If you know anything about fitness, you’ve probably done some cross training. This is synonymous with Reebok. If you have heard of Reebok, then you know they sponsor the annual nationwide Cross Fit Games and obstacle race phenomenon The Spartan. This consists of somewhat sane individuals hurling themselves over fences, ropes, under barbed wire, through mud and conducting feats of strength for the sake of an endorphin high, fist bumps, a Cliff Bar, banana and a medal all thrust upon you crossing the flame-engulfed finish line.
I have personally done this race. No. More accurately said The Spartan “did” me. I ran, trotted, cursed through the shortest distance 3.1 miles, which was the “Sprint.” I needed an O2 tank and a martini and that was just at the start line. Enough about me.
These races are grueling, and an exercise in a few things such as A) Mental toughness and B) How fit you are or are not. What is even more annoying-er uh…applauding is when a first timer comes in and nearly crushes all those actually competing…even those half his age. Not just in 2015 and last year, but perhaps again in 2017.
Meet Aaron Campbell, 43, a humble, soft-spoken Boise UPS driver, whose years of former professional mountain biking and motor-cross racing in the 90’s, served as a foundation for his unassuming, yet highly competitive edge. Interviewing him one early evening, I understood why you have to “watch out for the quiet ones” for like sharks; they tend to sneak up and surprise you.
L.M.- “Tell me how you got involved with Spartan.”
Campbell- “A friend of mine, told me about it. I had never heard of it before but had been doing Cross Fit for a year. I knew of fellow cross-fitters who had common interests regarding The Spartan. The exercises in Cross Fit and obstacles in the race are pretty similar.”
L.M.- “When you decided to race, were you nervous at all?”
Campbell- “No. I didn’t plan on competing. I just didn’t know what to expect. I figured I would just run it and see if I could even finish it.”
L.M.- “How did that work out for you?”
Campbell- “I originally intended on just kind of jogging, and then I started running up the hills. There were lots of people in it, as I was in one of the later morning heats. After awhile, I noticed I was passing a lot of people up. I had no idea what place I was in.”
One of Campbell’s friends, semi-surprised he was already back, told the racer to go and check his time. He placed 5th overall in 2015, 4th in the Men’s division and 2nd in the Men’s Over 40 out of about 3500 people. Since he didn’t register for an “Elite” heat, he didn’t qualify for any race win payout but knowing he did so well, was a great athletic boost. Not being far behind the overall winners time, was also an indicator if Campbell trained a bit harder, he could beat it.
Unfortunately, an existing rotator cuff problem prompted Campbell to undergo extensive shoulder surgery in September of 2015. This put the new racer on ice for a few months; though he began mildly working out a few weeks after the operation. In December, with his shoulder not quite 100%, he began distance and sprint-interval hill workouts doing so with friends who were “Hot Shot” local fire jumpers. Once able to incorporate his shoulder into more strenuous workout routines, Campbell was heading into his second Spartan in June of 2016.
His hill workouts, physical therapy, and unflinching determination paid off as he took 1st place in the Men’s Over 40, 13th in gender and 13th overall. Though he says he is happy with the overall win, there is something lurking underneath which isn’t resting on the accomplishments, but already moving forward to prepare for something bigger. His wins have now prompted friends and family to seek Campbell’s advice on exercise and nutrition. For the timid, those out of shape, don’t feel they are good enough or people just plain scared of obstacle races Campbell gives some sage advice.
“Give it a shot. There are people of all fitness levels at The Spartan.”