We’ve all heard of marathons — 26.2 incredibly challenging miles and an achievement to be immensely proud of. Then of course there’s the IRONMAN, a competition that consists of a two-plus-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, then, for good measure, you get to finish the race with a marathon. It’s a test of will and endurance.
Then we have the Spartan race. Originally created as a spin-off of the “Death Race,” a 48-hour endurance event which began in 2003 by Joe De Sena, an ultramarathoner who enjoyed competing in the IRONMAN and the Furnace Creek 508 Bike Race. He had the itch to create something even more challenging — an obstacle-ridden, long, mostly cold, wet, and muddy race — called the Spartan, which is now a world-wide phenomenon.
Bringing the Spartan bug to CHG
Caroline Johnson, a client representative with our CompHealth allied division, was the catalyst for bringing the Spartan bug to CHG. An athlete by nature, Caroline thrives on an active lifestyle and grew up playing competitive soccer. As she got older, she began looking for other opportunities to maintain her fitness and challenge herself. Enter the Spartan. This was a tough, strenuous, training-intensive race and obstacle course.
Not only did Caroline have a commitment to fitness, and to the idea of running a Spartan, she was also very persuasive in recruiting coworkers to sign up for the race.
“I started doing Spartans solely because of peer pressure from Caroline,” says Drew Shetrone, CompHealth sales director. He’s since done three more Spartan races.
Perhaps it’s a testament to her success as a salesperson because since she began running Spartans, she’s recruited a total of four other CHG employees, with more in the pipeline. Although they were peer pressured into doing the race, they haven’t regretted it, and competing in Spartans has now become one of their passions.
For CompHealth sales leader Fernando Soto the competition has become a way to establish camaraderie with his fellow CHG employees as well as a way to stay fit and motivated to train regularly. This is a sentiment felt by all who’ve run the race with Caroline.
“I’ve always wanted to do some sort of obstacle race and going with an experienced group was the perfect motivation,” says Fernando. “My motivation to continue racing is to get better every year. We beat last year’s Super time by 40 minutes. I was also able to attempt and complete almost every obstacle this year.”
Drew, who’s so far competed in three races, feels it’s a great way to keep himself accountable to stay in shape. He’s already an avid cyclist but feels this motivates him to push even harder. He uses group fitness and does even more cycling in preparation. “If I don’t train, it means I’ll suffer that much more.”
This seems to be the consensus all around. “To prepare for my races — so far I’ve completed five of them — I do basic hiking, running and upper body strength. We have a pretty diverse group as far as how they train: we have a biker, a CrossFitter, and one doing HIIT training,” Fern says.
Facing fears head on
Caroline, who’s now completed 12 races, fell in love with Spartans after doing her first one in Utah. She says she had no idea what she was in for or what she was doing, but this only motivated her to work harder for her next race and improve on her times.
“I was terrified to run for eight miles, all while completing obstacles,” she says. “It was super hot and sticky, and I had no idea what the obstacles would consist of. I thought I was going to throw up before the race even began. I was afraid I’d pass out or fail all the obstacles or fall. I was worried it would take me six hours to complete the race.”
For Fern, he says his first Spartan was “ugly.” He hadn’t eaten enough prior to his eight-mile race — which of course included obstacles — and he’s also afraid of heights. A double whammy, since a lot of Spartan’s obstacles require climbing.
Drew admits that before each race, he wonders why he’s doing this — but when he’s completed the course and has that after-race beer and gets his medal, it’s all worth it.
Gavin Hunter, another CHG Spartan teammate and a sales manager at our Global Medical Staffing division, has competed in 14 races, even though one of the obstacles involves submerging yourself completely underwater — and he can’t swim. Regardless of his fear of deep water, and the possibility of getting injured, Gavin has persevered. However, one incident nearly made him decide to give up competing in Spartans altogether.
“My Camelback caught underneath a dunk wall, and I became stuck — under water. Most people could have just rescued themselves, but I panicked. Luckily my friend Katy was nearby. She noticed I was trapped and jumped back in to save me. You could say she saved my life, but I like to think that my survival instincts would have kicked in,” he jokes.
CHG’s emphasis on healthy living and camaraderie
Caroline, Gavin, Drew, and Fern all say that without CHG’s focus on the health and well-being of its employees as well as camaraderie, their ability to compete in as many races as they have would have been hindered.
“The on-site gym has made it possible to get my workouts in during the day, otherwise I don’t think I’d have the time,” Gavin says. “I’ve also made an amazing group of friends working here who enjoy doing what I enjoy doing.”
Drew agrees, “I enjoy doing Spartans with those I work with, because they’re great people, and having this shared experience only deepens my connection to my coworkers, my team, and CHG.”
“CHG offers a lot of opportunities to become healthier overall as an individual,” Fern says, “and that helps us push each other to become better both inside and outside CHG’s walls.”
Ultimately, Caroline says CHG allows the group time to take off to race, some of which require travel.
“Misery loves company,” Caroline jokes. “I love running with my friends. It’s the whole process that brings me joy. Working out together, encouraging one another, singing horrible ‘90s songs in the car, and crossing the finish line together. We accomplished something really challenging together, and it’s a great feeling!”
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