With ties to both competitions firmly rooted in Greece, who would be better suited to take on a Spartan race than an Olympic champion?
Monica Puig, the gold medalist at the 2016 Summer Games in women’s tennis, competed in her first event — the Palm Beaches Sprint and Kids Weekend — on April 24 in Boca Raton, Fla. While many of her peers in the Women’s Tennis Association were battling it out on the clay courts in Europe, Puig — currently rehabbing from a shoulder injury — embraced a new competitive experience. Puerto Rico’s first-ever gold medalist talked with Spartan about the race, how she approached it, and which other tennis pros could make an impact on the Spartan course.
SPARTAN RACE: Why did you decide to do a Spartan race? What inspired you, or intrigued you, to take on this challenge?
MONICA PUIG, PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Sometimes people can be bored with running three miles or stuff like that, but you stop and do all these obstacles, running through water, having to pick stuff up — it's actually really, really fun. And with so many people doing it, you get that sense of community that you’re all pushing each other as well to complete every single obstacle, every single burpee, so that’s cool.
SR: Did you train for this race at all? How did this figure into your normal training routine?
MP: No, actually. It was great because I do run a lot and unfortunately, I couldn’t do every single obstacle because I’m still recovering from shoulder surgery. I was just looking at some people carrying the really heavy stuff and doing all these crazy obstacles. But I thought the things that I did were pretty fun and easy. This was just a Sprint — I would think that the Beast would be way harder — but I’m really excited. I want to do more, that’s for sure.
SR: Knowing what you know now about the course and the obstacles, how will you train — if at all — for the next one?
MP: Hopefully, the next one I will be healthier so that I can participate in all the obstacles and maybe even throw in a couple of burpees if I fail an obstacle. That’s the thing with Spartan races: If you fail an obstacle you have to do 30 burpees. I think I would get out of there a lot more tired and a lot dirtier.
But it’s so cool, being able to do all these things. They make you really realize your body can go through so much more than what you set as a limit in your head. I think that’s what Spartan makes you do.
The first obstacle is climbing over a small wall. Everybody can get past that first obstacle, and it just shows you that you can do it. And you just want to keep going for more and more and more. And that's the great thing about it.
SR: As far as your Sprint time (52:52), did you feel pretty happy about it?
MP: I think we did it kind of to enjoy it. Our run time was pretty quick. Obstacles, obviously, you take a little bit more time. I think we were done in 50 minutes, so it was quick. Obviously, there were a lot of people, some more experienced people that were a lot faster than us, some that were just walking. You can go at your own pace, you can just go and have fun. If you go with a group, you’re either with the group or compete with your group. It’s a great time. I know I say it so much, but it really, really is.
Related: A 28-Day Spartan 5K Running Plan
SR: As a world-class athlete, do you think you can get your time down to the 25, 30-minute range?
MP: I don’t know. Maybe. That would definitely require some heavy lifting to train for that, and that’s definitely something the elite racers go for. You know, never say never — and I never say I can’t or won’t do something — so maybe I’ll try.
SR: Did you have to make any adjustments to your diet to help you prepare for the race?
MP: No, I try to stick to my regular diet on a normal basis, even if I’m going for a half-marathon run or just a short run. I always try to keep everything pretty normal. Since it wasn’t really a long race, there wasn't much I needed fuel-wise. But if I’m going on a longer run, halfway through I might have an energy gel or something like that. But nutritionally, I try to stick with the same routine I have normally.
SR: If you could choose three fellow Women’s Tennis Association players that could REALLY dominate a Spartan course, who would you choose? Who do you think would put on an unbelievable show, and why?
MP: I would choose [former doubles world No. 1] Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Who else would I choose? I’m not really sure. I think that hands down, she would be the best — and maybe only — candidate because she’s very gritty and she’s, like, very into that. I’m just going to name her because she definitely would be the most fun to do it with.
SR: Would she leave you in the dust?
MP: She would be fierce as hell! She would definitely be wanting to do everything, wanting to be very competitive. She’s that way naturally and she also has that really fun factor. She’s always having a great time, and is always laughing and smiling.
SR: How many races would you like to do in 2021, and what’s on your race schedule at the moment?
MP: It all depends on my schedule and if it’s close by or not. It’s definitely something I would want to incorporate every now and then, just to have some fun and do a different form of exercise other than running or just going to the gym. I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for more races.