Individually, they're stuntwomen, rock climbers, trail runners, farmers, and newlyweds. Collectively — despite their differing backgrounds and varied circumstances — they're Spartans, through and through.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, they made plans and set goals, like the rest of us. But unlike most people, they continued to show up and never slowed down when the world was at a standstill. As the global pandemic raged on, these remarkable Spartans pivoted, adapted, and put themselves in position to come back stronger than ever in 2021 and beyond. This is how they persevered, and how they plan to make their mark in the new year, as only real Spartans can.
These are their Spartan stories.
Taryn Terrell - New Orleans, LA
Putting your life at risk on a daily basis comes with its own rewards. For the litany of jobs that require making sacrifices, few receive the kind of exposure — and challenge you as physically — that stunt work does. These performers not only have to be in top shape and have laser-sharp focus, but their fitness routine also has to remain consistent, and kept to the highest standard.
“I lost all my days on set as the television and film industry was completely shut down,” Terrell says.
In response, she went to where her audience is — even though everybody was home.
Terrell's friends and family challenged her to embrace a new proving ground: a virtual one.
"I stayed motivated by doing online challenges and connecting with the online community,” she recalls. “I ran further than I ever had. I had so much downtime, but I preferred to focus on the things I could control, which was my health and fitness.”
Thankfully, another small glimmer of hope kept her on track. It was one familiar to Spartans of all stripes, and it provided a wonderful bookend to her return to racing.
“Spartan put on Jacksonville in 2020 in spite of everything, so it became my goal and reward for that season in lockdown," Terrell says. "Jacksonville was perfectly run and a blast! Now, I am currently focusing on preparing to return to Jacksonville in February.”
She’ll be among the many who have earned their way back to the start line.
The Rock Climber
Molly Bond - Hudson, NH
Earning a place on the Spartan start line does not come without its own setbacks. But Spartans know how to turn setbacks into comebacks. This past year, rock climber and race veteran Molly Bond experienced an earth-shattering wake-up call that took her out of contention. Far from her mind was any thought of competing in Spartan — all she wanted to do was merely walk again. Sometimes, a little motivation can make all the difference.
“This 2021 race season is going to be my comeback year!" Bond beams. "I spent last year relearning how to walk after suffering an injury while rock climbing. Staying motivated was key. After surgery, I wrote down goals on my bathroom mirror that I wanted to accomplish by the end of the year, so I could see them every day. Then, I put a plan into action to accomplish them.
"I enlisted the help of a coach to work with me and push me. These goals included running and attempting obstacles again. We even threw some one-legged burpees into the mix for fun.”
While one-legged burpees are no one’s definition of fun, they were a significant achievement for a Spartan who wasn’t given a definitive chance of returning to form when the injury occurred.
Today, she is truly back.
“It took me a good portion of the year, but I did it,” she says. “I ran a 25K race and I can successfully get over a 6-foot ft wall, climb the rope, and traverse monkey bars! Pretty good for someone who couldn’t walk months ago.”
This progress is remarkable for someone getting off the couch, let alone someone who was confined to a hospital bed.
“I have continued my training into the new year," she says. "I have increased my weekly distance running. I still work with my coach to gain back strength and balance in my legs and am more motivated than ever to put the time, sweat, and tears in. I cannot wait to get out on a course and show myself what I can do!”
The future is bright for Bond. As we've seen time and time again, great setbacks often lead to greater comebacks
The Trail Runner
Madeline Dolente - Arlington, VA
While some comebacks require a coach and scrutiny, others require freedom and escape. For Madeline Dolente, the opportunity for a return to form came on the trails outside of Washington, D.C.
“There is always a way to get fit, and the COVID pandemic gave us an opportunity to be creative,” she says. “As a former collegiate runner, I started running more and adding a weighted backpack and running pods. I have run 11 trail races since April. Getting outside became really important to my mental game.”
Running on the trails, up hills, over streams, and gliding through the trees is something that every Spartan can relate to. But even as the pandemic wore on, it took more than just endurance to retain the strength that made Dolente a premier Spartan ambassador and personal trainer.
“I found parks with monkey bars to work on strengthening my grip," she recalls. "I started creating HIIT workouts for myself and my clients. I also purchased several Spartan Ramrollers and trained with them, as well as my kettlebells, to maintain strength. I participated in several Spartan virtual races and trained my clients to do them as well.”
While a strength-in-numbers approach works well in the weight room, it was the balance of individual pushing on the trails — and a commitment to going virtual — that gave Dolente and her cohort the edge to do even more in 2021.
The South African Farmer
Elaine Taylor Bodenstein - Sannieshof, South Africa
Virtual racing played a major role in helping to keep athletes fit, focused, and energized in 2020. Across the world, athletes stimulated their competitive mindset by comparing times and efficiency in an online arena, all while maintaining their social distance. It was a respected substitute for the real thing.
For Elaine Taylor Bodenstein, a farmer in South Africa, virtual racing kept her morale up and amplified her at-home training.
“I qualified for the Spartan Asian and African Championships in Dubai and was due to compete in March 2020," she says. "Obviously the event was cancelled and all our plans went south. I decided to keep training by myself. I live on a farm, so I could train relatively free. I did every possible VR (obstacle and plain running) I could find.”
Her dedication paid off in more ways than one.
“At the end of 2020 I was notified that I, through all of my commitment, qualified for the Spartan Trifecta World Championship in Greece,” she said proudly. “That made me even more committed, and I am still going strong.”
See you in November, Elaine! We can't wait to see you in action.
Mallory Mazer - Los Angeles, CA
For some Spartans, the inevitable improvisation required to thrive in 2020 meant adjusting training regimens or race goals. For others, it meant making major life adjustments.
Mallory Mazer, like so many of us, couldn't have predicted how a global pandemic would affect her daily life and plans.
“COVID couldn't have come at a worse time for us," she says. "We got married in our car after having our wedding canceled and moved from the NYC metro area to LA."
But Spartans aren’t easily deterred. To find balance and build back her physical prowess, she kept busy.
“My outdoor runs were really the only way I was getting out of the house, since gyms were no longer an option," she says. "Training was one of the few things I could control, so it was so helpful for my mental health to stick to a structured training program and celebrate milestones as my fitness improved."
Through it all, Mazer's dedication became the cornerstone for an upcoming year that will be filled with new (hopefully better!) experiences and opportunities.
These stories, from near and far, paint an inspiring picture for racers itching to get back into real-life competition. Spartans the world over, with a full arsenal of varying strategies, maintained their focus and put themselves in a position to succeed. We can’t wait to see how these motivating and inspiring stories will translate to further success, what 2021 will bring for Spartan Race, and what’s yet to come.