Thursday, 16 August 2012

How I became a Spartan

The climbing frame in East Park was shaped like a ship. I used to make a beeline for it every time I came to the park, but I was always relegated to the bows, whilst my friends and other kids played up in the sails, climbing ever higher and all the way back down again.

Occasionally I would be grasped by a determination to conquer the heights and I would set off, a steely glint in my eye only to have to be rescued by a grown up, or talked down by another child as I stood paralysed near the top, terrified to go any further and convinced I would fall to my death if I so much as moved a muscle.

Fast forward to now and I'm not that much better. I don't have vertigo particularly but I'm not fond of situations where I have to climb over things. Not great on ladders especially. Mind you, with upper arm strength like mine, even if I wanted to climb to the top of a rope I wouldn't be able to.

Some time ago, when the year ended with a 1. A friend asked me if I fancied taking part in a Spartan Race. We'd done the Race for Life the year before in an attempt to make us get fit again (and obviously help find a cure for Cancer) but we weren't that fussed about doing it again and this

It was a 5k course. With obstacles. I went on the website and watched the videos. People running through mud and water - it looked like a laugh. Yeah it did kind of look hard, but the people on the video were probably doing a Super Spartan or a Spartan Beast, the Spartan Sprint wouldn't be tough like that.

How very wrong we were.

This Sunday was the hardest physical challenge I've ever been through and when I look back now I'm not entirely sure how I did it without vomiting, crying or giving up - although I won't lie, I nearly did all 3.

Some of the obstacles we faced:
- Pulling yourself through a very dark and enclosed space - no room for crawling, you were on your stomach. Oh yeah and the ground was just stones.
- Wading through 1.5m of water
- Going on your hands and knees through mud, under barbed wire
- Crawling through ice cubes
- Jumping over fire
- Throwing a spear
- Hoisting a ridiculous heavy sack 2m in the air
- Climbing a rope ladder
- Carrying a tyre down an incredibly steep slope, and then carrying it back up again...
- ...Then doing the same with a sandbag
- Scrambling over an 8ft wall

You get the picture. This was no joke.

But there was one obstacle that was the biggest. It was actually quite near the beginning when I was starting to realise how serious this challenge was going to be. There I was, running through the trees when I came round the corner and came face to face with 10ft of netting.

My heart sank. This was actually my worst nightmare. There was no way I was going to be able to do this. Images of all the climbing frames I had tried and failed to climb all through my childhood came screaming back at me.

But this time it was different.

I was a SPARTAN now and Spartans don't let their fear take control. (Also the penalty for not doing the obstacle was 30 burpees and I would rather flay my own skin off than do burpees.) And so I threw myself at it. I got my hands and feet stuck in and I just kept climbing, I didn't look up, I didn't look down, I was concentrating way too much on just holding on. I reached the top and felt more than a little bit ill. I froze for a few seconds and remembered all the times that people had watched me up at the top of the climbing frame shouting that I could do it, yelling that I'd done the hard bit and coming back down the other side was easy, and I gathered it all up and focused it onto my right leg as I swung it up and over the top of the netting. Before I knew it, I was scrambling back down the other side.

I couldn't contain my excitement. I tried telling my friends - "I can't believe I just did that!" and they smiled and everything, but they couldn't really understand. They hadn't been on the ship climbing frame. They didn't know what I'd just achieved.

I put my body through hell in that race. The pain that I've been in since then has been fairly horrific - I really don't have upper arm strength and I'm not a small girl. I had to drag my ass over, under and through things and my poor arms haven't known what's hit them. I am covered, literally head to toe in injuries - I've counted over 20 individual cuts and scrapes and bruises (and shared them all on Twitter because I'm nice like that). 

But it was worth it. And not because of the crawling through mud. Or carrying the sandbag down and up a sheer drop. Or pulling myself along stony ground. Or slithering through ice cubes.

It was worth it because of the netting.

I am no longer, The Girl who never could do climbing frames. I AM A SPARTAN.

This is the face a Spartan pulls when the race is over and before the pain sets in. I didn't even know I'd injured myself at this point. Why yes yes that is mud all over my face. And body. Mud forms a large part of being a Spartan.


  1. yeah the bruise photos were pretty special :p

  2. Wow, that's fantastic. I can't imagine being able to do one of those things, never mind all of them. Well done!!!

  3. I'm impressed. more than impressed, I'm sitting here terrified of the very thought of crawling through that tunnel when other people may be about. Shudder. Bravo!

  4. That is amazing! There's no way I would have signed up for that, for the mud alone, nevermind the physical side of it! Hope your injuries heal soon.

  5. Amazing. I would probably never do that. Not that I have a problem with heights or enclosed spaces or anything, it just sounds hard. But well done for making it!

  6. God it sounds horrible. I was almost tempted to enter the Rat Race this year (*sadly* I was away that weekend) but it sounds like nothing compared to this. I do remember those ship climbing frames though and that memory made me smile :)

  7. Wow! You are a braver man than me!! I'd have chickened out at the enclosed tunnel! What a great feeling to have finally conquered a deep seated fear - the thrill shows all over your face! PS re: your last post - 30 is not grown up xx

  8. Congrats! You are one crazy chick - being in a small dark space is what would make me turn into a weeping mess...! Oh and what is a burpee?!

    You are crazy tho...seriously...I'd never do this to


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