Meet the 15-Year-Old Girl Who Crushed Spartan’s Most Legendary Race
Would you believe it all started with zombies?
Every Spartan Race is a baptism. The Spartan Ultra Beast, so they say, is an exorcism. Logically, this makes 15-year-old Corn Fed Spartan Claire Lueking one of the world’s youngest people to journey to the netherworld of the world’s leading obstacle race and bring back a belt-buckle of glory. Where does a girl so young get the guts to step through what many consider the gates of hell?
Would it surprise you if I said it all started with — zombies?
Claire’s First Brush With Un-Death
Before the age of 13, Claire wasn’t the outdoors type. Nor was she the running type. In fact, she claims she hadn’t had luck in any sports at all. She was a self-described, genuine, pure and simple “slug bug.”
But something changed when a good friend of Claire’s suggested she start preparing for the apocalypse — that is, when she suggested she join her for an obstacle race where runners evade hordes of flag-stealing zombies.
As Claire’s friend was one of the best runners at her school, Claire was inspired. She decided she would train.
Zombies are, after all, the last obstacle you want to meet ill-prepared.
Claire started small but with consistency, pushing her body to its limits. Every day, those limits grew wider and longer. Mile after mile, the sport grew on Claire, and it wasn’t long before Claire “fell in love” with it. Weeks later, she showed up to the zombie apocalypse with her runner friend, and thanks to her training and her friend’s encouragement, Claire survived.
Thus was the end of “slug bug.”
Former Slug Bug Braves First Spartan
Despite the toll that sprinting from the undead can take on a young person’s wellbeing, Claire walked away from her first 5K ready for more.
As she had planned, she joined her school’s track team that spring and started practicing distance. Despite being so much slower than her teammates that they’d lap her multiple time in a race, Claire wouldn’t let up. She stuck with it, season after season, reached farther and farther with her runs, and after just a year of grit — completed her first local half-marathon.
By now it was 2015, Claire was in 8th grade, and her friend started giving her good ideas again. At this point they had moved beyond zombies, but the new goal struck fear into Claire’s heart all the same: run a Spartan Race. Something about it, though, kept her interest. Thinking it couldn’t be any harder than the zombie apocalypse, she gritted her teeth and signed up.
Realization: A Spartan Race is Definitely Harder than the Zombie Apocalypse.
Despite the absence of brain-eating pseudo-humanoids at Spartan’s Chicago venue, Claire found she had met her match. She finished the 2015 Chicago Sprint, but it left her upper-body absolutely spent. But just as she did when her track-mates lapped her on the course, Claire took this as her cue to Spartan up.
Along with her family, Claire got a gym membership and started pounding bodyweight movements to build muscular endurance. According to Claire, “Lots and lots of burpees followed.” The result of her training: not only did her muscular endurance improve, but her mile times plummeted. When she started cross-country this year, her mile had shrunk from 9 minutes to 6:36.
The Slug Bug had officially become the Burpee Beast.
The Final Stepping Stone
With her new strength and speed, Claire settled into her local OCR scene. She joined the Corn Fed Spartans, one of Spartan’s largest Midwest racing teams, and planned her journey to her first TRIFECTA. But while she was pinning down the dates on her race calendar, something caught her attention:
Everybody in Corn Fed was doing it, but after looking at the event specs, Claire couldn’t help but think that “those people were crazy.”
“Twenty-six miles on a mountain in Vermont — and in September. There is no way I would ever do that.”
That year, Claire let the Ultra Beast pass by, but she kept one eye on it. As soon as the Corn Feds had finished the race and posted their videos, Claire was glued to her screen. To her surprise, her initial fear gave way to bravery.
“It can’t be that bad,” she thought. “Maybe I’ll sign up.”
After three long months of negotiating with her apprehensive parents, Claire finally struck a deal: she would be allowed to enter the Ultra Beast if she first completed theregular Beast in Ohio.
Somehow she also snuck in a Hurricane Heat Class 085 clause to the agreement. (Smart!)
In May, Claire discovered the meaning of a “Norm” Beast: five hours of morale-crushing brutality. Exhausted and hypothermic after an intense half-marathon over 30+ obstacles, Claire refueled as much as she could under a heat sheet. It started to rain. When it came time for the Hurricane Heat, Claire’s nerves were on overdrive.
