His name was Blake. Blake had never done a Spartan Race before, and was the holder of a rookie pass. This meant that he could forego the burpee penalty for obstacle failure, just this once
We saw him sitting at the Hercule’s Hoist, sitting on the ground looking tired and worn. It was early into the race, and we had heard people calling encouragements to him as he crawled under barbed wire earlier. He wanted to quit, and that was clear. His posture, his expression, his speechless sighing.
Yet he stood up and kept going. We called some encouragement as we passed him, but soon slowed as he asked us if he could stick with us for the race, as his friends had gone on without him. Of course, the answer was yes.
Slowly, slowly we plodded along the course. It wasn’t glamorous, or easy, but he kept going. We all kept going.
The dead ball carry was an easy task for him. He helped others hoist the weight into their shoulders after he’d done his own carry, and took pleasure in finding a strength in a day where his weaknesses were so exposed.
As we walked down a hill, the 8 foot walls came into sight and he confidently said that he could get us over the wall, and moments later added that he had no chance of getting himself over. He did, indeed, get us over the wall with no problems… Along with about ten other people. We continued along, but only metres from the obstacle he stopped and turned around.
“I’m going to try.” He told us, and we headed to the other side of the wall. There waited the group of people he had helped over the wall, ready to help him over. “I’m heavy…” He warned.
“There’s enough of us to handle it, mate.” One woman told him with a smile. We all helped him get to a point where he could reach the top of the wall- some helping hold him while others cheered him on. He gripped the top, and with a grunt, tossed his leg over the top of the wall so he was secure.
The people at the bottom of the wall cheered, and so did a new group who were heading down the hill towards the walls. He landed and another cheer broke out. We walked silently away from the obstacle, and for perhaps the first time, we saw a sincere smile from our new friend.
“You did it.” Yvonne, my team mate, told him. “You did it!” She repeated, high fiving him.
Blake’s newfound confidence did not extend to taking on the mud mounds, and he had a chance to get ahead of us and keep going by himself. If he wanted to find his friends, it made sense to do so. Instead he stuck with us at the side of the obstacle. One mud pile after another, with a pool of sludgey water in between each. We struggled up them and slid joyfully down them. When we needed a hand, his was there without fail.
Together we did burpees at following obstacles. He did ten. We did thirty. It was more than he had planned on doing, and the process saw him getting more and more comfortable with the discomfort.
The sandbag carry was one of the last obstacles, and he took the 30kg sandbag and headed up the side of the hill. I watched him drop it, take a breath, and then keep going. He repeated the process a few times, until he reached the top. Then he headed down the hill, face set with Spartan determination.
The three of us crossed a creek, jumped some fire, and Yvonne and I ducked passed the gladiators. Blake tousled with one of the gladiators, who made him fight to hit that finish line. But he got there, and we all stood together as a team, grinning like idiots and proud as we could be.
The rookie who wanted to quit, whose friends ditched him, finished the race. He didn’t do all the burpees, but he found himself inspired and found something to aspire to. His next goal, if you were wondering, is to ride 200km to raise funds for cancer research. After that, he wants to come back to the Sydney Sprint fitter and healthier.
I wasn’t sure about the rookie pass, I’ll confess. But after that, I’m certain that it’s a good idea. For those who need to learn that they’re capable, and those who need to be surrounded by the atmosphere of a Spartan Race before to see that it’s not just for the elite, but for everyone.