No guts, no glory

Thousands of Spartans conquer the physical challenges in Washougal

Spartans climb up Horsepower Hill using only a rope, brute strength and teamwork Saturday, at Washougal Motocross Park. The sticky and slippery mud combined with the strings of barbed wire above their heads left little room for error.

Thousands of Spartans conquer the physical challenges in Washougal

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A competitor shakes the mud out of his hair during the Spartan Sprint. More than 10,000 warriors earned medals after conquering a series of punishing obstacles designed to test the human spirit.

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Brendan Casey, a 20-year-old from Washougal, completed the 3.5-mile, 13-obstacle Spartan Sprint in one hour and 11 minutes.

Thousands of Spartans earned their medals after crossing the finish line Saturday and Sunday, at Washougal Motocross Park.

Mud covered their bodies from head to toe, but you could still see the smiles on their faces.

Waves of athletes entered the course every 15 minutes. No matter how many times Master of Ceremonies Anthony Carson repeated his opening monologue, the passion in his voice never skipped a beat.

“A Spartan Sprint captures a lot of first timers. I love seeing the looks on their faces before they enter the battlefield,” Carson said. “I want to let them know they are not in this alone. There’s a Spartan on your left and a Spartan on your right. That should lessen the fear factor. There are strengths in numbers.”

Brendan Casey wrestled for a state medal inside the Tacoma Dome and captured the state championship on the pole vault for Washougal High School. But nothing before this could have prepared the 20-year-old for 3.5 miles of 13 punishing obstacles designed to test the human spirit.

“All of the things I had done before or wanted to do were combined into this one race,” Casey said. “It was way more intense than I thought it would be. Crawling up Horsepower Hill was my favorite moment. Just seeing everybody help each other and being able to help them too was awesome.”

After sliding down a hill into a bog of water, these weekend warriors scratched and clawed their way to the top of Horsepower Hill using only a rope to pull themselves up. Endless strings of barbed wire were just an arm’s reach above their heads, but they didn’t stop climbing.

Once they reached the top, the Spartans picked up a 100-pound bag and carried it down the hill before slithering under more barbed wire. After running through three mud pits, they had to climb straight up a rope to the top of a tower and ring a bell. Then they had to throw a spear and push a tire.

Combatants scurried up a hill and plunged into a pool of mud. They had to dunk their heads underwater to get beyond a barrier and then crawl out of the water while avoiding more barbed wire. They used rope to pull themselves up a platform before making one final sprint to the finish line, dodging gladiators and their pugil sticks blocking the way.

“I want them to leave here feeling accomplished, but with a desire to do this again,” Carson said. “The Spartan lifestyle is more than just about the competition. It’s about building a family. I love walking through the crowd and shaking the hands of these people. I also like to listen to their warrior stories.”

Casey signed up for the Spartan Sprint just weeks before the event. After he crossed the finish line in an hour and 11 minutes, he was hooked.

“I felt so accomplished and excited to be out there competing in my own backyard,” he said. “Being a part of the wrestling and the track and field programs in Washougal set the standards pretty high for me. Knowing the mindset that I needed to be in and all the competing I had done in the past definitely helped.”

Casey would love to compete in more Spartan races in the future. He wants to enter the elite heat of the Spartan Sprint next summer. A Super Spartan event features 8 miles and 20 obstacles. The Spartan Beast ups the ante to 12 miles and 25 obstacles.

“That would be such a cool thing to do,” Casey said. “I don’t even care what my time would be. Just to say that I did it would be awesome.”