Andy and Brandon with friends after Palm Beach Spartan Sprint.

Our Minds:

“Are you crazy?” “Why would you pay to do that?” “Isn't that impossibly hard?” “I can't do that. I would fail.”

Before we sign up for our first obstacles course race, so many thoughts run through our minds. I took some time to run with and talk to people about their first race. How they felt and what they were thinking. Where they felt there were physically and if they felt ready to run the race.  I also asked them what advice they would give someone on the fence about running an OCR.

Elizabeth taking on the rings at Greek Peak Spartan Sprint.

Starting Point:

I asked them where they would label themselves when it came to their fitness levels. Those responses ranged from somewhat athletic, beginner, average, to morbidly obese sedentary office worker. They all came from different lifestyles. Some have kids at home others do not. They had different jobs and workout regimens. Each had different dietary restrictions and some even have multiple health struggles they are dealing with. Each came into the event with their own unique history and goals.

Fear and worry seem to be one of the biggest reasons people are hesitant to sign up.  When I asked what they feared the most, it seemed pretty consistent. Worry about being able to do the obstacles was the number one fear. Others worried how long the race would take, would they even be able to finish, or if they would they be able to keep up with friends who had run before.  Would people laugh at them when they failed an obstacle or had to walk? What if you need help over the starting wall? These thoughts are common, I think, for almost all first-time racers. I had never seen a wall climb before my first race, and I knew from trying at the gym I couldn't climb a rope either. Perfection isn't a requirement to try one of these race.

Sarah told me, “Just a few years ago, I was morbidly obese, could barely walk, I was too weak to carry groceries, laundry, even getting the mail was an arduous process.”  When I asked why she finally signed up she said, “I was peer pressured into signing up for a Spartan.  By peer pressured, I mean someone said a bunch of awesome, fun people were doing it.”

Race Day:

On our first race day we almost all go through a long list of emotions. Nervous. Excited. Scared. Worried. Some are even fighting a cold or minor illness. Sheri told me, “Honestly, I had an ear infection and probably shouldn't have run it. But I was also feeling incredibly stubborn and proud to be able to do it, so I still did.” Sometimes people chose to do these also as New Year's Resolutions or for a special event. One new OCR enthusiast, Brandon, replied about his first race day:

I was with friends and it was my birthday, so I felt pretty good!  I was running with a couple of friends who were also first timers, so we were able to band together and say “Okay, let's focus on finishing…no fancy heroics, just finishing.” And that helped us settle some nerves.”

Many did have problems with obstacles when the day came. Buckets or sandbangs did get set down during carries, but they got picked back up and the obstacle was finished. Help was needed to get over walls, but no one laughed and everyone helped each other. Burpees were done, and then more burpees. Somehow, everyone I spoke with tried Spartan Race as their first race, even though locations and distances did vary.

Julia's favorite thing from her first race day was “mustering up what little I had left in my tank for the fire jump at the end, the crossing the finish line & getting my Spartan Beast metal.” She chose to run a trifecta, and in the northeast, we have two main Spartan Beasts: Vernon, New Jersey or Killington, Vermont. She had picked New Jersey, which meant her first ever race was a Beast. Her least favorite thing about the race was the elevation: “Every time I thought we were done climbing, we had to keep climbing more.”

Brandon at the Palm Beach Spartan Sprint.

Words of Advice:

Would they do it again? The answer was a resounding yes from everyone. Many had already signed up for more sprints, others for supers, as well as beasts. A few even decided to go for a Spartan Trifecta their first year after how much they enjoyed their first race.  They all had words of encouragement and advice for those who are on the fence about signing up.

“Do it! The reward of knowing you left everything you had on that course…whether you complete every obstacle or not, whether you have to do tons of burpees as penalty.  Proving anything is possible, no matter how hard it is physically or mentally.” – Julia

“Do It! You'll surprise yourself! ” – Elizabeth

“The number one thing I hear about OCRs is, “But I don't like running.” I think more people need to realize that unless you are running an elite wave, the majority of people in the race aren't running. They are there for the camaraderie, friendship, fun and adventure. Many don't run more than a total of a quarter of the race, because the running isn't what it's all about. So not liking to run should be the least of their worries.” – Sheri

“It’s a blast, people will help you, it’s like summer camp for grownups, there are people of all abilities, there’s no pressure, and bring a change of clothes and shoes.” -Sarah

“Grab a partner, a friend, a team, and go sign up. Halfway through, you will hate yourself, but at the finish line all of that will melt away, and the euphoria hits and binds you to your group, your friends. That's something life can't take away from you, that feeling. You'll leave and go back to work, back to life, and each negative situation that comes up, you'll hear it in your mind: “Is it as tough as that sandbag carry? Remember when you helped your friend over that wall? Remember when they helped you?” And all of a sudden, those negatives don't seem so insurmountable. It's an experience you can carry with you forever, and that is always worth the sacrifice.” – Brandon

“Do it. Push yourself to achieve something great and memorable. You're stronger than you think. ” – Andy

Julia after she finished her 1st race, the Spartan Vernon, New Jersey Beast.

In the End:

None of them regret signing up. I know I personally regret waiting years till I felt “ready” to try my first race. If I have learned anything over the past few years talking to those around me at races is that we all have stories, and we all have starting points. We are all just out there pushing ourselves outside of the box and trying something many chose to not even attempt. Don't let fear hold you back. Take a friend and push yourself and sign up. Even if you only run one race at least you will know you pushed yourself outside of your comfort zone. You might just be shocked and have the time of your life.

Running with Elizabeth at her first race, Spartan Greek Peak Sprint.


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