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What Race Are You Running?

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Jamie Vansickle is our Director of Operations. Additionally, she is an active-duty Air Force officer stationed in Georgia. Her significant other, Stephen Purvis, helped pen this article. He was born and raised in Thomaston, Georgia, growing up on a farm where he regularly found himself covered in red clay from head to toe. After getting his associate degree in business administration from Gordon College, he went on the get a BA and MA in History at Georgia Southern University. He spent 15 years working in higher education administration, and has spent the last six years working as a General Manager and Salesman in the group travel industry. He still loves an opportunity to get muddy, playing with his 8-year-old son, Oliver.

My boyfriend Stephen and I ran a Spartan race in Georgia back in March. It was my sixth Spartan race, but I was a bit worried because I am not in the shape I once was when I ran races regularly. It was my boyfriend’s first Spartan race (and only third race overall) and despite my warnings, he still believed he could complete the race relatively dry and unmuddied. He was wrong. Below is his account of the experience.

“The day of my first Spartan race was Saturday, March 18, 2023. Jamie and I signed ourselves up months prior. This was to be her sixth Spartan race. She had built my expectations of climbing, obstacles, mud, and water. I thought I had mentally prepared myself and in many ways I had. Having grown up in the forests of middle Georgia, I was no stranger to the squish of wet red clay beneath my feet or stains on my clothes. Truth be told, I was more than excited to have the opportunity to test myself... to test my abilities and my resilience. What I had not anticipated is that a powerful nor’easter event was moving through the county, bringing with it an unexpected cold front.

On Friday, March 17, it was 70 degrees... a typical Georgia spring day. On Saturday, the wind was blowing, and it was 41 degrees... a different animal entirely. Without fear we put on our running gear. For me it was a pair of jogging shorts and a t-shirt. We drove to the race, parked the car, and began walking to the start line. Within 200 yards of the vehicle, my teeth began to chatter. I had goosebumps on my arms and legs. I began to reevaluate my decisions...

It was so cold that immediately after checking in, we rushed to the vendor tent and purchased hoodies. A cool keepsake for sure, but that day it was a survival necessity. Once we were starting to warm up, we began making our way to the starting line. It was a large black inflatable with the word start on it. As we looked, we also noticed a mud pit covered in barbed wire. There were wooden obstacles, hay bales, and even a giant fire hose spraying out what must have been near freezing water. I remember looking for the way around the obstacle to get to the race’s start.

As we got closer to our timeslot, an announcer began to make jokes about making it to the start, and how they had “rinsed off” the entry. He was speaking about the ice-cold hose, still spraying in the muck. That’s when everyone realized, the very first thing we were to do,

BEFORE EVEN STARTING THE RACE, was to belly crawl through this pit. It was in the

moment I had my doubts.

My whole life I have been instructed not to mix water and cold. I could get sick, or get hypothermia, etc. etc. I knew to begin this race, which I paid to enter, I would have to let go of my conventional knowledge of weather. I would also have to sacrifice every bit of personal comfort I had. Not only would I be muddy and wet, but I would be very cold. When we were told to begin, people got down and started crawling. I hesitated. Was I willing to relinquish that much control? Was I capable of giving up all creature comforts?

I rolled up the sleeves of my new hoodie. In my mind, if I could keep myself relatively dry, it would be ok. I got down and started crawling. As my clothing began absorbing the icy

water and my elbows and hands began to sink into the mud, something unexpected happened. I was coming to terms with my environment. I was letting go and living in the moment in a way I am not sure I ever have before. I felt a rush of adrenaline, a sense of self, and a drive to succeed. At that exact moment, in which I felt so liberated, they turned the fire hose on full blast. I was right next to it, and it pounded the left side of my face and in my ear. My whole body, regardless of my attempts to avoid it, was blasted with icy cold water. Before I could even get to the starting line, this event had stripped me of all control and comfort, and I had never felt so alive.

The race continued much like that throughout the event. Every time I would start to feel dry, comfortable, or in control, the race would put be back into the ice-cold water, mud, and

muck. It was a continuous reminder that only when we lose everything are we free to do

anything. I had to give up. I had to let go. And I endured. I signed up for the race because I

wanted a little adventure. What I didn’t know, was that I would get as close to a spiritual or

religious awaking as I’ve ever had in my life.”

How often are we choosing to challenge ourselves in our lives? How often do we seek

crucible moments of change for ourselves and those we lead? Are we taking the time to leave our comfort zones and experience the unknown? We certainly should. And I’m really proud we did.

Take care. I care.

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