Vanessa Lynn Campos and others helping a racer with severe fear of going under the dunk wall.

Are you alone?

When someone first starts looking into running an obstacle course race, often they are sitting on their phone and an ad pops up. Most newbies to the sport don't know others who run. This article is aimed at them. The people who want to sign up but are not sure about it because they do not have anyone to go with them. They worry about what will happen when they are on that course alone. Running alone and taking on such a challenge is scary for most people. It is not something they do day to day and fear is normal. What I am here to tell you is that you are not alone on that course.

Now let me get this disclaimer out of the way. This is not how you should run in Elite, Pro, Age Group, or whatever other competitive heats there are between all the brands. Those heats have strict rules about getting outside help.

I know first hand that this happens often on course.  When asked on Facebook many people came forward to tell me their first-hand stories. I hope that by showing you these stories it might help a bit with this fear and give you that push you need to sign up for your first race.

Are you really alone?

I talked to a number of OCR participants who talked about their experiences:

  • “Charlotte Super, the first time seeing the new Vertical Cargo with the Irish table. I ran up, tried and failed by falling on my ass. Without missing a beat, someone behind me offered a hand up and said “On 3, we’ll get up” and he bent over to boost me. No, questions asked. He just did” – Chrissy N Ichols
  • ” 2012, when I was still very much a newbie racer. I was at a race that no longer exists, confronted with a Jacob’s Ladder-style obstacle for the first time. I was (and am) afraid of heights, and back then the fear was near-paralyzing. A young man held up his entire team to talk me through the obstacle, and they patiently waited until I had both feet back on the ground before moving on.” – Rachel Rodriguez
  • “It was the Ohio sprint 2017 when I found myself separated from my friends. I came across a limping Spartan. I walked with him, made sure he was ok and chatted for a bit. Up next was my biggest fear, the inverted wall and it had been drizzling all day. The wall was conveniently placed on top of a hill. I was terrified of slipping and rolling down the hill so I asked my fellow Spartan to help. I asked him to simply stand with his hands on my back so he can catch me if I slipped. Sure enough, I slipped and he was right there to catch me. I was so scared I was shaking. I think of him every time I conquer that wall. He didn't know me, but he was my hero and still is. I pay it forward every chance I get.”- Lee Stewart-Sharp
  • “So the eve of the race I celebrated my cousin's 39th birthday. Up until that day, I trained and was ready for race day but Sunday weather conditions was harsh it became difficult to bear. I was numb, and I was dehydrated because I had 3 too many. My first 6 miles I was powerhouse then I fatigued rapidly. I ran out of my goodies. I was alone and voices told me to quit after mile 7. I hugged the trees, I spoke to god, I fought against the voices, I literally quit mentally 5 times but I ran into a couple of people who gave me a sugar gummies and we spoke, even laughed. Without those little things, I wouldn't haven't gotten through.” – Daniel Dkc

Slip wall at Spartan Race Tahoe.

Do you still feeling you will be doing this alone?

A few others who responded had even more stories to tell me.

Erin Mason was at the Fort Benning Sprint: “I got to a wall, fell, and a guy said, ‘Step on my back!' Thank you sir!!!” At the Central Florida Beast, she jumped up on the Irish Table and her calf twisted in a ridiculous cramp. “I shouted CRAAAMMMP as I fell back down, smacking my head on the way to the ground. I looked up to find 5 people standing over me with mustard packs and one guy stretching my calf.” At another race, she forgets which one she was doing Olympus and started to slip. Quickly another runner helped hold her up and she made it to the bell.  

Brittany Pickering told me,

Honestly I have started all but 1 of my spartan races alone. I am a very slow racer who does take a lot of breaks where i sit down on the side of the trail. Every single time I do this I have lost count of how many people ask if I am okay. After a yes, I usually get a fist bump or pat on the back telling me i got this. My biggest moment was in Fayetteville this year. I have an absolute fear of the slip wall,  well when I got to it I made it at the same time as Tom Maming, who encouraged me to give it a try and he would go up behind me. I got 3/4th of the way up and like every time I lost my footing and slipped. Except this time my feet didn't hit ground they hit his feet, he braced himself while I got my footing back up and I kneed my self up and over. I was absolutely ecstatic! Right after we both assisted another spartan over the inverted wall. I always try to help give a helping hand when I can. I always have extra mustard packets and slim jims/or gummies or helping other women over walls! This community makes it so that we truly never do race alone!

Michelle Meli flipping the mene tire with Sonny McNulty ready to back her up.

William Duriez told me his story as well:

This weekend I traveled to the east coast to take on Palmerton alone. I packed extra fuel and mustard packs to pass out when I came across someone in need. I always pay it forward, ever since I took on the Lebec Beast in SoCal last year with only water in that heat. At mile 10, I felt dizzy and light-headed and sat down in the shade to try and recover myself and couldn’t. A guy stopped and gave me some chews, mustard, and sat with me for about 10 minutes to make sure I was okay. We ended up doing the next 3 miles together before finishing the last mile alone. Since then, I always motivate people and help people along the way. I know how great it felt and I have since then made it a point to pay it forward at every race.

Sometimes you don't even need to ask.

I posted this question shortly after Palmerton this summer, the local Spartan Race for me. I also know that many who sign up just see sprint or super.  They do not always know exactly what they are getting themselves into. I personally always over pack so that I can help give out any and all aid I can to those I find in need on the course. Most of the time people do not ask for help. I see them and can tell there is a struggle going on. Help can come in a few different ways. It can be as simple as a word of encouragement. Sometimes it is help on an obstacle. A leg up, a shoulder to stand on, a helping hand to get down safely. Others have needed electrolytes, food, or medical help. I also always carry a small first aid kit with band-aids and such with me too.

I never want to see someone not finish due to a mental struggle. I even walked a full lap once with a friend when we were in a competitive wave who rolled her ankle in mile 1 of a 6-mile course so she wouldn't have to walk alone. She was determined to finish and I wanted to encourage her however allowed to do so.

Take That Leap.

Renee Poisson helping Dana Jucikas at Ashville on Olympus.

I hope that while you read this it made you smile. I also am hoping that it has made you realize you can do this. Take that leap and sign up. You are not out there on these courses alone. There will be other racers right beside you, willing to help you out. If you need help just ask. We have all been in your shoes at one point or another.

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