As anniversary celebrations go, most couples usually want to raise a glass of champagne as they sit back and relax with some sand in their toes and waves of beautiful water crashing at their feet. Well, for my wife and I, there was water and sand but not exactly in the most relaxing way.
For our 1st year wedding anniversary, my wife Alexandra and I chose to run in a Spartan Beast, which for those that are unfamiliar with a Spartan, are the obstacle style runs that are run at different lengths depending on how long you want your race to be. Three different levels are offered, the Sprint which is 3-5 miles, the Super at 7-11 miles and the Beast which clocks in anywhere from 12-16 miles long. In 2016, we ran our first Spartan run in Chicago and chose the Sprint. When we finished the race, we were so surprised at how much fun we had helping each other along the race and also talked about how surprised we were at how much everyone around you helped keep each other going during the race.
So two years later when making plans for what we were going to do to celebrate our first year anniversary, we notice that a Spartan Beast was the same day as our anniversary and in Chicago, which was where we were married and where we had previously done our first Spartan at. Noticing that it was a Beast which was a big jump from our first run, we made a joke that it would be fitting to do that on our anniversary as marriage is all about overcoming obstacles and challenges and a Spartan race is exactly that. After a few weeks, we decided to sign up for the Spartan Beast in Chicago, which actually ended up being in Attica, Indiana at the Badlands Off Road Park.
Leading up to this race, when people would ask what we were doing for our anniversary and we would tell them that we were running a Spartan, we always got the same reaction. We would hear, “Why?” or “That sounds terrible.” And we would continue to tell people that until you participate in a Spartan, you really don’t know how much they bring you and whomever you run it with, so much closer. “You know that by participating in the race, you are going to need help,” said my wife, Alexandra. “But you are also going to help someone too.” I researched this theory a little and found that a new study by Markus Heinrichs and Bernadette von Dawans at the University of Freiburg in Germany said that acute stress may actually lead to a greater cooperative, social and friendly behavior. And although a Spartan run is not terrifying or traumatic as the definition of acute stress describes, during the race as you push your way through your 23rd obstacle on mile 10 of 14, there are definitely times during the run that you ask yourself, ‘Why did I do this again? This feels like torture.’
So as we woke up on our anniversary morning and drove to Attica, Indiana from Danville, IL where we stayed the night before, we were not greeted with sunshine and smiles. It was pouring rain and the closer we got to the run, the harder the rain fell. We laughed and said that the rain was fitting as marriage and life in general, often throws you curve balls and adding rain to an already long and strenuous race was something we would have to deal with. As we started on our, what would end up being an over six hour race, it didn’t take long before we were proving that we had each other’s back, literally. One of the early obstacles required some grip work and I couldn’t quite get my feet not to slide down the wall and before I knew it my wife came under me and put my on her back as we both inched our way to the end of the obstacle. A few hours later at a weighted bucket carry, I was able to return the favor. I noticed that she was about to put the bucket down and rest so I was able to get low and hold the bucket so that she wouldn’t have to completely pick it up back off the ground each time. And after completing each obstacle a ‘good job’, a smile or a hug brought us closer to the finish line and closer to each other. And this being our second Spartan, we have also started our own tradition at the last obstacle and finish line as well. With the last obstacle being the fire wall jump, like at our first Spartan, we lock hands and jump over it, finishing the race together.
At first glance, Spartan races may seem like they aren’t for everyone. But having done two now, I can honestly say that it far from the truth. At each race we meet and talk to new people throughout the run from all walks of life, all sizes of life and spanning every age group from 18 to 80. And what has made it so special for my wife and I is that after both the Sprint and most recently the Beast on our actual anniversary is that we felt closer and more in love with each other when we crossed the finish line. Marriage is about teamwork. That’s why Spartan races are so much more than the literal obstacles set up for you to complete. They are about bringing you and your wife, or you and your friends or maybe just you alone together for one day to prove that if you keep pushing and working, you can accomplish anything. “If you ever want therapy with your husband or wife, sign up for a Spartan run,” explained Alexandra. “Because you are a team and you want each other to succeed. And those around you want you to succeed which makes you feel really good.”
So do I think Spartan races provide some of the best memories with my wife so far in our lives? Like I said just over a year ago on our wedding day, I do.
For more information or to sign up for an upcoming Spartan race, visit www.spartan.com
Photo credit: Alexandra Cunningham
Photo credit : Spartan