BY LUIS GRONDA
They came, they saw and they conquered Citi Field.
The stadium typically home to the New York Mets was turned into a battleground for a test of people’s will last weekend, as about 8,500 people participated in the Spartan Race, an annual obstacle race held throughout the country.
This year’s version at Citi Field was the Spartan Sprint, a three-mile-long race. This was not your typical foot race though, as participants had to go through several obstacles and challenges to complete the race, including carrying two two-gallon jugs of water (or one jug for women) up and down flights of stairs and tying a rope around an ankle and hopping up a second flight of stairs. Other challenges included throwing a wooden spear into a target and the fire jump, in which participants must leap over a ring of fire.
The race at Citi Field also culminated with the release of Joe De Sena’s book, “SPARTAN UP! A Take-No-Prisoners Guide To Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life,” which is set for a May 13 release. De Sena is the co-founder of the race, which has become a traveling event around the country.
De Sena, a Howard Beach native, said he created the race to inspire more people to boost their work ethic and their values in order to become more successful in life. De Sena said he looked at what people did to be successful and would like to help others who may not have achieved as much.
“I wondered if you can change people,” he said. “Could we take somebody from a Third World country and somebody from a First World country and could we toughen up the guy from the U.S. to compete with somebody who is just looking for food, water and shelter?”
He said the book was written to serve as a motivational tool and teach people how to attack any type of adversity in your life, much like the race itself, which places barriers in front of runners that they must persevere through to finish the race.
During the event on Saturday, De Sena had many adoring fans lining up to meet their beloved motivator and get his autograph. One by one, they would tell him how much his motivation has changed their lives and how honored they were to meet him.
De Sena said he often hears stories of fans thanking him, but always says he is not the main reason why they have improved their life.
“I get a million people telling me ‘thank you, you changed my life’ but I always respond with ‘No, you changed your life, I just provided the platform for that,’” he said.
Participants in the race all discussed how challenging but fun the race was.
Rich Nailes, a Briarwood resident, said he had to pace himself throughout its duration so that he could complete the competition and not overexert himself.
“It’s a pretty long race, but I expected even worse than it was,” said Nailes, who finished the race in 53 minutes.
Steven Holguin, who lives in Astoria, had a GoPro-style camera attached to his head as he completed the competition. He intends on making a YouTube video of the race and showing it to his friends and family. Holguin finished this year’s race in 56 minutes, an improvement from the one hour, 17 minute time it took last year.
If you are thinking about entering the Spartan Race or a competition like it, Holguin said you should definitely do it.
“Even if you’re not competitive, it’s something fun, its gets you out of the couch and it gets you motivated,” he said.
Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, email@example.com, or @luisgronda.