Last weekend Kaitlyn and I volunteered at the Spartan Super near Austin Texas. We volunteered on the actual race course Saturday from 12pm-8pm, that means we were the ones making sure people who failed the obstacle did the 30 burpees and we got to yell at the racers, encourage them, help them, and cheer them on as they did burpees after failing. The obstacle we were stationed at was called the Herculean Hoist. Racers had to lift a bag of sand 20-25ft up in the air using a rope and pulley system and then lower it back down to the ground without dropping it. If they dropped it, they had to do 30 burpees, if they failed to lift it, they had to do thirty burpees.
I spent the entire time I was there yelling “alright guys, pull it all the way up AND LOWER IT DOWN. DO NOT DROP IT! Drop it and you’ll do thirty burpees! You hear me? Don’t drop those bags unless you like doing burpees!”
and “no! no! Oh no!! Don’t drop it! Do you wanna try again? all the way up all the way down. If you drop it, you’ll still have to do burpees!”
and “oh c’mon! I just saw a kid half your size do it! brace your feet and throw your weight back, you can do it!!”
and “somebody help him! Don’t make him do those burpees alone! you can help your fellow Spartans, don’t do it all for them-they have to earn their medal, but you can help them along if you want to!”
There were separate sandbags for men and women and the women could do the heavy ones if they wanted to, but they didn’t have to and most of them chose not to. They weighed 85(women’s) and 105lbs(men’s). I got the men’s sandbag with a little help. Kaitlyn steadied if for me so I wouldn’t drop it while I readjusted my grip but I did all the pulling, and that’s the sort of help we were giving the racers so I think I did pretty good.
The Spartan Race is really big on team work. They put team work above winning, so the racers were allowed to help each other. Sure, it slowed you down but winning isn’t everything. They will even let you do burpees for someone else. You don’t have to know the person, you could help a total stranger if you wanted to. And those that did, usually got a round of applause from the spectators. The only guideline for helping is you can’t do it all for them-sure you can help them along, but make them work for it too. Most of the time helping meant just steadying the rope while someone readjusted their grip.
We were hoping to work with three other friends who were volunteering but they were put on different shifts so they could run the same day- if you volunteer at a Spartan Race they will give you free entry into any of their races even the one you volunteer at. At first we were pretty disappointed, but we got to work with some really awesome people. And it made it a lot more fun when our friends came through. We yelled at them extra and told them they had to do double the burpees if they failed. I made a huge scene with one of the guys from the Spartan Pit and I think we scared some of the spectators. Some of them actually thought I was trying to pick a fight with a random racer that was twice my size just because I had a shirt that said volunteer on it.
The best part of the whole thing was watching just how determined some of those people were. There were people who weighed less than the sandbags that would hook their feet under the guard rail and they would do it. Then there were some people were just lazy and/or they didn’t know how to use their body weight to help they hoist it up and they would want to give up so I would tell them “I just saw someone smaller than me do it. They had to hook their feet under that rail to keep from being lifted into the air because the bag was heavier than them. If they can, so can you.” and after hearing that, almost all of them could do it. And it made me feel less bad enforcing the 30 burpee penalty on those that failed, because I watched people who weighed less than the sand bags do it, there’s no excuse for the people who could lift it with their body weight alone. Sounds kind of harsh but if you had been there, you would agree with me.
The funniest thing was watching all the people that dressed up costumes and were helping everyone out. Wonder Woman, Spiderman, Captain America, and Green Lantern. They all came through at separate times and all hung around for 10 or 15 minutes just helping everyone. It was pretty cool. And there were the people who painted themselves green, there was a whole team of guys with awesome red mohawks, and there was a the father and son team that everyone who has volunteered at a race in Texas has seen. Every couple of hours you’d see them again. They just kept running through, and they never failed the Hoist. I talked to them the last time they came through, I told them they were somewhat of a legend to my friends and they just laughed and seemed rather flattered. They did the race four times. The course was just over 9 miles long(they advertise 8+ miles), that means those crazy guys ran 36 miles and basically did 80 obstacles(there are 20 at the Super).
Another reason I wanted to go was to see if it was something I really want to do. I’ve been thinking about running the Beast this November but a lot of people didn’t think it’d be such a good idea to start with the longest one they have, well, the longest regular race, I’m not planning on doing any of their crazy ultra marathon races for a few years. But apparently, starting with the Beast isn’t as crazy as I thought, a lot of the racers I talked to did the Beast(13+ miles) for their first Spartan Race and they did just fine. I’m pretty sure I will to now. And I got an awesome volunteer t-shirt.