97, 98, 99…… On August 14 I will race my 100th Spartan Race – a Spartan Beast on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. My obstacle race journey started back in 2011 when I completed my first Spartan Race. There was no goal in my mind at that point to run so many of them, but as the number started racking up, I set a short-term goal to reach that magical 100. For me, goals are what keep us motived and focused. It’s important to have short, medium and long-term goals to help us stay on track in life, athletically, professionally and personally.
My athletic journey didn’t begin until junior year in college. Up until those days I wanted nothing to do anything remotely athletic. As a kid I hated to sweat or get dirty. The first time I can recall pushing myself to my physical limits was a bicycle relay event held at the Daytona 500 race track. This one 2.5 mile loop opened my eyes to competition and what pushing myself to my limits really meant. Just like that I was hooked. In the intervening years I would compete in many different athletic pursuits, including rowing, triathlon, road and mountain bike racing and CrossFit.
Seeking new sporting challenges and adventures
Competitive cycling immediately preceded my Spartan racing career. When I was introduced to the thrill of riding I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. 16+ hours of weekly training, racing criterium (a race consisting of several laps around a closed circuit), road races and stage races for a period of five years… cycling was my life. I didn’t suddenly decide to retire from racing, but I did seem to drift away. The team I was on disbanded and, retrospectively, I now know I was ready for a change. But what was next? In my quest to answer that question I turned to the internet.
The first thing I stumbled upon was a sport called CrossFit. I looked at the theories and athletes and this seemed like a perfect fit. My endurance background was a great foundation and the area I wanted to develop most – my upper body strength – seemed to be an essential part of the program. After a few at-home-garage-workouts, I was hooked. However, I quickly realized that spending hours upon hours in my garage was not my idea of a great time. CrossFit was a means to an end, but to what end I asked?
Living in Arizona there are so many outdoor activities to pursue. I love the outdoors and that is where I wanted to spend a majority of my time. I was always drawn to rock climbing, canyoneering and backpacking, but I missed the social interaction of what being on a team gave me. Through meet-up groups, I found clubs which offered me the opportunity to explore the desert southwest while doing these things. This was great but there was no competition aspect to these activities. I began to realize I was really missing the competitive nature of my past pursuits. So, it was back to the internet.
99 Spartan Races and counting…
Somehow in my search, Spartan Race came up as a recommended activity… damn pop-up ads! I clicked and found a nearby Spartan Race on the calendar. It was the Arizona Super in 2011. I signed up for the elite heat (because why not?) and showed up at the start line. In that first race, I was 18th overall and was the top racer aged over-40. I had the time of my life running, lifting, climbing and yes, getting dirty. I was hooked.
So fast-forward another 98 races and I am still at it, with 99 Spartan Races in the locker. Just one more – in Hawaii – and I will reach 100. The combination of the diverse training needed for success and the competitive nature of the events keeps me coming back. While running is the primary component of the race, it is essential to be a hybrid, well-rounded athlete. The obstacles require grip strength, upper body strength, hand eye coordination and mastering techniques to efficiently move through the course.
Spartan forced me to be a stronger endurance athlete and this helped me transform my upper body from a weak cyclist to what it is today. It also trained my mind to never give up and always keep moving towards that finish line, because anything can happen along the way in the competition.
A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Christopher Rutz (@toughtraining) on
The end goal? Live to be an active centenarian
Spartan Racing has had its highs and lows over the past 99 races for me. I have experienced the thrill of victory, having appeared on the podium on numerous occasions and the thrill of defeat… damn spear throw! There have been moments of great achievement, signing contracts, the Spartan Pro Team and being introduced at the start line of the World Championships. But my goal has never been these moments. My goal has always been to enjoy the journey and race on my own terms. If you are not having fun and doing it on your own terms, you are doing it wrong.
I continue to enjoy the training and the racing. The racing is just more training for my ultimate long-term goal – to be centenarian and live to be an active 100+ year old. Spartan Race is just another step on the path to that goal. That is what keeps me going. At some point there will be a fork in the road and I’ll veer in another direction, but until then, see you at the start line!
* Reaching this milestone along the way would not have been possible without the generosity of companies including Spartan, inov-8, Beet Elite, Polar and Compete Everyday. I thank them and all of my followers on social media for their inspiration and support everyday. Keep Tough Training and Live the Tough Life.