10 Life Lessons From Spartan Racing

Over the last three years I’ve had the chance to run some Spartan Races and earn trifecta twice. If you don’t know what the Spartan Race is, and are wondering what trifecta is, here’s a quick rundown for you. The Spartan Race is an obstacle course race that has different levels of difficulty. The shortest distance is the Sprint, ranging from 3-5 miles. Next is the Super, which falls between 8-9 miles, and there’s the Beast, that can run from 12-15 miles. If you complete each distance in a calendar year, you have earned your trifecta.

I'll never forget the experiences that I had earning these two Spartan Race trifectas.
I’ll never forget the experiences that I had earning these two Spartan Race trifectas.

The Spartan Race is pretty popular now, and I’m sure you’ve heard people describe the obstacles and terrain. If you want to get a better picture you can visit the Spartan Race site and see photos or you can watch the NBC Sports Channel because it’s actually televised. If you’re a Verizon FiOS customer like I am, it’s channel 590 in HD. I just end up recording it on my DVR to watch later so I can fast forward through the commercials. We pretty much DVR every show we watch for that same reason.

Here are 10 things that I’ve been able to take away from my experience running the Spartan Race (they are in no particular order):

1.  Don’t be overconfident.

I learned my lesson about overconfidence after my first Spartan Race, which was a Sprint at Citi Field. I thought I was in decent shape, but I was wrong. Completely unready for the race, the Sprint proved to be extremely challenging for me, resulting in a very harsh reality check. When people are overconfident about things, they usually don’t prepare as diligently, which can end up in failure.

Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law Mike and Anne for getting me to sign up for my first race and causing my addiction.
Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law Mike and Anne for getting me to sign up for my first race and causing my addiction.

2. Anything worth doing isn’t easy.

I have this phrase on my Twitter background for two reasons. I’ve found that the things that matter often require more effort and commitment. The more time and effort we put into things, the more meaningful they are. And also, we are defined not by what we say, but by what we do. If you want to separate yourself, or distinguish yourself from others, you have to do things that others aren’t. And I’ll be that most people are already doing the easy things.

The Citi Field race got me started, and humbled me at the same time.
The Citi Field race got me started, and humbled me at the same time.

3.  You don’t know what you can do until you try.

If you told me 3 years ago that I would have run 8 Spartan Races and come away with 2 trifectas, I would have said you were crazy. But I credit my brother-in-law for getting me to run my first Spartan Race and challenging me to push myself to another level. The Spartan Race definitely isn’t easy, but going through those races has allowed me to see how much I can push myself to do. It’s also shown me that I can still push myself even more.

Citi Field was the first piece of my first trifecta run.
Citi Field was the first piece of my first trifecta run.

4.  Enjoy the journey.

After the reality check of my first Spartan Race, I went into overdrive with my training. What I learned was that in order for me to succeed, I had to make the training fun. While you’re on the road to achieving the goals you’ve set, make sure you enjoy the journey getting there.

Two-thirds of the way through my first trifecta.
Two-thirds of the way through my first trifecta.

5.  Who you surround yourself with matters.

Jim Rohn says that you are “the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.  Therefore whoever you surround yourself with has a big influence on what you do. Training and conversing with the friends that I had that were running these Spartan Races with me helped keep me focused and made the journey that much more fun.

The Vermont Beast at Killington was the hardest thing I have ever had to physically do. This crew made it bearable and enjoyable. Start together, finish together.
The Vermont Beast at Killington was the hardest thing I have ever had to physically do. This crew made it bearable and enjoyable. Start together, finish together.

6.  Always challenge yourself.

I guess this piggybacks off Number 3, so after you’ve gotten yourself to try new things, keep pushing. You can always improve and always get better. And when you do conquer the next challenge, you’ll feel great. I remember being intimidated by 9 and 10 foot walls that we had to climb, but after learning how to scale them and successfully doing so at the race, it was such a big confidence boost. The more you challenge yourself and push through, the more confidence you’ll gain moving forward.

The 2014 Vermont Beast medal, the last piece of my first trifecta, looks pretty good.
The 2014 Vermont Beast medal, the last piece of my first trifecta, looks pretty good.

7.  Plan ahead.

The goal was to run the Spartan Races to the best of my ability. Realistically I’m not one of the elite racers and I know that. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t plan. The workouts had to be planned to maximize time and gains. Of course there are things that you absolutely cannot plan for, but if you an eliminate as many question marks as possible with good planning, getting over those unforeseen obstacles is much easier.

2014 Spartan Super
2014 Spartan Super

8.  Don’t be lazy.

It’s one thing to take a break, it’s another to just spend a lot of time doing things that don’t help you accomplish your goals. I believe that laziness actually sets you back, reversing some of the progress you’ve made. I’ve definitely had my moments of laziness and the results of those moments were magnified on the race because my laziness made some of the obstacles tougher than they should have been.

The 2015 Spartan Beast was tough for me. I injured myself at mile 3 of the 13 mile race. My teammates stuck with me and got me to push through and finish anyway.
The 2015 Spartan Beast was tough for me. I injured myself at mile 3 of the 13 mile race. My teammates stuck with me and got me to push through and finish anyway.

9.  Quit complaining.

Everyone needs to vent now and then, and I’ve definitely done my share of it. But complaining about things doesn’t change the situation, it just makes it worse for yourself mentally. Being on the mountain at Killington in Vermont was brutal. There was one section where we had to climb up the K1 slope. Complaining about it wouldn’t have made the task any easier, we just had to put our heads down and move forward.

2015 Spartan Sprint, two-thirds of the way through my second trifecta.
2015 Spartan Sprint, two-thirds of the way through my second trifecta.

10.  Eyes on the prize.

Always have your end goal in mind and keep focused on it. I won’t lie, during many moments at different races I’ve asked myself why I decide to put myself through these things. What gets me through is the finish line, and the feeling you get when you know you’ve just done something that most people won’t even want to try. Whatever your goal is, stay focused on it. Don’t let the speed bumps and detours discourage you, because when you accomplish what you set out to do, the feeling is great.

The 2015 Spartan Super capped my second trifecta. Not easy, but completed.
The 2015 Spartan Super capped my second trifecta. Not easy, but completed.

Disclaimer: This post is part of a campaign I’m doing with Verizon FiOS in NYC. #FiOSNY

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