Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 2.26.42 PMI have a few 5ks and a half marathon under my fitness belt, but those seemed like a piece of cake compared to my first Spartan Race. I had been training since late winter for the 5k plus 21 obstacles, but because my half came first, focused more on my running than weight training. Finally, Saturday, April 12 arrived and I headed to Citi Field with my sister, feeling nervously excited.

It felt good to be back in Queens. I previously lived not too far from the home of the Mets (even though I am a Yankee fan) and it felt like home to ride the 7 train passing by familiar sights. Once we entered the stadium, we sat outside to watch other Spartans cross the finish line. Some obstacles like the rope climb, money bars, and 8-foot wall climb were shown on the jumbotron screen, the sights feeding my hungry fears. But being Spartan strong means that these fears are constantly defeated. The words, “I can’t” don’t exist. Even if you fail to complete an obstacle (which means you have to do 30 burpees each time) at least you gave it your all. My fears were immediately crushed when I witness Army vets crossing the finish line, one brave solider on his journey to greatness on hands. Having no legs didn’t mean he didn’t have heart. He received a well-deserved standing ovation as he and his team crossed that line.

After checking in our bags, gearing up, and stretching, my sister and I lined up for our 1 p.m. heat starting time. Spartans took off 15 people at time, hype men with megaphones getting us pumped. Teams of The Bigger Loser started their sprint just before us, adding to the theme that any goal is achievable with hard work and dedication. The strongest Spartan I saw was a man without usage of his legs who lowered from his wheelchair, a buddy holding each of his legs so he could compete on his hands. A camera crew followed him the entire time to capture this incredible accomplishment. Chills ran throughout my body watching this man and at that starting line every single Spartan cheered him on, not a dry eye in sight. If that doesn’t drive you to be the best you can be, I don’t know what can. I applaud that man’s dedication, hard work, and strong spirit.

With my newfound courage, inspired by the athletes who are the living definition of true warriors, it was my time to sprint. My nerves faded away and I felt ready as my legs began to move. The first obstacle, which consisted of bear crawling under rope, came faster than expected and I cut my hand on my wrist tracker. The third obstacle consisted of putting a band around your ankles and jumping on what felt like endless, but was probably 6-8, flights of stairs. By the time I completed this I was dead tired. “If you mess up your breathing in the obstacles, you’re done,” I overhead a Spartan say earlier. These words were truths. As a runner, I know how to control and manage my breathing, but I found myself winded early on and struggled to keep a consistent breath pattern.

Other obstacles included: putting a band around your ankles again and jump roping 25 times, carrying (a heavy ass) water jug down and up a few flights of stairs, running up and down stairs, carrying a 20 pounds sandbag up stairs, box jumps, scaling a wall, and my favorite—the spear throw. My spear made contact with the hay target, but need a bit more force and didn’t stay up. 30 burpees followed. My hand bled a bit from my early war wound, which made burpees and my pushup obstacle a bit painful, but nothing I couldn’t manage.

My sister and I did skip two harder obstacles. My upper body strength (which is way weaker than my toned legs) was nonexistent when it came down to the monkey bars and the rope climb. The rope climb was the obstacle I was most nervous about, and I promise the next race I will conquer it. For now it was 30 burpees.

My sister and I finished strong together and received finisher medals. This was the hardest race I have ever participated in and am proud I got through it. We celebrated our victory by taking a bus up to Connecticut to celebrate my cousin’s wedding and danced the night away. Every single muscle in my body is still Spartan sore, but at least I am officially Spartan strong!

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