I need help. It’s a phrase that I thought many times yesterday, but never once verbalized. I’m not sure why I never directly asked. Maybe it was pride. Maybe it was stubbornness. Maybe I didn’t want to seem weak. Regardless of my subconscious reasoning, I am very thankful that my lack of asking didn’t prevent others from helping.
Yesterday I ran the NJ Elite Beast Spartan Race. 13+ miles in the beautiful, but grueling landscape of Mountain Creek Resort in Vernon, NJ. For months leading up to the race, I balanced my professional and personal life with 3:30AM workouts that could last up to two hours or more. I found a way to get my diet right. I didn’t think that I would need as much help as I did. I thought I was rock solid. I was wrong and that’s okay.
I had very high hopes for this race. This would be the Elite Spartan Race that I made some noise. Maybe I would make Top 10. Better yet, maybe I would even place! When I left the race, I was sitting at 83 with a finish time around 3 hours 40 minutes. A lot went wrong, but so much also went right. I am incredibly proud of some of my failures and accomplishments on the course. I am even more proud of my fellow Spartan brothers and sisters and the humanity on display throughout the race.
I arrived at one of the water stations early in the race. I asked a volunteer working if there were any stations during the race that would have energy chews for the athletes. She told me that she was not sure, but then asked if I wanted apple sauce? Are you kidding me?! Of course I wanted some apple sauce!
She walked me over to her personal bag and removed a pack of apple sauce. She told me that she brought these for athletes who needed it. I must have looked like I needed it! While walking back to the table, we discussed life and my political aspirations (a common theme on the course!). I thanked her profusely, we said good-bye, and I was on my way.
My next encounter happened at a vertical cargo net. I hopped up onto the platform and placed my right foot on the first rung of the net. Instead of starting my climb, I felt an instant cramp in my calf and could not move. I didn’t ask for help, but this didn’t stop a random racer from hopping down from the net, walking up behind me, and slowly helping me to flex and stretch the muscle.
Another racer offered me mustard to help combat the cramps. Once I finished the obstacle, he whipped out a bottle of mustard from his bag. I indulged in the yellow mustard and we talked about his racing history for a bit before I left him to continue on my journey. Are you getting the picture yet?
Fast forward further into the race and I found myself dealing with cramps in the same calf again. This time, I was crossing a waist-high body of water. The cramp hit me, my foot sank in the mud, and I was now sitting in ice-cold water up to my neck. Another racer stopped to ask if I was alright and waited a minute with me until I got up. While finishing our walk, he offered me a salt pill to help combat the cramps. I gladly took that, spoke with him for a bit, and continued on my race.
These are 3 major events during the race that propelled me to move forward, but they were not the only times I witnessed, received, or provided help. Throughout the entire race, Spartans are helping each other. See, this is the Spartan mentality. We don’t leave anyone behind. If someone needs help, we help. If we see others in need, we do what we can to fulfill that need.
Honestly, this compassion and camaraderie are some of my favorite things about the Spartan Race. The willingness to help total strangers in need is something that we don’t see often enough in the real world. Sure, we all help occasionally, but how many of us can say we do this on a regular basis at our jobs, in our homes, or while out in public? How often are we actively looking to help others versus waiting for someone to actually ask us for our help?
In order to further emphasize this penchant for helping into our minds, we must become comfortable asking for help. Let’s face it. I need help. You need help. We need help. Not necessarily on a Spartan Race course, but every single day of our lives we need help in some form. How many of us are comfortable asking for help versus preferring it be the last course of action? I think many of us fall into the latter category and this needs to change.
As is normally the case with major change, it always starts with our youth in our schools. There is a massive movement in the education system encouraging risk-taking to remove the fear of failure, but are we teaching our youth how to ask for help? Are we modeling this ask for them in our daily lives? As educators, we are prone to delusions of being Super Teacher (or admin or paraprofessional) and we neglect to ask for help when we really need it. It doesn't mean that we don't know what we are doing. It just means that we need a little help. Will you change that?
Throughout the race, my fellow Spartans showed much compassion and help during my plight. Without their help, my journey is much more difficult. How much easier could this have been if I just asked for help?
As I seriously contemplate my future in the political spectrum, I immediately think about the benefits of this practice applied in this arena. Politicians could reach across the aisle and work together when they recognize that they need help. Maybe we could make some real policy changes that would impact our world in a positive way.
As a society, it is time to start asking for help. None of us can do this on our own. Actually, none of us have gotten to this point in our lives without help. How often did you ask for the help that you needed and how often did you wait for it to appear? Think about how much easier your path may have been if you just asked for help.
I challenge all of you to start implementing this into your lives. It doesn’t make you weak. It is harder to ask than to suffer in silence. This simple mentality will help to build deeper relationships and will help us to move our world forward. It is one of the major steps we must take if our goal is to truly put Our Future First.