This weekend, I became a Spartan.
I didn’t do it alone. Along with my team, my fellow Spartans were a diverse group—men and women, old and young, fit and unfit, every shape and size imaginable. Their tribes for the day were co-workers, spouses, friends and the strangers in front, behind and to either side of them along the course.
They all had a story.
And we were ALL there to kick ass in whatever way we could through the 9-mile course scattered with 27 extremely challenging obstacles. To prove to ourselves that “we can do hard things.”
Believing and saying “we can do hard things” became the mantra that kept our team going.
You know what I learned? Nothing can stop the human spirit. Nothing!
It was my first Super Spartan race.
I trained, more than some, less than others. And in the weeks leading up to the race, I went through every single emotion possible: anxiety, confidence, fear, doubt, “What the hell am I thinking?” and back again to confidence. I finally settled on my objective for the day: Finish and have a great experience along the way.
At the end, I did finish. Ahead of some, behind others. Bruised, a little bloody and sore. Competing and finishing proved that “we can do hard things.” Along with my medal and an enormous feeling of accomplishment, I was given the best gift. A renewed appreciation for the power of the human spirit.
Here are four experiences that will be etched on my mind long after my bruises and soreness fade. They are extraordinary examples of the human spirit that prove “we can do hard things” and your body only breaks when your mind does.
- Almost broken by barbed wire
One of the obstacles was the Barbed Wire Crawl. This obstacle was placed approximately 200 yards on a ski slope with barbed wire about a foot off the ground that you had to crawl under going uphill on your knees and elbows. There was really NO WAY to get through it without a little blood.My strategy was to just attack it. So, I picked a lane where there weren’t a lot of people and took off like I knew what I was doing, passing people and crushing it.When I thought I was about ¾ of the way through and feeling sore and starting to bleed, I looked up. I couldn’t believe it. I was ONLY halfway through. Not even close and I was exhausted.In that moment I thought, “This is beyond me.” This was the hardest physical challenge I had ever done and I realized I needed a new strategy.After a few deep breaths, I collected my thoughts. I then began to focus on JUST getting to the NEXT pole. One pole at a time until I conquered it! Sometimes life is just this way.“We can do hard things.”
- “Disability is in your mind.”
About ¾ of the way through the course, our team approached a hill. I like to run up hills. It’s something I’ve always done. When I suggested to my team that we run up the hill, they all said, “No, we’re exhausted. We’ll walk up and then run down the other side.” Just as that conversation happened, we saw an extraordinary warrior running down the hill. But as a double amputee, he was running on his hands because he didn’t have legs. What?Without another word, my entire group began to run up that hill.I later found out this Spartan was Kacey McCallister who has his own extraordinary story to tell. He encourages others to Rise Up by sharing his personal journey, positive attitude and message that “disability is in your mind.”“We can do hard things.”
- Lending a hand
Throughout the day, I saw strangers along the course lift each other up—physically and emotionally. The kindness was reciprocal. When you needed it, you received it. When you saw another in need, you freely gave.Sometimes the women helped the men. Other times, the men helped the women.We were competing in the heat of the day, and there would be times that you’d walk by a competitor who sat in the shade on the sidelines of the course. You’d ask, “Are you doing OK?” And let them know you were there for them if they needed help. No one was left behind.But, my new friend Kacey awed me again with his generous spirit at the Atlas Carry.After he unknowingly motivated my team to run up the hill, we caught up with him again at the Atlas Carry. One of the hardest parts about this obstacle was lifting the 60- to 100-pound cement ball off the ground. Kacey offered to help a fellow competitor lift the ball off the ground. The incredulous competitor (this guy has NO legs and he’s offering to help?) accepted the help, and I watched as Kasey levered the ball off the ground and lifted it up into the hands of his fellow Spartan.Not only did Kacey have an incredible attitude and was getting through this grueling course himself, he was helping others along the way. It was just a beautiful thing.
“We can do hard things.”
- You truly are amazing but you have to believe in yourselfSelf doubt is, in my opinion, the single worst enemy anyone has. It can sneak up on you when you least expect it. The key is to surround yourself with people that pick you up when it creeps in. To be aware of it and to eliminate the “I can’t” talk altogether because you can!The last thing you do in a Spartan race is jump over fire. After my team finished—incredibly exhausted and proud—we sat and watched other competitors break through that finish line in pure pain and joy.There was a gentleman who caught my eye. He was close to 300 pounds and right after he came off the last obstacle before the fiery finish line, he collapsed. Tears streamed down his face. You could just tell he was blown away at his own awesomeness. His team gathered around him with words of encouragement, “Just one more to go. You got this. Let’s do it.” They locked arms with one another and jumped to the end together. This was the beauty of the human spirit.“We can do hard things.”
Overcoming these obstacles—not only physically, but mentally—is the intent of the Spartan. This was the most Red Shoes thing I’ve done in a long time. Just seeing the beauty of the human spirit was incredible. There were thousands of people out there last weekend and all of them were wearing Red Shoes.
So, next time you’re facing a situation that you think is hard, remember, you are always capable of much more than you are telling yourself at that very moment. Put yourself out there and watch what the human spirit can power us to achieve.
“YOU can do hard things.”