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Welcome, NE Spahtens, to Sgt. Cuddles’ House of Pain

This is a guest post by Lisa Klinkenberg – a regular to the Monday night training sessions held at Harvard Stadium. To find out when the next one is, join the Spahten Elite Training group on Facebook!

Every Monday, dedicated Spahtens – ranging from elite contenders to folks who have only just stumbled across obstacle course racing meet up – to train – to meet new folks – to inspire each other – to be better. Lisa has been going since the beginning, and I asked her to tell us about the experience.


If you aren’t sure whether what’s streaming down your face while you’re trying to catch your breath is sweat, tears, or pure liquid awesome, chances are it is Monday night and you are at Harvard Stadium for Spahten Elite Fitness training with James Mariano (aka, Sgt. Cuddles?). You can’t miss it, the monolith of imposing gray concrete, layered in an incline that seems to go on forever and littered with a collection of toys that can only be described as “heavy.” It’s easy to feel small here – the wide, steep stairs forcing you to step tall and wide like a child; and the large, imposing ‘drill sergeant’ informing you with authority you will climb them 10 times… just to warm up.


But you are not alone. Your groan is collective, and the group of crazies who immediately welcomed you in gives you drive. With shared looks of resolve (or sympathy?) – and a ‘gentle’ prod from The Man: “Let’s go!” – you begin. One step at a time. One section at a time. One push from your team, or pull of a teammate, at a time. One adjustment to your stride at a time. And session after session, under James’ watchful eye you grow: Faster… you run them (repeatedly). Stronger… you carry those heavy toys to the top (repeatedly). More determined… you *will* beat that pair of Vibrams (getting close, Jim ;))! Proud… How badly your legs are shaking becomes a badge of honor, and a shared experience that bonds you to the team like the concrete that just pounded your muscles into a gelatin dessert. And the week you finally make it to the top without stopping? That might just be one of the sweetest rewards you’ve ever tasted. That is, until our fearless leader meets your triumph with a quiet smirk that says he saw and he’s proud – and then tells you out loud, “Good. Do it again.” Which you do. Because you want to. Because now you can. ¬†You have become a giant among men, and the steam rising from your body is a smoke signal in the cold night declaring to your former self, and every voice of doubt, that you are a genuine Badass – with a capital B.


Oh, it doesn’t end here. Off the stairs and onto the field, the fun begins anew, with a James Mariano-designed circuit that delivers a high-voltage shock to the body you were sure a minute ago was done. On fumes, we sprint, staggered like we ourselves are steps so we will cross the final yard line the way we work best: together. Or we carry each other (literally). Or we rise between Burpees with turf sticking to our sweaty skin like confetti from the kind of party you only partially remember. Or we hear the sound that cuts through the laughter, the panting, the pats on your back… James shuffling the cards and issuing the command: “Pick a body weight exercise.” And to your disbelief, you throw out the one that sucks for you the most, knowing full well it’s going to suck even more when that card is flipped and you will now add 30 (or more) of your chosen poison to the long list of hurt you have already heaped upon your body tonight. But still you offer it with rabid enthusiasm or even a twisted grin – because that is the level of challenge to which we are inspired to rise at Harvard Stadium. That is the level of challenge to which James Mariano makes us believe we are capable of achieving. It’s already there inside of you. And James will help you find it. Finished? Good. Now pick yourself up off the hallowed ground and crawl home. Next Monday will be here before you know it…