About 3,000 mud-splattered hard-bodies from across Western Canada climbed ropes, hauled cement weights and clambered over haystacks to finish the gruelling 14-km Spartan Race in Red Deer on Saturday.
And nearly half of them were determined women, such as Kim Pastachak of Estevan, Sask,
After chanting “I am Spartan!” and tearing off into the woods at Heritage Ranch for the Super Spartan Challenge, Pastachuk swam in a river inlet, swung from monkey bars, and crawled through mud. She didn’t get tearful until asked why she put herself through the exhausting race with 21 obstacles.
“I’m doing this for my daughters,” said the 43-year-old oilfield administrator, who wanted to show her 14- and 17-year-old girls “they can do anything!”
Carrie Hill and Michelle Kemp, two nurses from Regina, also felt they had something to prove.
“I want to be physically fit and strong, but I’m not allowed to do contact sports anymore,” said Hill, an 25-year-old LPN, who lost a kidney in 2011 and had to give up ringette and hockey.
The Super Spartan course was so difficult it literally left Hill speechless. “There were parts of the race where I thought, I’m going to die, I am not going to make this,” but she did finish, and was left feeling “unbelievable.”
Her teammate, Kemp, an RN, was told after splintering her wrist four years ago that she might not even be able to work again, never mind do sports. But the 48-year-old started working out with a female boot camp at Readiness Fitness in Regina and can now do pushups, as well as completing Saturday’s obstacle race.
“I am incredibly proud of her, you have no idea,” said Kemp’s beaming husband, Curtis Kemp. who came to cheer with their daughter.
Mary Brooks, of Red Deer, competed in her first Spartan Race with teammates and plans to make a habit of it. “I wanted to prove I can do anything men can do!” said Brooks, 29, who described it as being “right up my alley . . . The whole time I was saying ‘I just love this!’”
Western regional Spartan Race director Dean Stanton has seen female interest in the Spartan Race explode over the past four years. But then, overall participation was expected to be 3,500 people for both Red Deer Spartan Races, including Sunday’s five-km, 15-obstacle Spartan Sprint. This is a significant jump from 2,200 people last year, said Stanton.
He believes more women and men are getting bored with running and want a more interesting physical challenge that works upper body muscles too.
There’s also the mud aspect. “Everybody gets muddy and they get to act like kids. We live in such a sterile world where people aren’t allowed to go out and play and go crazy. This becomes an outlet for people,” added Stanton, who helps run the races in five locations around Western Canada.
The Red Deer event, which went off with the help of about 100 volunteers, got high marks from Michael Morris of Calgary, who liked climbing the 15-foot haystack pyramid on Saturday. “I think it’s one of the top two,” said the 32-year-old, who has run at all Spartan sites.
Red Deer mechanic Riley Hoganson, 42, is not a regular gym user or runner, but managed to finish the Super Spartan in just under two hours. “I did it out of peer pressure from my friends, but it was a lot of fun,” said Hoganson, who “liked the camaraderie and the laughter.”
Colleen Bradley, 48, and Nadine Ryan, 39, of Kamloops, B.C., were in Red Deer to achieve their trifecta medal, which requires running three different distances. “We do it for the challenge and the thrill of it,” said Bradley.