In celebration of International Women’s Day (#IWD2020) this Sunday, March 8, we’re honoring four female Spartan athletes who not only run miles, crush hills, carry sandbags, and climb ropes, but also empower others to do the same. For years, these women have shown true grit in mind and body—tackling countless obstacles, both on and off the Spartan Race course. By embodying a mentality of 'strength in numbers', they’ve also led others to the finish line (by convincing family and friends to join in the fun) and supporting Spartan Race, either as a staffer or volunteer. With a solid love of OCR and strong drive to discover their best selves, these women help people in their communities find confidence, too. Read on for these four inspiring stories, follow in their inspiring footsteps, and perhaps you’ll be next to discover you’re stronger than you think. [And to all of the tough, amazing women in our lives, hats off and Happy International Women's Day to you!]
4 Inspiring Spartan Athletes in Honor of International Women's Day
Allison Wooles, Spartan Athlete, Australia
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Motivation is overrated it will let you down 90% of the time 👎 instead I find my why and my biggest why is showing my beautiful girls you can do anything with hard work. #dumbmotivation This year has had some really tough challenges come my way but I’m a mum I need to be strong so I tell myself this can break you or make you so each day I wake up and make shit happen. #makeit #trainhardraceharder #rasiestrongwomen #liftingheavyshit #youcantbreakme
Nothing can stop Allison Wooles from crushing a Spartan Race—or gaining a spot on the podium. She snagged second place her very first time on the course, competing in Bright, Australia in 2016. She also earned a top spot at 20 weeks pregnant and again five weeks after giving birth to her third child. The personal trainer initially decided to sign up for the obstacle race with her husband, after she learned a few friends were competing. A former trapeze artist, Wooles knew she had the spartanobstacles handled but added more running and weightlifting to her workouts to prepare for race day. By the time she lined up at the start, Wooles and her husband felt strong enough to enter the elite category—and she clearly didn’t disappoint.
“Being in the fitness industry, I love, love, love bringing people to Spartan races,” Wooles says of her passion for the event. “I tell my team that my training sessions will be harder than the race and that they should just have fun on race day, because it’s the person having the most fun that’s the real winner.”
In addition to the good times on the course, Wooles also keeps coming back for more obstacles so she can serve as an example to her three young girls. “It’s so important to me to show them, and all women, that you can do anything you put your mind to and with some hard work anything is possible,” she says. “I want all women to step out of their comfort zone, because that’s where all the good stuff is.” A motto you should steal from Wooles for your next race: “Train hard; race hard; be nice.” It’s just that simple.
Ima Hussain, Spartan Athlete, Singapore
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Our lives is an Adventure and we're living life as though everything is rigged in our favor. 😝 - #shakersspartanadventure #theshakers #shakersfamily #shakersspartanrace #spartan #spartantraining #spartancouples #spartansg #spartanracesg #trifecta #ultrashakers #ocr #ocrlife #ocrtraining #ocrfamily #fitfam #climbing #bouldering #beunstoppable #actionseekers #passionmadepossible #activesg
Five years ago, Ima Hussain never ran, avoided sports, and hated the outdoors. But when her daughters saw a commercial for a Spartan race and wanted to participate, she agreed to sign up. By the time she got to the start, her nerves nearly got the best of her. “My hands grew cold and my heart raced faster than my legs could run,” she recalls. “I was afraid, anxious, had zero expectations, and worst, I didn’t know how to clear all 20 obstacles.” Plus, she had just learned what a burpee was after Googling it. “It was challenging for an 85-kilogram me—it literally took my breath away,” she says of the first time she tried doing one. Three kilometers into the race, Hussain thought about dropping out. But she just kept going.
“When I saw my girls at the finish line, two hours and 30 minutes later, there were tears of joy when they hugged me and said, ‘you did it, mommy and we’re very proud of you,” she says. “My daughters are my biggest inspiration and, on that day, their encouragements empowered me to be the best version of me.”
