In life, you get what you get, and Kristin Hopkins got more than she bargained for. Right before her first Spartan Race, she found herself in a terrible car accident. After a double amputation, she knew her life would be changed forever, but you might be surprised at how she reacted. Read Kristin’s powerful story, in her own words, below.
By: Kristin Hopkins
When I joined a gym in 2013, I was divorced, fat and had no self-esteem. I would cry before entering the gym, go right to the back of the facility and get on a treadmill. I would walk for 45 minutes, and then I’d leave. I was embarrassed about how I looked. How could I not be when I was reading guys’ posts on online dating sites about how they “don’t date women who shop at fat girl stores.” This was the cherry on top of the low self-esteem sundae.
I had heard of obstacle races, and I thought that Spartan sounded more serious than the others. I decided to sign up for the Spartan Sprint at Ft. Carson for May 4th of 2014. That was the motivation to get in shape. I had about 9 months to do it. However, the gym I was at was a meat market. All the barbells were by the mirror, and as I tried to snag a bench, I would get intimidating looks from the men—which made me really not want to try. I ended up moving gyms where the clientele was more my age and not a meat market. I felt more comfortable to where I didn’t cry going in anymore. I still stayed on my treadmill, but I raised the incline and pushed myself a bit more.
Then, on April 27, 2014, I was in a car accident.
A Life-Changing Accident
I went off the road and was stuck in my car for 6 days. It was on May 4, 2014, the day I was to do the Spartan, when I was finally found. I was flown by Flight for Life to St. Anthony’s Hospital in Lakewood,CO with a broken nose, broken cheekbone, five broken ribs, a traumatic brain injury, and numerous facial and neck scars. Both of my legs had to be amputated below the knee due to vascular problems from being pinned for so long.
Anyone would might expect I got mad about what happened, but I never did. I didn’t get all depressed, get into a funk, or drink myself into a stupor. I decided to make the best of it. I couldn’t change what happened. I couldn’t wish it away. All I could do was pray for the strength to get through it. I would cry in the shower for a few seconds, then put on my big girl panties and move forward.
On June 20, 2014, I got my prosthetics.
I started by walking with a walker. Then crutches. Then a cane. Finally I was walking on my own. My physical therapist was always amazed at what I could do. (Balancing was always fun. I finally got my therapist to stop putting the gate belt on me because, as I would tell him, I don’t fall. OK, I have fallen 10 times, but only 10 times.)
Through all of this, I always had the Spartan race on my mind. I wanted to do it in 2015, a year after the accident, but that didn’t happen. I decided 2016 would be my year.
I started to work out with a personal trainer. He actually got me to like the weights and not be afraid of them. While doing the weights, I had to learn balance and get my core strength back. In addition, I have to use my upper body to transfer myself from the bed to wheelchair to the shower, etc., when I don’t have my prosthetics on, so, for the rest of my life, I need to be strong. I don’t want to rely on anyone to do this.
Meanwhile, a friend of mine was doing Crossfit-style workouts and invited me to go one day. Long story short, I fell in love. Working out 3 times a week became 5. I was hooked. I never knew my body could do what I was asking it to in those workouts.
Eventually, I moved to a gym that has both Crossfit- and bootcamp-style workouts, and I love it. The WOD determines which style I will do. Needless to say, with no ankles, squats aren’t happening, unless I go down to a box, then back up. (I’m working on getting prosthetic feet to workout in that will allow me to do this.) At my gym, the coaches have been fabulous at pushing me. They figure out modifications for me when I need them. I have learned to jump rope and even do mini box-jumps up to stacked plates. These coaches helped me whip my body in shape for the Spartan.
Now, I just needed to convince some friends to go with me.
A Life-Changing Race
On the day of the race, I was ready. I woke up at 1AM like a giddy little girl because I was so excited. It was 43 degrees (F) outside—a cold May day.
My friends Julie and Mickie were not morning people. They were cold, and they were looking around at the course a little apprehensive. But they both know me well enough to know that I would ask for help if I needed it.
Our heat time came, and off we went. After the first set of hills, my thoughts were: “Holy crap…these are not normal hills.” These were Colorado hills. We figured out a system of getting down. (Ankles really are key, but what can you do?) In fact, going uphill was much easier, but after a few of them, my quads were on fire.
It wasn’t until the hill up to obstacle #4 that I had to put on a mantra in my head: “just keep moving, one foot in front of the other.” This was two miles in. My friends and I did some teamwork with the obstacles. The only one I really should not have attempted was the mud pits. (My prosthetist knew I was doing the race, and he shook his head when I went in the next day.) Through all of it, I knew I wasn’t going to quit. The thought never crossed my mind. It was just mind over matter.
The last hill up to the monkey bars and fire jump was the absolute “holy crap” moment for me. Julie and Mickie I think pretty much dragged me up it, and at the top I leaned over to catch my breath and I had tear in my eyes. Two years and 11 days after I was supposed to run the Spartan Race, I finally did.
Not only that, but I finished. It took me 4 hours and 47 minutes, but I did it.
On two prosthetic legs.
And I hadn’t even been wearing them for two years.
At my first race, we were coming to the water station before going up the hill to obstacle four, and I heard someone call my name. It was Kaitlyn, my occupational therapist from the rehabilitation center. We hugged, and she told me I looked great. I told her that the reason I was out there was because of her. She told me, no, I did all the work.
It’s true. You put in the work and you get results. You just have to get out of your own head. (And, of course, I wouldn’t have made it nearly as far without my fit chicks from Fit Park Meadows.)
People limit themselves in their minds. People think that because they are old or overweight, they just “can’t do it.” When I was overweight, I never thought I could do what I am doing now. But I learned in these past two years that I am a badass. I am a 46-year-old woman with prosthetic legs. I finished the Spartan Military Sprint. Soon, I’ll be certified to be a personal trainer, and my goal is to teach others that workout can be modified to fit your situation. (There are people out there with arm amputations lifting heavier than me.)
You never really know what your body is capable of until you try. Put your mind to it—and do it.