Into the fire and mud (if there is any)

The comfort zone. It sounds like a nice place. A couch, a beer, a friend, a television perhaps. But many of us are constantly trying to get out of it. The runners I talked to in my book all mentioned their urge to get out of the comfort zone. When I charge up and down the Santa Monica Mountains, Sunday mornings at dawn, I do the same. Breathe, push, live, test myself. Getting out of bed when the world is asleep, then doing uncomfortable, even punishing stuff.

Running trails is one thing. A Reebok Spartan Race seems to be something else. “There is fire, mud, water, barbed wire, and occasionally Hell on Earth”, the website helpfully explains.

I will say I am intrigued. The Spartans are coming to Southern California and I think I will check it out. I’ve looked into Cross Fit lately: intense, short workouts to develop all sorts of strength and power. The Spartan philosophy seems to fit into the same mold.

With names like “Ultra Beast” (26.2 miles, 50 obstacles) the organizers seems to aim for tough guys with shaved heads, but anyone can, and does, take part.

Talk about leaving your comfort zone. Participants climb walls and ropes. They run and swim. They jump through fires and crawl under barbed wire. The mud featured in their races may be hard to find here in bone-dry southern California, but desert-like sand can be challenging, too.

It seems like a fun, tough workout. And it’s all shaped in inspirational messages I can relate to. “Where there is no struggle there is no strength.” “Conquer your obstacles.”

Whether you face your fears and obstacles on the trails or into the fire, to me it seems healthy either way.