I signed up for my first Spartan Race in the fall of 2016 after a coach at my gym decided to get a team together. I had been working out pretty regularly for about a year after being away from exercise for a long time. I ran my first Broad Street Run in Philadelphia (10-miler) a few months earlier and was training for the upcoming Philadelphia Half Marathon, also my first. I considered myself an average runner at best but was up for a new challenge.
Long story short, my experience at the October 2016 Tri-State Super in Vernon, New Jersey wasn’t the best. I felt completely ill-equipped! I had done some research on sites like Mud Run Guide so fortunately I had the right gear for the most part but it didn’t matter. It was 40 degrees, rained the entire time and I was miserable. I sprained my ankle around mile 2. I almost fell off the top of the Slipwall. I have a candid picture a friend took of my face as I approached the Rig; it’s priceless. I finished the race but I was soaked, freezing and frustrated. I left, swearing I’d never do another Spartan Race again.
And I Meant it…
…until the following spring, when the same people from the same gym got another team together for the April 2017 Tri-State Beast. I considered staying home, but after a serious case of FOMO I decided to give Spartan Race and myself another chance. Taking everything I learned from the Super, I showed up in better shape, both physically and mentally. I had an awesome time and was hooked!
When OCR becomes a Family Affair
After Tri-State, my twin sister signed up to race with me at the Pennsylvania Super in Palmerton. She’s a Type-1 diabetic and had recently lost 40 pounds as she was getting back in shape. She was tired of being my pit crew and sitting on the sideline. We trained together and were super excited for the race. We ran together but unfortunately, she fractured her ankle on the course (she finished the race, not knowing the extent of her injury). She recovered in time for us to race the Stadium Sprint at Citizens Bank Park together. I know I would have had a faster time had I gone it alone, but nothing was more meaningful to me than crossing the finish line with my twin sister and best friend after watching her rehab her ankle all summer. I earned my first Trifecta there, but seeing her happiness and pride at completing the race was even more rewarding.
The Road so far
Along with another go at Broad Street and the Philly Half Marathon and some local road races in between, I also ran my first Rugged Maniac and Savage Race in 2017. While different in format than Spartan, both were really fun and challenging in their own right.
That’s my OCR journey to date. I’m not an elite athlete, but I work hard to keep getting better. Maybe I’ll sign up for a competitive heat this year, or maybe I’ll just stay in the open waves. I’ve got at least seven Spartan Races on tap for 2018, along with a Rugged Maniac X, Savage Race and Tough Mudder as well as the road races in Philly/New Jersey/Delaware that I’ve decided to make a new tradition. I’m excited to keep racing with my sister and encouraging my running team at work as we include OCR in our schedule.
What I love about OCR is that it pushes me deep outside my comfort zone in every way possible. It can be a sufferfest, but the feeling you get when completing an obstacle you failed at a previous race can only be topped by the feeling of crossing the finish line. It’s like nothing else. Even when I fail an obstacle it’s motivation to learn and improve for next time. Those feelings are what I try to convey to others when I talk to them about OCR. I also tell them about this amazing community and how helpful people are, both on and off the course. Participating in OCR is the hardest yet most rewarding thing I’ve ever done and I would highly recommend it to any athlete (elite or mere mortal) who’s looking for a new sport.