Five minutes with: J.L. Martin

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Most Christian Leader readers know J.L. Martin as the U.S. Mennonite Brethren social media coordinator, bookkeeper and event planner. In recent years, Martin’s long-time interest in weight-lifting and fitness has led him to a new sport, Spartan Racing, where runners compete on courses with obstacle challenges. Competitions have taken him from his home in Hesston, Kansas, to Nashville, Tennessee, and Austin and Dallas, Texas. He took a moment out from his social media posting to rave about this new pastime and the community it fosters.

How did you get started in Spartan Racing?

I’ve always worked out in the gym and thought it would be nice to put this to use in some form.The social media posts of people finishing this race looked interesting. I’m not a runner, but the different obstacles and challenges piqued my interest.  My wife thought I would do one and be done. My kids thought I was crazy. However, now they are very supportive. I’ve done two 5Ks and a 10K and plan to do another 10K in June.

How does the competition work?

There are heats of the race that people are competing to win prizes, but I do the open races where you’re competing against yourself. My first race I was just trying to make it to the end, but now I try to finish a little bit faster than last time and complete more of the obstacles. It’s best to have a friend you’re running with. You stick together for all of it and cheer each other on.

What kinds of obstacles are involved?

There are various walls to climb or hop over, monkey bars to cross, carrying sandbags, a spear throw and, at the very end, a little bit of mud. The penalty for failing an obstacle is 30 burpees or a penalty lap, which does slow you down a bit. On my first race, I didn’t know about this.

The name Spartan implies this is for super athletes.

No, it is suited to all ages and fitness levels. I’ve seen a guy in his 80s racing. Men, women, people of all types of fitness levels are doing it all together. It’s designed so there’s a challenge for every single person, even the most fit person.

That sounds like hard work. What brings you back to do it again?

It’s a fun community of people with a great attitude of helping each other out on the course.

It’s not a “get out of my way” competition. Like when you have to jump up to get on a platform, people stay and help the next people up. It’s a community a lot like the church where you have brothers and sisters supporting you along life’s journey.F

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