be?
How the Spartan community revealed to me what it’s all about
Thus, at the sound of our starting signal, I ran off together with the rest of our group, full of confidence and was excited to discover the first obstacle. A few flights of stairs and a couple of hundred meters later, a huge wooden wall blocked the course. The runner ahead of me didn’t even slow down, he just jumped towards the obstacle and pulled himself over it. This seemed an easy one, so I imitated him, leaped towards the wall, reached for the top of it – and fell right back onto the ground. I’d missed the edge by at least half a meter. But before I could even really figure out what just happened, a fellow racer stopped beside me, put out his hands to help me out with a leg-up and seconds later, I was on the other side of the wall, back on track. Not even one minute into the race, the Spartan community had revealed to me what it’s all about: achieving things you thought you weren’t capable of, with the help of your fellow runners.
Feeling stronger now…
Spurred by this first success, we conquered the next obstacles without bigger problems. Climbing up nets, hefting water canisters, throwing medicine balls, skipping with heavy climbing ropes – all these were demanding, but doable. And with each one, you felt stronger and more confident.
Spartans visiting the home of the Red Sox
I was so happy with how good we were doing that, from time to time, I stopped a moment to take in the atmosphere and to remind myself of how special this moment actually was: after all, we were not only doing a Reebok Spartan Race, but we were doing it in a location which was anything but ordinary: the Fenway Park. The home of the Red Sox. One of the last classic baseball stadiums of the US. How far this stadium actually dates back in history becomes evident by the fact that its opening was hardly mentioned in any newspaper – it was overshadowed by the sinking of the Titanic. More than 100 years later, the Reebok Spartan Race enabled us to explore every last corner (and what felt like every single step) in this historic place. We even did 25 push-ups right in the middle of the locker room of the Red Sox!
“If it was out of desperation or out of pride, I don’t know anymore”
A few miles into the race, I allowed myself to hope that I could finish without even one failed obstacle. At this point, the hope probably originated from the fact that I wasn’t sure if I was physically able to perform the penalty anymore. 30 burpees are just so many. And then came the eight uneven bars that you needed to move through hand by hand. My colleague was clever and moved over to the burpee section without even trying. I tried. If it was out of desperation or out of pride, I don’t know anymore. All I know is, four bars and one more fall to the ground later, I joined my colleague doing burpees. And another five minutes later, we were lying flat on the ground again, in the next burpee section. Revelation of the day: throwing a spear into a haystack is trickier than it sounds. And my arms signaled that they didn’t really like this new Saturday morning activity anymore.
I knew at the finish line
Soon enough though, we were entering the actual baseball pitch, looking at the ranks of the stadium from the players’ view, ahead of us a few last challenges and the finish line already in sight. This view was motivation enough to gather all our remaining energy and push through. The slogan of the Reebok Spartan Race is: “You’ll know at the finish line.” And I really did, even if I needed more than twice as long as the winner. Since that day, “earning a trifecta” has been the latest addition to my bucket list. All I need to do for that: finishing a Spartan Sprint (5k), a Spartan Super (12k) and a Spartan Beast (20k) within one year. I guess I better start practicing those burpees.