Teacher races toward ‘trifecta’ in Spartan Races


Photo by Sportograf - Used with Permission

English teacher Stephanie Smith, who joined Prosper for the 2018-2019 school year, competes in Spartan Races. The races include a variety of distances and obstacles. “I hate running,” Smith said. “So for me, it's much more interesting if I stop to climb a wall, or stop to climb a rope, or have to jump into a mud pit. It makes it much more fun to me.”

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Hanging upside down from the horizontally extended rope, English teacher Stephanie Smith felt her strength fading. The Tyrolean traverse – one of the 30 obstacles she faced throughout the race – seemed certain to claim another victim.

Smith competes in Spartan Races, which are a series of obstacle courses categorized by the distance and number of obstacles. Since starting a year ago, she has completed four races and plans on completing four more this year.

“Within the last two years I started Camp Gladiator, which is high-intensity interval training,” Smith said. “It was through that, that I met some friends who were running a Spartan Race. We started training on the weekends and in our spare time to run spartan races together.”

Six to seven days a week, Smith wakes up at 4 a.m. to train either with her team or solo at the gym.

“We do a lot of functional training,” Smith said. “Running but running carrying sandbags or sand-bells. I try to run with extra weight. We train climbing a rope in a gym. I’ll do push-up challenges because that will build the upper body strength to be able to climb over a wall.”

Spartan Races are split into three groups: The Sprint, which is 4 miles and 25 obstacles. The Super, which is 9 miles and 30 obstacles. Finally, there is the Beast, which is 13 miles and 35 obstacles.

“I hate running,” Smith said. “So for me, it’s much more interesting if I stop to climb a wall, or stop to climb a rope, or have to jump into a mud pit. It makes it much more fun to me.”

Back in March, Smith traveled to Paris to compete in a Spartan stadium race at the Stade De France.

In the Stade De France Spartan Stadium Race, Smith climbed multiple flights of stairs. Stadium races feature stair climbing as a transition between strength and plyometric obstacles. Photo by Sportograf – Used with permission.

“My best friend from third grade lives in Paris, so I wanted to go see her over break, and it just so happened that the weekend before there was a Spartan there,” Smith said “With stadium sprints, it’s just a ton of running up and down the stairs. We ran from the bottom to the top of the stadium stairs at least eight times.”

Smith has already completed two races this year and plans on completing four more, which would guarantee a  double “trifecta.”

“With Spartan, if you complete three in a calendar year: the short, the middle, and the long, you get a trifecta,” Smith said. “Every time you run, you get a medal like a pie piece. So if you do all three you get all three pieces of a pie. I’m just super extra so this year I decided instead of getting one trifecta, I would try for two.”

After completing every Spartan Race, competitors receive a traditional medal along with a pie-piece medal. From left to right, Ms. Arduengo received a medal for the Beast, the Super, the Honor Series, the Stadium Series, and another Honor Series. In the center is a completed trifecta, which features all three pie pieces from 2018. This year, Smith aims to acquire the trifecta. Photo by Kester Muthalaly.

Last year, Smith completed her first Spartan Race with staff member Heather Arduengo at AT&T Stadium. Arduengo introduced Smith to the Spartan’s.

“I definitely got her hooked, and it was just a spontaneous thing that she decided to do,” Arduengo said. “We, collectively across the whole race, did 80  flights of stairs. Starting at the bottom, we may be carrying weights going all the way to the top.”

Smith’s second race, which she also completed with Arduengo, was a mental obstacle for both competitors.

“The second one she did was called the Beast, and that is 13-15 miles with at least 30 obstacles,” Arduengo said. “It took us seven hours to do. Last October was when we had had some rain for a solid month, so it was 13 miles of mud.”

During the middle of the race, Smith faced her hardest obstacle out of the four races she has competed in, which almost forced her to give up.

“I thought about everything I’ve done in my life that was hard, and I thought ‘I can make my arms work just a little bit longer,’” Smith said. “When I finished with that obstacle, I cried because I was so so proud of being able to push through something difficult. I think that it helps, too, because you’re always going to go through things in your personal life, and when you remember that you’ve done other things that are hard, you can transfer that over to all the things in your life, too.”

Junior John Webb, who completed a Spartan Stadium Sprint in 2015, said Smith makes his English class enjoyable. 

“I think it also makes her more relatable,” Webb said. “It makes her easier to talk to and a bit more down to Earth.”

When it comes to her favorite part of completing races, Smith said she most enjoys the team aspect.

“It’s two-fold,” Smith said. “One is completing things I didn’t think I could. That, in itself, I find to be really inspiring. Secondly, is doing it with friends, and knowing that if one of my friends is struggling, then I can help them with theirs, or they will help me with mine.”