2017 is a year of challenging myself physically and mentally. It’s a year of pushing myself and seeing what my body is capable of. It’s a year of running wild. It’s this 2017 goal of mine and interstate 40 that took me and the group that joined me (my amazing girlfriend, her dad, and her brother) out to Phoenix, Arizona for the first challenge of the year…The Arizona Spartan Race.
The sun was shining but it was a chilly morning. Full of excitement we got to Fort McDowell Rodeo Grounds at 7:45am, the recommended hour and a half before our scheduled start time. As we were driving in we saw the elite men’s heat starting, some of them were running at a blistering pace, some of them were running at a steady pace and one of them was running to the bushes to pee (Seriously! About a half mile in, a guy already headed to the bushes to pee).
The venue was slowly starting to fill up with more and more people adding to the excitement of the day. We walked around, checked out the vendor booths, watched the elite men finish, and started warming up for our 9:15 heat. It was about 9am when we walked over to the start line. There was an eclectic mix of people all around us taking turns to get over the short wall you have to get over to arrive at the starting line. There were military personnel, endurance athletes, men, women, young kids, and seasoned adults. Anyone you could think of was probably in attendance. I guess this is to be expected when there are approximately 6,500 people competing on just Saturday alone.
About 9:10am the MC got on the mic and started going over what to expect as well as the rules for the course. As the time ticked closer to 9:15am, he started “pumping up” the crowd. He would yell out something then we would mimic it. This continued until he yelled, “go!” The start of the race is a mess of just trying to separate yourself from the pack. You run for about half a mile before getting to the first obstacle, a series of small walls you had to get over. From there it’s running, crawling, lifting, carrying, getting muddy, climbing, throwing, submerging yourself in water, and finally jumping over a small fire before you cross the finish line. Oh, and did I mention…If you happen to NOT complete one of the obstacles, burpees are waiting for you. As one of the shirts I saw says, “Buck Furpees.”
When you cross the finish line, you are left with mixed emotions. You are exhausted. You are achy. You are excited. You are proud. As my girlfriend’s brother joked, “I’ve never worked so hard for a participation medal.” It’s funny, but true. It’s only a participation medal for most of us, but at the same time it is much more than that. It is a badge of honor. It shows that you challenged yourself. You pushed yourself to get out of your comfort zone and try things that most sane people wouldn’t. (Let’s be honest we’re all a little insane for paying to do these events.) You weren’t content with living a civilized life. You wanted to do something uncivilized. You wanted to run wild. And for that, I commend everyone who is and continues to challenge themselves in organized ways like the Spartan Race and in unorganized ways like a spur of the moment road trip. Thank you for running wild and continue to inspire others to do the same.
And in case you’re curious of what my time was. It was…never mind, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I did it and will continue to find ways to run wild.