IMG_0439_2I signed up for the Reebok Spartan Sprint because I thought it would be a fun thing to do with my friends. It sounded like an exciting romp, a little scary, and beyond anything I had ever tried. But what started as an adventure, soon turned into a personal dare. I wanted to see if I could literally climb a mountain and make it through to the other side without quitting or falling apart. Despite my track record,  MS makes many physical activities beyond a light jog or a spin on the dance floor a challenge for me; so I rolled my eyes at the thought of leaping over flames, cringed at the thought of climbing over walls, and balked at the idea of crawling through mud. But crawl I did this past Saturday, and I loved every minute of it.

Of course it had to be over 90 degrees on my day of reckoning. Hundreds of people at all levels of ability and experience milled about the grounds of the Tuxedo Ridge Ski Center in Tuxedo, NY . As we gathered at the starting line, we were all smiling and jamming to the music that pumped through huge speakers. We were sweaty, excited, and so ready for fun. As soon as the buzzer sounded, we took off like a stampede of gazelles with a pride of lions hot on their tail. For me, the fun factor immediately transformed into survival and it stayed that way through to the very end.

After jumping into a watery ditch while being sprayed with more water, we hit the mountain trail and it was all achingly uphill from there; except when it was downhill and then I had to try to keep from tumbling down the loose rocks head first. Every obstacle pushed the limits of what I thought I could do or would even try.  I climbed over five, eight, and ten foot walls. I dragged mini boulders and truck tires that were tied with chains. I carried sandbags on my shoulders while hiking up the mountain. I sacrificed my elbows and knees crawling through a never-ending mud gully while trying to keep from scraping my head and behind on barbed wire.  IMG_0262

I did these things and more with the constant fear that my lungs and heart and legs would soon give out. I worried that I would overheat and go into some trembling fit and have to be carried down the mountain. Though they were all around me, there was no time to chat and aroo! with my fellow Spartans. I could only focus on the hard rush of my breath in and out, fighting to keep a rhythm. I couldn’t plan past my very next step, but I knew I had to take it no matter what. As drained and heavy as I felt, if I had stopped to rest even for a minute, I would have stayed down for the count and I refused to let that happen.

People who say that quitting is not an option mean well, I know. They’re taking a hard line against a possibility they don’t want to consider. But it is a possibility. Quitting, like failure, is always an option. It’s there waiting for you, calling you, begging you to come on over and it’s up to you to choose which way you’re going to go and how you’ll deal with it when you do.

I made it through the grueling course in two hours and thirty minutes and earned my finisher’s medal. I survived Sparta with, surprisingly no injuries. Ironically, it was only after crossing the final challenge ( a group of guys wielding padded sticks that I almost punched) that I twisted my ankle and fell to the ground whimpering like a girl. There was no lasting damage, thankfully, I was back on my feet in a flash. But the weight of the experience soon hit me and I couldn’t help letting go of a few girly tears. What a girl.

Sparta 3