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“Masochism goes mainstream” – not in OCR, it doesn’t …

This is a response to an article published by the Boston Globe this morning, titled: “Tough Mudder and Spartan Races: Masochism goes mainstream” the author, Jennifer Graham also has a book title – “Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner.”

In a recent article, titled “Tough Mudder and Spartan Races: Masochism goes mainstream” you describe some kind of subculture of Navy Seal wannabes, sliding through flames and running up mountains – armed to the teeth with bulging triceps and a willingness to sign death waivers before lining up at the start line – presumably to throw themselves into barbed wire and flames, before unsuccessfully suing the race director.

I’ve been racing Spartan Races and it’s brethren since 2010, and thats not my experience. Far from my experience. I’m one of the founders and leaders of the New England Spahtens, a free obstacle course race community with over 3,000 members – we talked about your article and it wasn’t the experience of the members either.

Sure, there’s an elite crew who go out from the starting gates wearing nothing but a pair of compression shorts and trail shoes – throwing themselves through the obstacles at top speed before crashing across the finish line covered in mud and scrapes. Usually, that accounts for less than 10% of the field.

1008821_510016689086682_1908788760_oYour article didn’t take into account the other 90%. Those are the guys and girls who are there to have fun. They may be running with a buddy, or with a community like ours. They might be running for a personal time – but they may also be running for the love of being outdoors and among people who love doing something athletic. They might be introducing a friend to this kind of event, or perhaps to their first athletic event ever.

“I wondered as I read the “Tough Mudder and Spartan races…” article by Jennifer Graham in the Boston Globe if she had ever been to the same races I have been to. Judging by the contents of the piece, my guess would have to be no.

At 5’1″ and over 200 pounds when I ran my Spartan Sprint, I don’t quite understand the picture that was painted of obstacle course races in the article. When I ran, having only trained by running on a treadmill and lifting some kettlebells, I was blown away by the many hands up, knees and shoulders I was given to help me achieve an obstacle goal. I was pushed on by complete strangers telling me “You got this” and “You’re doing great”. There were no “American militias unarmed but for their extraordinary triceps” and if you would have looked closely, you would have seen there were many exactly like me. The fat girl trying to do something out of her comfort zone.. and succeeding with friends and strangers by her side encouraging her to try her best and no regrets or disappointment if she couldn’t get through an obstacle.

So look closely.. you’ll see us. Helping each other and succeeding and not looking perfect when we do it. Sometimes we are challenging ourselves for the first time in our lives and when we jump over that fire and cross that line, we are empowered to challenge ourselves in all aspects in our lives because from this, we know we can succeed.” — Liz Polay-Wettengel

These same people may be running a 5k the next week – or a Boston Marathon qualifier. They certainly don’t disdain road running. They may Crossfit, or they may do Zumba – they may also carry sandbags up a ski slope.

Can you guess which one of these people ran over 50 races in 2013?

They may have run a dozen obstacle course races in the last year – but it’s very common to see first timers. When they arrive at an obstacle they’ve never done before, they overcome it – by themselves or with the help of the community around them. I’ve offered my knee to many hundreds of people who needed a boost over an 8’ wall during my time racing obstacle courses, personal time be damned – and I’m far from alone in that.

1422590_10154110808690068_6637600614636828893_nYou mention the “upwards of $100 to enter”, without showing understanding of the costs to put a race on, or the insurance premiums race directors should carry – also without realizing that for many people, that $100 is waved by hours of volunteer work on the course, or helping to build or break down after the event – also without realizing that in the grand scheme of things, $100 is nothing. It costs over $100 to enter the Boston Marathon *after* you’ve qualified, and hundreds of dollars for an entry in a triathlon, after you’ve bought your kit. To run an obstacle course race, you only need the shoes on your feet – and a high end pair of trail shoes can still be had for under $100.

What you describe in fact, isn’t the obstacle course racing world that is growing massively, that I and many thousands of people in New England alone love.

I would love to invite you to run one with our community. We never leave anyone behind, and as a fellow “fat runner”, I can promise you will not only finish the event, but I’d be alongside you the entire time, helping you overcome many obstacles that have left fellow “fat runners” empowered and in love with this world that can leave the newest participant feeling like an athlete.

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