Obstacle course racing has been the greatest gift in my life.
A child from a broken home, I grew into a women full of insecurity. At a young age I began to hate my body and developed low self-esteem via “situational osmosis” from an abusive household, and by listening to and observing my mom; watching her shame over her own body germinated thoughts of inferiority, insecurity, and self-hatred in my own mind. Upon the onset of trauma in my teenage years, I developed an eating disorder as a mechanism for escaping reality.
As with any addiction, my life was not my own for many years; I was enslaved by daily urges, shame, and blinding emotional pain that was self-induced. For nearly a decade I battled myself…abusing my body, pushing away those that tried to love me, and allowed the sand of my hourglass to waste away through my depression. My initial journey into athletics originated not from a place of health, but a place of darkness; I ran to obtain a physical image, not a state of being. I despised my body type, convinced that my weight was the measure of my self-worth. I felt powerless in my addiction, and I feared that I was not strong enough to regain control of my life.
Finding myself at the start line of my first Spartan Race in 2015, I was terrified: I did not belong there, I was too weak, and I was not good enough. Approaching each obstacle on course that day, I was intimidated and the familiar feelings of inadequacy bubbled in my gut. Thoughts swarmed in my head: What if I cannot do this? What if I fail? What if I have been right about myself all along? Slowly, I worked my way through the five miles, attempting each obstacle to the best of my ability, completing penalty burpees when I failed, and continuing to move forward in spite of my fear. Crossing the finish line, I was humbled by my inability to climb a rope, complete monkey bars, and maneuver over the 8 foot walls. My body was covered in scrapes and bruises, and I was exhausted.
Driving home from the race that day, I had a profound experience. I checked the results on my phone and found that I had placed in the top 10 of nearly 1,500 women in the open heat of racers. I was overcome with emotion to the point where I had to pull my car over as I sobbed uncontrollably. Even though I had doubted myself, wanted to quit, and was so afraid, I hadn’t allowed the chains of my eating disorder to impede my ability to achieve. For the first time in my adult life, I felt powerful.
As I continued to compete in more and more obstacle course races, I slowly began to break through the self-imposed barrier that I had built between my mind and the actions of my daily life. I changed my perspective to focus more on my health and fitness as a means for building strength, rather than as some sort of punishment for not looking a certain way. I learned to fuel my body for performance, instead of depriving and hurting myself for the sake of my weight. I started to embrace my body type for my natural inclination to build muscle and my ability to perform in athletics. I also began to work on my mindset to break my patterns of negative self-talk, learned helplessness, and limiting beliefs.
As I developed as an athlete, I grew as a person. While I focused on elite performance in obstacle course racing, I blossomed from the inside out. Competing in races became my passion and it transformed me. Each race makes me better: the demons that I conquer in my mind on course builds my resilience; every failure that I overcome makes me more confident; and every finish lines brings me closer to recovery from my addiction.
Obstacle course racing has been the greatest gift of my life, because it has given me just that. I am no longer the ghost of my past, hollow from the pain of my insecurities. Through my experiences on course, I have gained a sense of self that has carried me through heartbreak, loss, and triumph. I am no longer a victim of addiction; I am a survivor that is powerful enough to take on any obstacle.