The Best Hardest Race

adventure brotherhood spartan race

“Congratulations, you’re registered for the Spartan Race...”

The email title popped into my inbox.

What had I just done? My brother had invited me to try this upcoming challenge with him.

The Spartan race was 8-9 miles of running, obstacles that included barbed wire, 8 foot walls, log carries, mud, blood, and tears. Apparently I could have done the “sprint” version, but at my brother’s invitation had gone for the “Super” level of challenge. Great. I had been wanting to face a big physical challenge, probably tied to recently entering my 30s, and my younger brother (who was very dedicated to his CrossFit gym) had agreed to do some sort of obstacle race with me.

I knew I had to train, I had about four months before the Spring race and couldn’t currently run 8-9 miles, let alone all the obstacles that awaited me. I began following the recommended training regimen for the Spartan race (which emphasized STRONGLY to do the sprint (easier) version as a first timer....Oops.

My first few weeks I began running and doing some strength training - squats, jumping jacks,I even ran around my neighborhood with a kettlebell on my shoulders. I was feeling motivated and excited, until I found out about the BURPEES.

For every obstacle you failed or skipped - the penalty was 30 burpees. UGH. No thanks.

So that next week of training I added burpees to my running for the week. Just 10. Ten burpees at the end of my 3 mile run. What happened next looked closer to “pregnant walrus” than “elite athlete/Greek Warrior.” The burpees kicked my butt, as I panted and wheezed, fear and shame welled up inside of me.

What if I couldn’t do this?
What if I had bitten off more than I could chew?

My brain imagined the day of the race playing out with my brother far ahead of me, leaving me alone to fail, or frustrated and angry at having to wait for me. The fear and shame of a dozen boyhood moments crashed around this new challenge, and I was afraid of being alone, inadequate and ridiculed.

I called my brother later after the burpee fiasco and shared with him a little of my fears of finishing and slowing him up. My words probably sounded polite and nice. I recall giving my brother an easy out to run the Spartan ahead of me (inside I could feel my heart beat with the shame and expectation of confirmation that I probably deserved to be left behind)

Then my brother’s words cut clearly over the phone into a deep place in my heart...

“Nic, we’re finishing together. End of story”

Love, hope and truth flooded into my heart as my brother’s simple and kind words showed me the heart of God and true brotherhood in that moment. To remind each other that we are not alone and we are in it together.

A few months later we went on to slog through sweat, mud, cuts, javelin throws and grunts to cross the line together, exhausted and with smiles on our faces, as brothers and finishers.

Men need men, and Men need brothers, brothers to remind us the truth of “Emmanuel” God is with us, we have brothers with us, and we are not alone.

Who needs you to walk with them this week? 
Who needs the reminder that they are not alone?


Nic Howe 
Restoration Project Advocate
Minneapolis, Minnesota

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