I’ve written about obstacle course runs before and how I’ve always wanted to compete in a competitive run (if you missed the first post Overcoming Obstacles…Literally Here it is). Well to start the year off I did the Spartan Sprint Race and I had a few friends who were half committed but I chose not to push them hard on running it with me. One reason is I wanted to see how well I would do in the race without the social obligation of having to wait or for slowing them down if one of us failed an obstacle while the other did not. I wanted to see how I could do on a pure run without that attachment.
I learned something about how even though I didn’t run the race with a group of friends, I still managed to make friends as I went through the race. There was a guy I was running alongside whom we helped encourage each other through a couple of different obstacles. He encouraged me during the spear throw while we both traded places during various runs which helped keep us motivated. Towards the end, there was a hanging rope climb (think cheesy high school gym PE class rope hanging from the ceiling) in which you climb straight up and ring a bell. I had failed to complete this obstacle back in December when I ran my first Spartan race and when I reached the obstacle this time around the only person there was the volunteer who oversaw the obstacle. I was close to the top, but struggling to reach the bell after a failed attempt at lunging for the ring I almost gave up. With the encouraging voice from that volunteer, I managed to regroup from my failed reach and ultimately ring the bell.
I climbed down and as I did so one of the guys I’d been running alongside with failed quickly before he even really got started. Instead of rushing onto the next obstacle to improve my race time (my intent of racing alone this go around), I decided to wait and encourage him on his way up the same way the volunteer had for me. I helped encourage him all the way to the top and waited until he climbed back down to give him a fist bump. Looking back at that moment I realized that even though I had come to selfishly run a solo race without social obligations, it is in the nature of sport and humans to want to help others succeed. Yes, I sacrificed a few minutes on my race time, but at the end of the day, I may not have succeeded on that obstacle without encouragement from a stranger, so it was my duty to do the same for a fellow Spartan. Paying it forward and recognizing the purpose of the race isn’t to be the fastest and win it (unless you are in the competitive heats!), but to prove to yourself you can pass a strenuous physical and mental test.
The simplest moments can have the biggest effects on us and I learned a lot from my first lone Spartan race. Despite my selfish desire to prove to myself, I could accomplish a tough physically and mentally draining obstacle course in a “fast time on my own” I recognized the much more gratifying opportunity of helping someone else overcome a challenge. In business you hear folks like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett talk about how successful businesses are built around solving problems in the world and the bigger problem the larger the reward. I think this is true in why we as humans show compassion and help each other. The survival of the species has always depended on cooperation since we were hunter-gatherers and that evolutionary trait will always be present. In short, you should try one of these races to remind yourself you can overcome physically demanding challenges and also tap into our need to help others along the way.