Overcoming Obstacles


To those that know the Spartan Race series many mark down the Pennsylvania race as their staple Sprint for the year.  For the past 3 years this race has been designed by Norm Koch.  Norm is a long standing race director that has a reputation for designing the most difficult courses the series runs.  After conquering this course in years past, I had a desire this year beyond what I could achieve as an individual.  I wanted to help others complete this challenge and push their comfort zone beyond what they believed they could achieve.

So the day began on Sunday July 13th at 3:30am.  I woke at my New Jersey home and began my drive into the early morning to Blue Mountain in Palmerton, PA.  I arrived in a near empty lot with staff not knowing what the day would bring, but upon exiting the car I could feel the excitement building.  I knew today was going to be a great day.

After a short time at check in with the Volunteer Coordinator and other volunteers we headed over to the Biggest Loser Run \ Walk Off-Road challenge tent.  We met the challenge leader and past Biggest Loser participant Tara Costa to discuss our individual stories of challenges we overcame and why we are here.  Each of which was inspiring more than just because of the loss of weight.

The excitement began to build as challenge participants began to arrive.  Each member came to this point with their own goal, but one message: Finish and conquer this challenge!

Sunday Group Photo
Sunday Group Photo

My goal was to help as much as possible, so I volunteered to go beyond the tent and be on the course for assistance.  I knew the obstacles were only part of the challenge they were going to face today as Blue Mountain holds itself as the most vertical in Pennsylvania.   I packed my hydration pack with essentials for the team: protein, energy packs and water.

2 - Start Line
Start Line

Moments before we walked to the start line Tara gave a motivating speech to the group.  Her uplifting speech gave the group energy as they headed to the starting line where a few more words were said by Tara along with the energizing T.C. Carson.  As accustomed to hearing those last words prior to running through the smoke… Aroo!  Aroo! Aroo!  Go!  … We began!

3 - And they are off
And they are off

Once we exited the smoke we faced our first obstacle, the over \ under.  Here is where each individual is faced with different challenges.  Some easily went over and under, while some others required assistance.  The introduction of the over \ under obstacles gave the racers an understanding of what was ahead and quickly took the wind out of some of the group.  Following that first obstacle the group had started to split into their separate levels.  I decided to stay behind and help as many people over the wall as possible, eventually turning myself into the sweeper.

4 foot wall
4 foot wall

After the next climb we hit the Over – Under – Through (OUT) obstacle.  After conquering the prior obstacle this was a breeze as they were better prepared for this one.

After a steep descent down the mountain, the course was quickly brought back to the base area with a cargo net, inverted wall, 7’ wall and 8’ wall.  With this group of challenges each individual has the opportunity to take on or bypass an obstacle.  As Tara mentioned during the speech earlier this is their race and their challenge to overcome.  Attempt every obstacle, but also know how far you can push your limits.


After the 8’ wall the group headed further up the mountain.  With loose rock, unstable ground and a steep incline, many in the group were uncomfortable, but my group of racers they were not ready for any bypass and quickly grabbed the ropes and climbed the hill.  Using their upper body strength and motivation from myself, and the other racers around them, they made it to the top with high fives waiting from random racers.

It is times like this when Spartan Race brings not only mental and physical challenges for each racer, but shows each racer what strength and encouragement you give and gain from others.  Each racer conquers their own obstacles, but knows that finishing with the encouragement and motivation of others greatly surpasses that of focused individuality.

Slippery Wall
Slippery Wall

After a short rest and catching our breath, we made our way to the next treacherous ascent through the woods.  This was by far the longest and steeper ascent for the racers.  It was here where their mental toughness of this race was tested.  While motivating my group and taking it one step at a time the group knew deep down they could make it, and did make it to the top!  From the top they could see all they had accomplished so far.  They realized what was behind them and what was possible with grit and determination.

As we descended we approached the water obstacles which were a great relief from the heat.  Upon exiting the lake we could hear the voices and excitement of the finish line and new it was near.  Next was the bucket carry, the last push physically and mentally that remained.  Their bodies hurt but seeing the finish line within reach made conquering one these final obstacles even more satisfying.  I knew this last challenge was not an easy one for them, would they decide to bypass this obstacle?  I talked them through each step and after a period of time we all made it to the last hurdle.  The only item remaining was a small muddy descent to the finish line.


Finish - Fire
Finish – Fire

Upon finishing we received our Biggest Loser Run/Walk medal.  I made sure to give my medal to one of my team because I felt that she had pushed well beyond what she might have thought she was capable of prior to the race beginning.

I’m proud to say the group of racers I was with conquered the majority of the obstacles.  Their comfort zone was well pushed and they succeeded!  Whether a fan of the Biggest Loser TV series or the Spartan Race in general, I highly recommend everyone to check out their respective websites for more information.


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