Like a dam breaking, the Spartan runners sprang across the starting line. My sister, Rachel, and I followed the crowd. After a quick stumble, I glued my eyes to the ground. Because of the many runners who had already left their footprints in the mud, the path was pockmarked with divets…perfect for a twisted ankle.
As other Spartans raced past us, my sister chanted to me, “I’m so glad you came.”
For you see, my sister is the Spartan sprinter and Crossfit crazy in the family. Ten years ago, when we lived under the same roof, no one would have EVER called me athletic. And yet, ten years later, here I am…running a Spartan sprint. So far out of my comfort zone, but somehow I’m excited anyway.
The First Obstacle
As we approach the first series of hurdles that reach my chest (Hi, I’m 5’8″), Rachel falls into step with me. “Okay, so you have to run and hoist yourself up and over. Oh, like that girl over there. Did you see her?”
Gulp. “Yes, I can do this.” And I’m talking more to myself than to Rachel, even though she responds with a heart-pumping affirmative.
After a few hurdles, I’m beginning to feel a little bit like Super Woman. Yes, thank you. I’ll accept a cape now.
But as we run past some cows, who are chewing their cud without blinking, we spot the next obstacle. Rachel begins filling us in (Hello, the girl finished this race once already today). “That’s the Olympus.”
“Oh, my gosh. I’m not going to make it.” I pant.
“Yes, you will.” Rachel doesn’t break stride. “We can help each other on this one. So you have to get your feet up underneath you, and use the hand holds to move your body across. But you can’t put your feet onto the hand holds.”
By now, we’re stopped in front of The Olympus, and I’m staring at what looks like 100 feet of tilted wall (it’s like 15). Guys, I know my upper body strength has improved (Thanks, Aerial Silks), but I’m in no shape to do this.
Rachel goes first. My sister and I brace her from below, and she’s across in moments. My sister scuttles across with a balancing hand from Rachel. And then, it’s my turn.
Side note: I’m afraid of rock walls. I force myself to do them, but anything that demands I go across a wall with just my finger tips and toes…well, not interested. The Olympus is kind of a bit like this…all fingers. And toes.
I scurry up the wall, gripping with my fingertips, and plant my feet under my butt. And then, my sister and Rachel each take a butt cheek. Seriously. And I had to make myself not think about the fact that they were carrying my butt right then.
Despite the amazing support from these two women, my gumption was draining out of my fingertips and down the wall. Why am I doing this? I can’t do this. My upper body strength sucks. I can’t do this.
So, I let go.
I released the hand holds, ready to tumble to the ground, and accept the 30-burpee consequence of failing a Spartan obstacle. But nothing happened. I don’t budge. My feet were still planted on the wall, and I hadn’t even shifted an inch towards the ground.
My sister and Rachel weren’t going to let me fall or fail.
Oh, I guess I’m doing this. I reached my hands back to the hand holds and finished those 8 feet. When I rang the bell, my sister and Rachel helped me lower my feet to the ground. And off we ran, past the many people counting off their burpees because they tried to do that wall alone and failed.
sometimes we need to be carried
As I’ve reflected on this moment of the Spartan race, I keep coming back to the importance of community.
I finished that race in 2 hours and 15 minutes. But if I had been alone, I think I would have finished in three hours. In our group of three wild women, I was the weak link. I failed four obstacles, which means a total of 120 burpees. Do you know how many of those burpees I did?
Probably about 50. Why? Because every time I failed an obstacle, Rachel and my sister claimed a few of my burpees. Besides that, they literally carried me across The Olympus.
Without my community, I would have failed the slip wall.
Without my community, I would have failed the Olympus.
Without my community, I would have failed the 8 foot wall (that you have to get yourself over).
Without my community, I would have failed the Hercules hoist.
But I didn’t. I didn’t fail.
Because my community carried me. Sometimes, in life and in a Spartan race, you come to the end of your willpower. Those little demon voices in your head convince you that you can’t do it. And you. listen. to. them.
I finished the Spartan race because two wild women wouldn’t leave me behind.
To the God of Communion,
In the first pages of creation, You saw how man needed more than one. You recognized a need for communion, community, and sharing of the burden and beauty of living.
For as often as You carry us, I thank You for providing people to carry us to You when we can’t do it anymore or we want to give up already. Sometimes we need to be carried. Thank you for calling us to live in imperfect and crazy community.
Help us to find people to keep pace with. Give us the strength to carry one another through life’s obstacles when our hearts fail. Thank you for not leaving us alone.
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