We stood at the starting line, a cluster of misfit friends dressed in tie-dye, hearts racing with anticipation.

“Spartans! Are you ready?”

The crowd erupted into shouts and whistles. I felt the forward motion as the mass group forced itself onto the mountain. I could feel my speed increase, as I made my way along the rocky path. We ran in a group, trying to establish an adequate pace that would suit each member of our team. My lungs struggled to adjust to the thin, oxygen-depleted air.

As we made our way into the tall trees, we met our first obstacle. A wall towered before us, separating the anticipation of my accomplishments, from my fears of this reality. I breathed as members of my team encouraged me to hurdle the wall. I jumped, using every ounce of strength I could muster, and pulled myself over the wall. My team followed.

A sense of accomplishment washed over me with the refreshment of the cool summer breeze. I smiled, as we continued along the trail. We climbed steep paths, jumped countless walls, tumbled, stumbled, and conquered obstacle, after obstacle.

After ascending to great heights, we reached the halfway mark and faced the hardest obstacle yet.

The sand bag carry taunted us with its intimidating incline and enticing challenge.

We carried the bags up to the highest point in the entire race. My heart ached, and my lungs begged for air as I forced myself upward. At the top, we gathered as a team to take a picture and continued on our descent.

Soon after reaching the bottom, we headed back out onto the trail. For the duration of the path, we descended, with beautiful scenery and dirt paths that wove in and out of trees and open valleys. The air was clear, and I could feel how much easier breathing had become. Aside from the indistinct chatter of groups we ran past, the world felt silent. I stumbled over a few rocks and continued down the mountain.

I could feel my pace increasing, as my body moved forward; a surge of adrenaline rushing through me. I admired the beauty around me and savored the effortlessness of running downhill. This was my first run in almost a month, and I soon realized the time away was worth it for this amazing run.

After passing a few groups and getting lost from my team, a clearing within the trees and a crowd of people standing along the fence greeted me. The shadows of the forest were soon illuminated by the grey sky. Like a child opening her eyes for the first time, I became aware of reality: This was the end of the race!

I looked for my teammates but soon realized some had crossed the finished line, while others trailed behind me. I would have to finish the race on my own. I climbed the wall, grasping the rope and swiftly stepping down each plank. I then stood before the most challenging obstacle. It was a set of rings, ropes, and bars that required you to swing across and kick a bell. As I turned to walk around the obstacle, accepting defeat, the crowd shouted for me to try. I could feel my heart rate increase as I decided to make the attempt. I jumped up to the bar and reached for the first ring. I was able to swing across. You can do this, I told myself. I made my way across each ring and reached my foot forward, attempting to kick the bell. I missed.

I heard a man from the crowd shout, “Swing harder!”

With a fierce grunt and a surge of energy, I threw my foot forward and hit the bell. I jumped down, shocked, surprised, and overwhelmed by my success. I ran to the pool of water and hopped in, dunking my head beneath a wall. I jumped out of the icy water and hit the ground, rolling beneath a sea of barbed wire. I got to my feet, dizzy from rolling against the ground, and ran toward the fire that marked the last obstacle. I jumped over it and threw myself across the finish line. A man placed a medal around my neck as my teammates greeted me with smiles and high-fives.

I did it!

The moment I was about to accept defeat encouragement spurred me toward my goal.

What wall is separating your accomplishments from your reality? Who is standing in your crowd encouraging you? There is hope in the crowd because the moment you accept defeat. They are there to cheer you towards your goal.