By: Steffen “Cookie” Cook
Upon signing up for any Reebok Spartan Race, you will be given the option of running in the Elite, Competitive or Open Category. Every category has a unique level of competition and draws a unique crowd. I wanted to take a quick look at the Open Category, our largest category, and the reasons people bring with them to the starting line.
In the Open Category, there’s no chance of a podium, nor is there for any prize money. But even though you’re not rubbing shoulders with celebrities whose faces you’ll see on posters and TV, and even though you’re not competing for an age-group win, the Open Category, some say, “is more fun.”
That’s the reason Floridian Spartan Tamara Jiminez gives for racing Open. “[It’s] awesome because, while you are competing against yourself instead of others, you’ll see more teamwork,” she says. “Strangers become friends and come together to help others.”
(Pictured: Tamara Jiminez jumping over fire at her first Spartan Race.)
Francisco Perez of Santa Fe Springs, California echoes these sentiments, pointing at the fact that the Spartan community is a tight, cohesive unit.
“I run Spartan Races in the Open heat because of all the people doing them, mostly doing it for the first time,” he says. “It brings me back to my first Spartan Race. Everyone helps each other out, obstacle after obstacle. We get through them together — as Spartans.”
(Pictured: Francisco carrying a log uphill during a Spartan Race.)
But running the Open Category doesn’t end at the finish line. Travis Slonaker of Henderson, Nevada has found that what he learns on the course has far broader effects.
“[Racing in the Open Category] has enabled me to meet many amazing and inspirational people that I would have never met otherwise,” he says. “Recently, it has also helped me to develop some leadership qualities that were buried deep inside, which have carried over into my everyday life. In turn, I have become a better father, husband, friend, and colleague.”
(Pictured: Travis, standing with a team of nine others wearing Spartan shirts that read, “Fury.”)
For Mike Raedy, traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina is a small price to pay for the richness of emotions he witnesses at every race he attends. To him, it’s not the podiums or winners that stir him, but the emotions he sees on the courses.
“It’s all about the people,” Mike explains, “seasoned vets and newcomers at every race and the wide range of emotions. Joy, doubt, happiness, pain…it’s all out there and everyone seems so human. You see people helping people, people overcoming their fears. You see the best parts of people out there.”
(Pictured: Mike Raedy hauling himself over an obstacle towards another finish line. To him, the finish line is secondary to what he holds most dear — the accomplishments of other racers.)
If you are unsure of stepping onto a Spartan Race course, or afraid that it might not be for you, remember that these people are the tip of an enormous iceberg of racers, all of whom want you to do well. They want to help you, push you—and if need be, carry you.
The Ancient Spartans were famous for their unbreakable Phalanx formation. Together, we, too, are stronger than the sum of our parts.
Need some inspiration? Read the amazing stories of these Spartans:
- Vivian Schoeller — Beast Mode at Age 63
- Dawn Highhouse — From Dodging Exercise to Throwing Punches
- Josh Coté — Running with Multiple Sclerosis
- Justin Falls Sets a New World Record
- Joe Forney earns 22 Trifectas just before his 60th birthday
- Mark Bowles — Healing the World after a Life of Addiction
- Katie Purcell — Spartan Elite Overcomes Eating Disorder
- Tim and Lori Frame — Losing 20 Years of Memory to a Virus…and Fighting On
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