Be Proud, Be Strong, Be Spartan: Finding myself in the mud.
Most mornings, you will see me hitting that snooze button no end of times before I finally manage to drag myself out of the warm comfort of my bed. However, during race season I am out of the bed and raring to go with nervous excitement long before my alarm is ready to ring! You see for me, the race season means spending weekends with my friends doing something we all enjoy, long chats around a camp fire, badges of honour (bruises) and of course, the medals.
Back in 2014 I was a totally different person, coming out of a long term relationship a little worse for wear with no confidence and no direction. A friend suggested that I joined them at an OCR (Obstacle Course Race). At first I squealed when I jumped into the mud, thinking that my new trainers were dirty, but the sense of achievement was amazing and something I had been longing for. I was hooked!
My second race was at Spartan and I loved every minute of it, after all, there are not many races where they have a real life Spartan to start the waves off. This race was the hardest thing I had ever done but that final jump across the fire at the end meant more to me than I realised and I broke down in floods of tears, having given it my all. Little did I know where the next few years would take me and how far out of my comfort zone I could push myself.
Since then I have gone from strength to strength and have formed strong bonds along the way. For OCR racers, it's not just the race that means something, it is the friendships you make and the community that supports you in both the good times and bad. Even if I’m not taking part in a Spartan, you will usually see me at races, either marshalling or just hanging out.
2017 was a year for conquering more than just obstacles; it was also about conquering my self doubt and time to finally believe in myself. Yes, I know that I’m not the fastest or strongest out there, but it takes a lot for me to give up and I will keep going until I get to the end. Something that has served me well in tougher extreme endurance events I’ve taken part in.
Last year I managed to complete my Spartan Trifecta (where you take on the Sprint, Super, and Beast in one calendar year) This was a goal I had set for my 40th year, and a challenge that I finally felt ready for. Trust me to take on the hardest of the Trifecta races, the Beast in a different country and alongside some of the top elite athletes. The race took place in Marseille in some of the most breath taking scenes I have ever come across, that’s what I had to keep telling myself as I carried a breeze block up the side of a mountain! I had never done a Spartan race where some of the obstacles were mandatory; meaning that if you didn’t get over/under/through them then your race was over. Also, there were no Haribo or friendly hugs from marshals!
Although I had gone with friends I was racing this on my own and I knew that the voices in my head would be telling me that I wasn’t good enough and that I should quit. However, a new voice that was a little louder told me that I just need to keep going. Seeing my friend at the finish line to cheer me in was emotional, I think I finish nearly every race in tears! But it was yet another challenge I had taken on and beaten, including the spear throw, no ‘Le Burpee’ on that one for me.
There are many strong women that I look up to in the OCR world and I am very fortunate to have created fierce friendships with them. In the beginning I used to feel intimidated by these ladies and would pass a nervous smile their way when I saw them at Spartan (they are reading this now). At the start my journey all of my previous insecurities followed me but they have slowly been pushed off that cliff and have allowed me to build strong relationships with people whom I admire and respect.
I want women to believe in themselves, and know that they can achieve those goals that seem so far away, I also want to inspire future generations and I hope that I am doing so already with my Goddaughter. I have taken her to a few events now and it has given her a chance to be free in way that children seldom do these days. She tackles each obstacle in her own unique way and never gives up. She has her own day to day obstacles to overcome, having been diagnosed with Autism last year which makes me even more proud of her. She continues to amaze and inspire me in the way she deals with these challenges and has already started to make her mark at races.
With 40% of attendees at Spartan races being women, it shows that it is not a male dominated sport as most people would believe, it's not as scary or inaccessible as it appears. We are there to represent strong women of all ages and abilities and to get rid of the stereotypes these races may have in the wider community, or indeed the stereotypes that women face day to day.
This year is already shaping up to be extremely exciting with the first of 6 Spartan race weekends across England, Scotland, and Ireland race being held down in Spartan race being held down in St Clere, Kent on the 8th April. I can’t wait to be there, it’s been a long time since October and my last Spartan race so will be good to get back on it! The team at Spartan are great and it’s always an easy choice for me when they are looking for volunteers. I’m hoping to encourage more of my friends to take on an OCR with the Sprint version (5km+) being a great introduction into my crazy world. I'm hoping to see a few more new faces on that start line this year, shyly smiling at each other.
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Aroo Aroo Aroo!