A week after she earned her medal, Hussain reflected on the experience, realizing how unfit she was and that’s when she committed to make a change. She’s since competed in Ultra races (50K distance with 60 obstacles) and earned Trifecta medals (completing a Sprint, Super, and Beast in one calendar year). The most important thing she’s learned about herself after earning so much hardware: She’s got serious grit. “It’s is not just a simple elbow-grease term for rugged persistence,” she says. “It is often an invisible display of endurance that let me stay in an uncomfortable place, work hard to improve upon a given interest and do it again and again and again. This mindset has helped me be better at work, juggling mommy duties at home, and during trainings.”
Hussain and her family now volunteer at Spartan events together and travel internationally for races. She knows her daughters learn valuable life lessons through each experience, and it depends their family bond, she says. The biggest takeaway she wants her girls and others to pick up: “We are our own personal limits, we must have strong insatiable desire to succeed, and what we do must benefit the bigger community.”
Mária Renčková, Spartan Athlete, Slovakia
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Už je to týždeň,čo som si bola odbehnúť prvý spartan tejto sezóny. Trošku netradične, priamo v centre Banskej Bystrice bol štart,čo mi pripomenulo spartan v Košiciach v r.2016. Príjemná trať, občas nás potrápil ľad a zmrznuté prekážky, no len veľmi mierne prevýšenie a necelých 6km. Zato burpees som si užila dosť, celkom 150, za balance, monkyebar, Z-wall, oštep a multiring 🙈💪 Už teraz sa teším na ďalší pretek,plány sú v tejto sezóne veľké, ale zatiaľ nebudem predbiehať, treba sa sústrediť na prípravu 🤔🤫 . . . @73nutritionsk @royal_bay @spartanraceslovakia @ifbb_slovakia @srtgpresov . . . #fitnessaddict #fitnesslikealifestyle #fitnessjourney #fitnessmotivation #fitandtattooed #ageisjustanumber #gymaholic #gymaddict #tattoedgirl #tattoedbeauties #fittattoogirls #fitnessslovakia #tattooed #tattoo #fitnessfreak #fitnessczsk #slovakiagirl #bodyfitness #workingonmydreams #foreveryoung #aginggorgeously #girlswhosquat #girlwholifts #believeinyourself #spartangirlsdoitbetter #spartanchick #fitin40 #spartanBB #spartanwinter
For 42-year-old Maria Renckova, her drive to compete in Spartan races comes down to that feeling she gets at the finish line—and how it translates to life off the course. “During the races, the sentence ‘you will understand at the finish’ has been confirmed several times,” she says. “I often had to overcome myself and my fear. Thanks to this, I know that I can also fight the obstacles that life brings me.”
Renckova first signed up for a Spartan race in 2012, out of sheer curiosity. But she loved it from day one. The confidence she’s gained from each finish has also made her to want to get others in on the benefits. She says when she sees her peers who don’t do sports or set goals like finishing a Spartan, they often lack confidence and the desire to work on themselves. But when she sees others out there, she’s proud. “I am pleased to see some of them want to change their lives, to prove to themselves what they can do,” she says.
As a Spartan coach, ambassador, and volunteer, Renckova says she’s not only learned more about herself, but has met many new friends. “Being a spartan means belonging to a community of people, a family where everyone is mutually supportive, respected, and admired,” she says. “Spartan motivates us to work on ourselves, to improve ourselves, to be a better racer and human.”
Michelle Podnecky, Spartan Athlete, Australia
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Michelle Podnecky might have completed her first Spartan race in the U.S. (Texas to be exact) in 2012, but now she runs the show back in Australia. Climbing the ranks from an intern in college working for the brand, Podnecky now serves as race director. “I keep doing this because I love being a part of the races, and my favorite part is seeing racers on the course or finishing and having a look of exhaustion, pride, and achievement,” she says.
Podnecky, no doubt, has had that same look on her face as she’s traversed the course, and it’s led her to newfound energy and freedom. “The biggest thing that I’ve learned about myself through Spartan has been acknowledging my drive and independence, which I never knew I had,” she says. “I think that Spartan races are a great challenge for everyone to compete in and also resemble the challenges we face in life—to get over that wall or push out of that comfort zone. If we see a challenge in our way, we overcome it.” That’s just Spartan way to live.