So there was MojoFiction at 10:15am EST on Saturday morning, east of Indianapolis, in a park called Haspin Acres. The weather was cool enough that we could see our breath. We wore shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, just to rub it into nature’s face that we didn’t care about the temperature. Our comrades-in-race opted for the long-sleeved shirts, which made us laugh at them because, in the end, we knew they would finish before us, so we had to have something to hold over their heads. Also, we knew we were going to get really wet and the long sleeves would weigh us down.
First off, Spartan Race is crazy. There are people who follow this thing all over the country and race for the cash prizes for being the fastest time on the course. There are also a lot of teams, many with their own fancy uniforms. The 10am heat featured a team of what looked to be about sixty racers; all dressed the same and ready to roll. Our 10:15 heat only had a few small teams, including our modest team of four (that’s MojoFiction plus three), and two of our team was hell-bent on running the course as fast as they could. MojoFiction just wanted to make sure we finished in one-piece.
Once the go time approached, an energized MC fired up the racers by reminding them that they could die out there, in case they didn’t remember, but at least they’ll have a good time doing it. Then the race commenced. We ran only for about twenty seconds and around one bend before the architects of the course let us know that it would be a long day be making us wade through a waist-deep pit of muddy water. On the other side we were cold and wet and thinking that Spartan Race was a bunch of jerks. Then they gave us another pit of water. Then it was on to the first walls.
Spartan Race loves to throw walls at the runners. They start off low, but as they racers move on and wear out, they walls get higher, eventually getting to eight feet. The first walls were low, but we knew they were just a harbinger of things to come. And those things came on fast.
After the first series of walls and a few other things meant to get the blood moving and trick us into thinking we were going to easily conquer this race, we came to a sign that said “Rolling Mud.” Huh? Then we crested a small hill and saw what it meant. That small hill became complete mud on the other side. At the bottom, another lovely pit of waist-deep muddy water. On the other side of the water, a hill of mud, which made trying to get out of the water very interesting. But we did it by accidentally stepping on someone’s head (or something) and pulling ourselves up to the top. Of course, the top only led to another drop into a pit of waist-deep muddy water. We did this three times and then wondered aloud if the Christianity would have been different if the devil had tempted Jesus three times with the Rolling Mud in the desert. Then we immediately paid for our sinful thoughts by being shown the next obstacle.
The mud from the Rolling Mud literally rolled right into Spartan Race hell: a 100-yard crawl under barbed wire, though the mud, uphill. This was no ordinary mud, but rather a sheen of slick crud directly over clay. With the exception of the edges, where the mud was thicker, it was almost impossible to get a grip, yet the mud was just thick enough to cake onto our shoes and fill our clothes. We tried to dig our elbows in to help push us forward, but for every five feet forward, we slid back two.
At this point in the race, the runners in our heat were still relatively close together. Looking ahead and behind we saw only a mass of scrappy, mud-caked athletes crawling through the muck and experiencing the same sense of futility. Not to be undone by nature and the evil geniuses from Spartan Race, the runners started helping each other out, pushing the heels of the person ahead to stop them from sliding back, reaching back to pull someone up, and pointing out ground that yielded a firmer grip. Near the top of the crawl, the ground dipped down before turning back up in one more vicious rise of mud. We here at MojoFiction couldn’t seem to find the right grip and kept sliding down. But suddenly another runner was there, reaching back over the top to pull us up, then they were gone.
But that’s how it was all day at Haspin Acres in Indiana. Thousands of us simple humans engaged a physically dangerous communal experience (kinda like riding the Chicago L). There were no cell phones, no iPads, no laptops, no Facebook. Only people of every height, weight, color, and gender getting together to blow out their quads and probably their knees. Sometimes someone hiked us up over the wall and sometimes we hiked someone else over the wall, and sometimes one our friends slipped in the water and went down and we pointed and laughed. It was the kind of teamwork and camaraderie you don’t see enough of in life, unless there’s a disaster somewhere. At one point, a girl jogged by just as we were commenting loudly about how we almost became a Darwin Awards statistic at the last obstacle. She stopped because she’d seen the movie The Darwin Awards, loved it, and just had to talk about it. She probably lost five minutes on her overall time, but she didn’t really care. And why should she? There’s never a wrong time in life to stop and talk to people (except the aforementioned Chicago L).
We’re not sure if the creators of Spartan Race just wanted to really challenge people, or if they had the intention of creating an experience that would bring complete strangers together and give teammates something to brag about at the office and talk about over a beer at the watering hole. But that’s what happened anyway.
And we won’t soon forget it.