I recently ran the Windsor Spartan Beast, my 11th Spartan event, and only 3rd not in the “Elite” wave. The first time I ran open it was because I’d missed my wave by a few minutes at Asburnham (stupid parking). The second time I was 24 weeks pregnant, the third, 8 weeks post labour.
I started the race at 10.30, early enough to get round before the day was out, but not so early that anyone would mistake that time for anything near a competitive wave. I knew I was going to struggle, a 24km Obstacle Course Race named “The Beast”, 8 weeks after giving birth, and on 3 hours sleep (thanks baby). I knew for my own safety I would not be attempting some obstacles (atlas ball, bucket carry) and that I would be asking for a modified penalty.
It’s an open wave, no one cares right? The open waves, which make up the majority of entries, encompassing everyone from “could probably do quite well in elite” to “I will struggle to walk this distance”. No prizes, no competition, everyone running their own race, right? WRONG.
We all know the rules, one genuine attempt at an obstacle, fail that and you do your 30 burpees penalty. But we all actually know the rules are flexible. Not for the elite and competitive, which has recently seen people disqualified for not complying, but in the open wave, as long as people are there, pushing themselves, and trying, marshals are instructed to allow those with injuries or disabilities to modify; the most important aspect being that people are there trying, not sitting on the sofa. Someone is being active, so why judge them for not being as good as you?
But they do….during my last open wave race I was clearly pregnant and no one questioned me, but this time round they weren’t so kind. I don’t look like I can’t do things, nor did the lovely lady wearing a back brace doing it for charity who I kept coming across, yet time and time again we found people judging us for not doing it properly and were told “you’re only cheating yourself”. The question is, if I’m only cheating myself, why do you care? It’s because they feel hard done by.
In the last few days I have seen posts about people “cheating” mainly, from able bodied middle aged men, with comments such as “train harder and be better”. I’m sorry, but some people physically can’t.
“I don’t know how I’ll place if you’re cheating”. I took over 4 1/2 hours, you really think I’m a threat to you with my squats instead of burpees? Also, you want to place? Run elite or competitive. Open wave isn’t for placings.
To all of you who swore at me for being in your way when for the first time I wasn’t confident in my body and was actually scared. For those of you who gave me shitty looks when I walked past the rope climb and did squats, when my core was in so much pain and all I wanted to do was get back to my baby but I didn’t know how I would finish. To those who shamed a lady in a back brace who was going so much further out of her comfort zone than you were, shame on you. You’re not impressive for taking part in a Spartan Race, that’s not what OCR is about.
There is no pride is making others feel bad about themselves when they already feel terrible. Or when they’re doing their best and are proud of their achievements, and you shit on them because you’ve never suffered in the way they have, and from your point of privilege you can’t see how much work they are putting in and how big a deal this is to them.
To those who felt shamed, to the Mudd Queen I saw walking up the hill, clearly in pain, clearly struggling, but still going. To those coming back from injury, knowing they’re not at their best but trying anyway, with a smile on their face. To those who wanted to quit but kept going anyway, and to those who put out a hand and helped someone who needed it: congratulations. You ran a Spartan race, you are part of the family.