It’s been a few days since the Spartan World Championship Beast in Killington VT, and I’ve been mulling about writing this blog post since when I found myself climbing the first double black diamond run of the day.
I will say this… the Spartan Beast at Killington was most certainly a beast.
It also came at the end of a various active week… that prior weekend I had done the NH Reach The Beach Relay, and two days before I did the Thompson Island 4k. I wasn’t necessarily the most rested, but I felt strong leading up to it.
Strong, but nervous.
I had heard horror stories of previous years Beasts on the mountain, but I am a comfortable hiker and was very comfortable with the advertised 12+ mile distance.
I’m pretty sure that the picture above is the last genuine smile that I had during the 10 hours and 40 minutes that I was on the course. I moved my start time to 8:45, because at the rate I was moving, I would have been pulled from the course if I had started at 10:30. I met a few girls shortly after we ran down the initial downhill and stared straight up the first double black diamond climb. I stayed with that group the whole way. Amanda, Katelyn and Diana – I am confident I wouldn’t have found that finish line without you.
This review isn’t going to be about the obstacles that were up there, or any type of play by play. This race was made to break people.
It was made to make you fail.
While I see why they want to make their World Championship more difficult than the rest, especially for the elite’s competing for a large cash prize, I don’t understand why they continued letting people start up until 1:30PM. Spartan knew that unless all those runners had planned on running elite time, those runners would not complete the course.
To me, that is irresponsible.
It’s one thing to challenge your racers. It’s one thing to push them past their limits, so they emerge beaten and broken but better for it. It’s a whole other thing to set them up for failure.
I’ve done a few Spartan Races, and have loved them for incorporating running with obstacles and motivating people to get off the couch. This particular race, not only would we climb for miles, but there were next to no obstacles on the course – except for those obstacles where you had to carry large amounts of weight up and down the slopes. There is nothing more terrifying than watching someone break their leg when a log rolled down a mountain.
Wait, there actually is. That moment when you feel your foot slide on the slick grass downhill when you are carrying a bucket full of gravel.
When you realized that it could have been you.
Now this run wasn’t all horrible. It brought out the best and the worst in humans. But for right now, I’m going to focus on all the amazing humans I met on the course… from the three girls who adopted me onto their running team, to the guy who told jokes when we were climbing on the trail to the clouds, to everyone who lent a helping hand.
You guys were what made my run amazing.
Without you, I would not have made it to the finish line.
Each and everyone of you restored a little bit of my faith in humanity. We helped each other, we warned each other, we made sure that everyone was going to be ok. That’s something that you don’t quite see every day. Most of the time we bustle by other people without any acknowledgement. We plug ourselves into our phones and look wearily at any stranger who comes into our “personal bubble” and tries to talk with us.
I’m guilty of it too.
So Spartan Beast, thank you for breaking us free of our societal norms of merely existing next to other people. You brought us back to what really mattered… surrounding yourself with good people.
It also brought out the worst. I was elbowed in the face while we had to walk along the river bank by a woman who was a little too competitive. When I fell, and told her we were all moving slow because footing was awful, she told me “Don’t care. Move out of the way. This is a race.”
That’s where she was wrong.
This was a big metaphor for life. Sometime there is a big task ahead of you, that is just totally going to suck. There will be people who will help you up, and there will be a few who are going to try to make you fail. For me, I didn’t need to be the first… I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. And I have no idea why.
I crossed that finish line more bruised, battered and uttering more curse words that I knew I had in me. I was left in awe of what I had accomplished, but sorry and upset for those who were set up to fail. I wanted to go back and help them, but at the same time, all I wanted to do curl up and go to sleep.
I still have mixed feelings about this run. I don’t think I’ll be charging up that mountain again anytime soon… but I’m happy that I was able to tackle this Beast.