When Spartan first brought obstacle course racing to the masses, it was mostly men who signed up to be challenged. Sure, there were a few women risking the mud (here’s looking at you, Margaret Schlachter), but the military style of many of the obstacles seemed geared toward a more male-centered audience.
Yet, over the years, the masculine stereotype of the OCR competitor has given way to a more balanced representation of gender. Spartan’s own world championship has supported the rise of many fierce female racers. Household names such as Lindsay Webster, Zuzana Kocumova, and Amelia Boone have shown the world that women like to play dirty too, and in doing so, they’ve blazed a trail for other female athletes to follow.
For many, it’s not just the incentive to shift some weight or get in shape that is motivating them to put their money where the mud is, either. According to those who regularly line up at the start of a Spartan race, strength, support, and a whole lot of self-worth are some of the other benefits that keep them coming back for more.
So if you’re a woman on the verge of OCR, here’s some inside intel on what you might find in a race from the ladies who’ve already been there, done that, and scaled the 10-foot wall.
1. You’ll Find Strength
According to Jennifer Atherton, online personal trainer and founder of OCR Women’s Academy, what happens on a Spartan course doesn’t stay on a Spartan course. “I love the physical feeling of overcoming obstacles in the physical realm, which then relates to overcoming obstacles in all aspects of my life,” she says. Atherton, who is currently training her Sacramento-based women’s group for a variety of OCR events, including a local Spartan race next autumn, says that even through the training, she sees how developing physical strength has helped her women to develop incredible mental strength too.
2. You’ll Find Confidence
Elite Spartan racer Jackie Parchman believes that’s true and adds that participating in a race means pushing yourself, “to limits you never knew were possible.” The North Carolina resident decided to tackle her first Spartan event to test her own break points and because, as an African-American woman, she didn’t see many women like her in the racing ranks. “I stepped up to my first line in September 2015, first Trifecta in 2016, and elite in 2017,” she reveals. “Was I the best? No. Did I think three years ago that I would be racing in mud for fun?! No! But racing now has become an addiction to greatness!”
3. You’ll Find Fitness
UK-based Angie Brown started running obstacle course races as a way to shake off the severe migraines she frequently suffered. Three years in, Brown says she’s firmly in control of her headaches and health. More than that, she’s become fitter than she ever was before. “Before OCR, I smoked and led a pretty lazy life,” she claims. “Now I don’t smoke, I manage my migraines with a good diet and keeping healthy, and I train to race regularly.”
Currently, Brown is training for a 69-mile ultra along Hadrian’s Wall, and the 30-mile Spartan Ultra. For female competitors, she claims, “Spartan racing is particularly empowering because it encourages women to be both physically and mentally strong; you become the best version of yourself.”
4. You’ll Find Yourself
“My favorite part about competing in OCR is being able to completely lose myself in the race,” says Kelsey Childs, a Spartan ambassador living in Towson, Maryland. “All my thoughts and negative emotions are dropped somewhere on the course because they no longer matter in that moment.” For women and men alike, crushing setbacks on the circuit can force them to see just what they’re capable of no matter what they may be struggling with in their daily life.
Childs says, “Racing has increased my confidence and resilience and has taught me how to push through the hard stuff in life. I found my purpose, I found my community, and I found a home on the course.”
5. You’ll Find Family
And a common reason for all of these women to come back to the mud for more? The friendships they’ve made and the sense of family they’ve found. “Spartan Race has given me a family,” says Childs. “I’ve never met a nicer, more understanding group of people. And I don’t feel out of place as a woman on the race course. Everyone is viewed as equal. No one gets treated differently because of their gender, age, or physical disability.” Parchman agrees, claiming the friendships she’s made with other Spartan women are “unbreakable.” And she challenges more women to take a chance and try a race. “But when you do, and you see someone out there for the first time,” she says, “tell her, ‘You got this!’ Let her know she’s surrounded by women who’ve broken through their own minds to find their muddy happy place, and that they’ve all got her back!”
Commit in 2018. Download The Spartan 2018 Race Schedule. #noexcuses