[Confidential event information removed by Spartan HQ]
If it hadn’t been for her team, Claire would have been left face-down in the mud. While the freezing storm poured down on the class, they huddled together and cracked jokes to keep warm. In suffering and in cold, humor comes in handy; and according to Claire, her team “needed every last bit.”
With that, the gates of hell were officially opened.
Time to Face the Killington Ultra Beast
With a solid three months between Ohio and Killington, Claire stuck to her training. She ran, did lunges, strengthened her calves, and ran with her usual consistency. At times, she grew nervous about her training: was it enough? Was she really ready? Could someone like her really conquer one of Spartan’s toughest events? Like a true Spartan, Claire trained straight through her doubts, and before she knew it, it was September, and she was in Killington.
Just as she did at the Ohio Beast, Claire undertook the Killington Ultra Beast alone.
Having already conquered one Beast, Claire knew what she was in for — to an extent. Compared to “gnarly” Ohio, she said, “[Killington] was much tougher.” With a frigid swim and multiple ascents of the mountain (including the notorious half-mile “Death March”), the course demanded all of Claire’s grit — and more. After she embarked on her second lap, she started to break.
“During the second lap, I was in tears a few times and some of my fellow Spartans and Corn Fed helped keep me moving.”
Even with all the moral support of her fellow Spartans, Claire was spent by her second sandbag carry. Regardless, she picked up her bag and lugged it up the hill. Word on the course was that she had only seven minutes to reach the rope climb — or she would be disqualified. The 13 hours she had spent on the mountain started to catch up with her.
How could she possibly make it there in seven minutes?
Her pace slowed. She began to accept her fate.
Suddenly, at the end of her descent, when Claire set her sandbag down in the pile, she heard people yelling.
They were cheering.
They said she had enough time.
With that, Claire took a deep breath and booked it down to the rope climb. She gave it everything. About a quarter up the rope, her arms gave out. She hurried to the burpee zone and showed the rest of the racers what it means to be a “Burpee Beast.” As she staggered past the referee counting her burpees, she realized the rumors were true.
She had made the cut-off by one minute.
“Great,” she thought. “Now I do really have to finish this.”
And so she did.
After more than fourteen hours, Claire crossed the finish line ready for a hug from her dad, who had taken her to Killington. She picked up her Ultra Beast belt buckle, as well as her 2X TRIFECTA medal. As for all the doubts, pain, burpees, tears, training, and torturous miles up and down the mountain — Claire now wears them with pride.
Claire Lueking’s Advice to the Brave (Read: Other BAMFs)
Few people are brave enough to attempt the Ultra Beast. Even fewer are strong enough to finish it. One in a million are strong enough at the age of fifteen. With a unique and priceless experience under her belt (or rather, on her belt), Claire has simple advice for anyone else daring enough to do what she did.
1 | Keep moving.
“If you have to crawl, bear crawl, or walk, do it, but always try to run fast downhill.” — Claire Lueking
2 | Pack a variety of foods that you actually like.
“Don’t pack just solid food. I packed too many bars with chocolate in them (and I don’t really like chocolate) and those were hard to keep down.” — Claire Lueking
3 | Think positive thoughts.
“Negativity kills more dreams than anything I have experienced.” — Claire Lueking
What’s next for this young demon-slayer?
With two TRIFECTAs, a Hurricane Heat and an Ultra Beast behind her, Claire is happy to call her 2016 race season “done.” Save for a few cross-country races and local events and the manifold mental and social challenges of high school, it’s time for some rest. Rumor has it, though, that 2017 has plenty more Spartan Endurance in store.
Spartan Race exists to rip millions of people off the couch and teach them that anything is possible with hard work, dedication, and perseverance. On September 17th, Claire Lueking showed the world that age really is just a number. With consistent training, bravery, and an unbeatable attitude, you too can earn this glory.
Spartan Race exists to rip millions of people off the couch and teach them that anything is possible with hard work, dedication, and perseverance. It’s more than a race; it’s a lifestyle.