Take the opportunity to test yourself physically and mentally, especially if it is a test that has a high wash out rate. My first real non-military test was a Spartan Beast category obstacle race. I don’t advocate any course above another because they all have their perks and pitfalls. The race we ran was slightly longer than a half marathon and had obstacles that got progressively closer as you approach the end. This is what the website says about the particular brand of race I took part in.
“Spartan Race™, the global leader in Obstacle Racing since 2005, was designed by seven insane ultra athletes and a Royal Marine. If you have tried trail races, mud runs, tough mudder runs, or a warrior dash, it’s time to step up to a brutal Spartan Race obstacle course. You can tackle a Spartan Sprint, a Super Spartan, maybe even attempt a brutal Spartan Beast, but only a few of you will have the heart to graduate up to our Ultra Beast Marathon, an endurance race like NO other. Are you unbreakable?
Why Spartan? Because the Spartans were tough as nails. Why race our obstacle course races? Because we all thrive under pressure, survival of the fittest. Our goal is simple… to get you off your couch, throw you in the mud & trails, and feed you one tough endurance event day that will be the adrenalin rush of your life.
An obstacle course race is designed to test your resilience, strength, stamina, quick decision making skills, and ability to laugh in the face of adversity. We want to own obstacle racing and our unique obstacle course trail races will demand every ounce of your strength, ingenuity, and animal instinct.
You will understand at the finish line…” http://www.spartanrace.com/
Me and my (My brother and I) brother had some particular disadvantages going into this race; one of those being that I had been sick and gotten out of training. That aside, the day before had been a long work day for me and I had had nothing to drink but caffeine and only eaten a single slice of pizza. I showed up at the friend’s house the night before in Utah where my brother had been visiting and found him finishing off his fourteenth beer (14 Utah beers means about 3 normal beers). We both chugged some water and went to bed. The next morning we swung by a gas station, grabbed a red bull and snicker’s protein bar each and ran the race on it. One of our fellow soldiers ran the entire race on a partially healed broken foot (or ankle, I can’t remember now); and word was his wife had to force several beers into him that morning to up his courage and get him out of bed.
It was amazing how pumped up they got you right out of the start with a motivation speech and a little Dropkick Murphy’s; and then in waves of 300 every half out you are out of the gates. I ended up sprinting until I realized there were better ways to start a run; but you can’t help but be that one guy starting out an endurance race running as hard as you can because everyone around you is doing the same thing. As stated above, the obstacles are quite intentionally placed, starting at half mile intervals and progressively getting closer so that by the end they are back to back. The obstacles were quite intense, as in 9 foot tall walls, 100 foot barbed wire crawls uphill through muddy gravel, tractor tire flipping, rope climbing, and even a big chunk of concrete on a chain needing to be pulled up and around a hill. At every obstacle if you do not complete it on you first attempt you must complete 30 burpees; that’s a push up to an upright jump. By the end you are doing 2 or 3 burpees at a time and having to stop and breathe before you do you next 2 or 3.
There were 3 water points, one every three miles, and with the heat at 100 degrees or just over, you find yourself hurting pretty bad by the end. I have never been a heat casualty, but I know I was not in the best of places as the race wound down. At the mid water point I was given water in a dixey cup and asked if I wanted a salt capsule in it, I said no thanks. “Come on” the woman said “I can see your whole body shaking from here.” After the race, one of our fellow soldiers who had run multiple marathons (I think 5 at that point), said what we had just done kicked the crap out of the toughest marathon he had even done. Another brutal factor in this race is the high altitude and the lack of level ground; you literally feel like you’re are switch backing your way up and down mountains for the entire race duration.
For those of you who are Marines my brother shared with me that he felt the Crucible was very similar to running a Spartan race with the exception that I lasts more than three days. He said the suck factor was every bit as bad as people make it out to be. For my part the only other time I’ve felt that beat after just a few hours was fighting for 4 hours straight in blazing temperatures, all the while suited up in 80 pounds of medieval steel armor; we all have our hobbies.
It was an amazing experience that only those interested in challenging themselves understand why a person puts his mental and physical stamina under such strain. I love what mountaineer and outdoorsman Willi Prittie said on National Geographic’s Ultimate Survival Alaska “Why do you go out and test yourself? Because you can. Why do you climb mountains? Because it’s there. If you have to ask that question, you will never understand the answer in the first place.”
Challenge yourself; because you will always be amazed by what you can accomplish.