“Earned, not Given”- that was the slogan for the recent Spartan race in Palma. And earned it was by all who entered and completed the challenging course.
We arrived with plenty of time to spare – a good thing too as the venue was a vast, green, open space, filled with people of all abilities, ages, shapes and sizes. Many had travelled overseas especially to compete. They certainly got the adventure they were seeking! The Spartan set up was an awesome sight to see. The final few obstacles of the adult race were positioned around the spectator area. There was a huge square-mesh climbing wall and platform, a steep slope running with water and only a single rope to help participants over and the last obstacle to jump, a dramatic hot coal mound which smouldered continuously, billowing smoke over the finish line. A crowd of pre-spartans were gathered for the start of their race – the excitement and intrepidation was palpable. They had a common goal – to finish, to have fun and perhaps even some laughter along the way. Many expected pain and exhaustion as well…but perhaps not quite as much as they experienced (so I’ve been told!). It really was something to behold. The strength and determination and how so many people were brought together in this way can only be described as motivational and inspirational.
After registering the kids and eventually finding their race start, we still had half an hour to go. William and his friend Marley, entertained themselves jumping over ditches and running around trees – again and again and again! I’m sure in their improvised warm-up they had already run a couple of kilometres before the race began! At 11am, the young entrants were called to the start line, where a milder race warm-up took place for all the 4-6 year old participants. In long grass they rolled, waved and clapped with their host who revved them up and got them ready. Then they were off…just over twenty little Spartans, aptly wearing head bands brandishing their numbers, running and scrambling to the first hurdle. Over walls, running through more long grass and prickles, climbing heights which would have daunted me. Heaving ropes with weights attached, hauling themselves up vertical ropes, more running, jumping through tyres and over ditches to the finish line. Certainly not for the faint-hearted! The Spartan accolade is truly deserved!
A Mothers Duty
It was just after the first wall that I realised in order for William to complete this race in it’s entirety, I was going to have to resign my position as the mother-photographer and get stuck in myself – dressed completely inappropriately I may add. Without realising what the orange boundary tape was for, William had wandered off course over to where he’d seen a huge mesh he wanted to climb, missing the first section of the course completely! (I really don’t think at six years old he’d considered cheating his way around – he is one of those kids who can’t help react on impulse and when he sees something fun he is instantly drawn towards it. Plus the concept of a race course and completing obstacles was new to him. With hindsight, I should have explained the objective of the challenge more carefully to him beforehand. Although, this was a bit hard as I didn’t know what to expect myself!)
By the time I’d convinced him to come back to where he’d ducked the tape, he was positioned as one of the last – not a problem, WE were going to finish this race properly!
Crossing the Finish line
And that’s what we did. Though it was a little tough at times! Not because I was climbing hills and traipsing through mud in my weekend wear; rather that coaxing my son along to the finish line had some challenging moments. William is well-built, strong and co-ordinated – always has been. The obstacles didn’t lead to his lack-lustre attitude three quarters of the way through the course. Running (but by this time walking) through prickles in shorts didn’t help. The real problem for him was he had no other children around to spur his motivation – and that was a shame.
But, he made it. When the finish line was in sight, I stepped back to the spectator’s side, and cheered William as he broke into a sprint to the finish! HURRAH and PHEEEEEW! Though he was one of the last finishers (if not the last) I have never seen my boy wear a smile so proudly. Receiving his ‘Earned not Given’ medal and T-Shirt meant he forgot about the barrier he went through. He did it and the reward was worth it. Afterwards, he and Marley (who positioned in 5th place I think) enthusiastically recounted their own experience of the course, focusing on their favourite obstacle. I hope that means William will enter again with a positive approach to Spartan or any other physical challenge he does in the future. It really is taking part and completing a challenge that counts for all kids – whether it’s sporting, musical, theatrical – it’s fantastic to give our children these opportunities at a young age and to be part of something great. When else do they learn what it is to ‘earn’?
All the little Spartans out there, way to go! Fantastic to watch (and run) with you!
(William’s T-shirt and head band are worn regularly at weekends and he proudly carried his medal to school in his back pack for a week after the event!)
Note to self (and other Mums):
Explain to my children what a race course is and how to stick to the designated route before an event.
Dress kids in long pants so the prickles don’t scratch.
Expect to participate. Wear your sports kit.
Note to organisers:
More enthusiastic Spartan officials around the course to help and guide the children would be good.
There is no way my 4 year old could have completed that on her own and I was going to enter her but she had a cold she had all week. Age appropriate challenges need more consideration if you are going to advertise for the younger years. Perhaps a separate course they can complete on their own without parents getting involved?!
Consider staggering the race start.
Consider healthy food stalls – hamburgers and hot dogs after a race?!
Written by Gemma Sherlock
About the author
After many years of moving around, Gemma, her husband and 2 children settled in Mallorca.
Why Nourish the Kids? Words, language and especially writing have always been a focus and priority for Gemma. She likes to express herself thoughtfully and with clarity whether writing or speaking and enjoys discussing and researching new ideas and topics, particularly when it comes to health and well-being.
Likes: Circuit training, pilates, cooking from Ottolenghi books, pukka tea, hummus, reflexology, the audible app, Spanish lessons at MTA and thoughtfulness.