Spartan Race is unique. Before the race, you stand shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of your competitors waiting to take on a course, miles long, you know next to nothing about. While Obstacle Racing may seem like an individual sport, you’ll likely look to both friends and strangers for help along the way.
Boxing is different. There are no hills or rivers. No barbed wire or heavy tires. There’s just you, a 400 square foot ring and another individual who will literally be trying to bash your teeth in at the sound of the bell.
So what could these two sports, on complete opposite ends of the spectrum, possibly have in common?
“Sugar” Ray Leonard is an Olympic gold medalist and International Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee. He was the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses and won world titles in five different weight divisions.
Growing up in a conflict filled home, and twice the victim of sexual abuse, Ray Leonard began fighting inner demons at a young age. He turned to boxing to help release some of his anger.
Obviously a natural, Ray paid his dues and went on to become one of the greatest boxers of all time. In his autobiography, The Big Fight, Ray discusses the ups and downs of his historic career.
While reading The Big Fight, I couldn’t help but notice a number of synergies between Ray’s experiences with boxing and my experiences with Spartan Race. These sports appear to be so different, but the mental, physical, and spiritual benefits that come from training for and competing in them appear to be very similar.
The following three quotes from The Big Fight prove that.
In this first quote, Sugar Ray is describing his bout with Marcos Geraldo in 1979. Before their fight, Geraldo, a middleweight fighter, weighed in at 160 pounds in nothing but his underwear. Ray, on the other hand, weighed in at just 153 pounds, with his clothes and jewelry on.
Up against a bigger, stronger opponent, Ray was in for a rough night.
“I learned a lot about myself that night. I learned how to summon, from somewhere deep within, the extra will I didn’t know I possessed. Knowing it was there, and could be tapped again, gave me the boost of confidence I would rely on for years to come.”
The feeling you get after overcoming a tough obstacle is unlike any other.
When you stare an intimidating obstacle in the face, be it an eight foot wall, 20 foot rope, or bigger, stronger opponent, and conquer it, you become a completely new person – braver, more confident, and more likely to step up to the next challenge.
You would be hard-pressed to find a Spartan Race finisher without a key confidence building moment, similar to Sugar Ray Leonard’s, somewhere along the way. This is a big reason why Spartan Race, and obstacle races in general, are so addictive. The feeling of overcoming obstacles is unreal.
And as the champ said, the effect lasts for years to come.
After flipping a three hundred pound tire a few times and carrying a 40-pound sandbag up and down more hills than you care to remember, you realize you are capable of much more than you thought you were.
You realize you are strong both inside and out, and can take on any challenge.
On Mindset and Determination
This next quote comes from an incident Sugar Ray had with a sparring partner, Odell Hadley. Brought in to help Ray train for “The Showdown”, his World Welterweight Championship unifying match against Tommy Hearns, Hadley accidently struck Ray with an elbow to his left eye.
After the incident, there was talk about postponing “The Showdown” until Ray’s eye had fully healed, but Ray wouldn’t have it.
“There would be no postponement. I was determined to fight on September 16 as long as I could breathe. To be ready for battle is not simply a matter of running five miles a day, hitting the bags, jumping rope, and sparring. It is about transporting one’s mind to a place in which no thoughts except those related to winning the fight must be allowed to enter. Going to that place, as painful as it is, is necessary, and the thought of leaving it and trying to pick up a few weeks, or perhaps months, later where I had left off was out of the question.”
Getting hurt in training, or even worse – an actual race, is brutal. You invest a lot in preparing for the big day and the last thing you want is to have to quit because you tripped on a rock or stumbled down a mountain.
However, the confidence built through training, racing, and constantly overcoming obstacles won’t allow a Spartan to quit. Spartans realize they can push through the pain and fight their way to the finish.
When a Spartan signs up for a race, they finish the race.
The scrapes, cuts, bumps, and bruises earned throughout only add to the glory.
On Being Part of a Tribe
You think Brett Favre was bad? Sugar Ray Leonard retired five times throughout his career.
He just couldn’t stay away.
This quote comes from when Ray decided to unretire for the fourth time. His wife, Bernadette, couldn’t understand why he would do so.
“Bern didn’t understand. She couldn’t. Only fighters know what it feels like to yearn for that place we go to when preparing for battle. There is no place like it.”
There are two kinds of people in this world: Spartans, and everyone else.
People who have never done anything like an obstacle race don’t get it. You can try to explain it all you want, but until they enter one themselves they won’t truly understand.
When traveling to races you see people from all walks of life wearing their finisher shirts or Trifecta Tribe sweaters. And when you do, it’s as though you’ve known each other your whole lives.
You’ve both crawled through the barbed wire, carried the bucket, and yelled “Aroo!” in the middle of the forest. The two of you, complete strangers before that moment, are bonded through something greater than yourselves.
You both get it.
…There’s a reason Spartan’s slogan is “You’ll know at the finish line”.
Why You Should Become A Spartan
Boxing is great, and the benefits of training and competing in the sport reach far outside of the ring. There aren’t too many competitive boxers out there that are out-of-shape or lacking self-confidence.
It’s a difficult sport to get into, though, as there aren’t many available avenues for 30 or 40 something novices to push themselves and put their training to the test.
Plus, having your face repeatedly smashed in likely takes its toll on your brain.
Spartan Race, on the other hand, provides similar physical, mental, and spiratual benefits with much less risk and an abundance of opportunities to compete.
The best part? If you’re willing to put the work in, becoming a Spartan is easy.
Sign-up for a race, start training, and before you know it you’ll be sharing stories of success and failures with Spartans everywhere you go.
From the outside looking in it seems crazy. Outsiders look at Spartans like they have a death wish or are just a bunch of party animals. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Spartans are hard-working, mentally tough, strong individuals looking to push themselves to become better humans.
Don’t believe me? Just try one.
You’ll know at the finish line.