By Tyler Movsessian
NORTH LAKE TAHOE, CA – Sunday at the 2019 Spartan Race World Championship, Canada’s Lindsay Webster sought to be the first athlete in Spartan history to be the first three-time champion. No athlete in the seven-year history of the event has won the championship three times, much less three times in a row. The 2019 U.S National Series and North American Champion was slated as the heavy favorite among a strong field of women that included the speedy Nicole Mericle, and a rising star Rebecca Hammond.
With an unseasonably cold weekend forecasted for the world championship, the athletes competing in this event would not only have to battle whisker thin air, steep climbs, technical descents and 40 obstacles, but they would also be faced against battling hypothermic temperatures. Many athletes would not make it to the finish line after the conditions become unbearable, especially after the double sandbag carry and the swim.
After a two-hour delay, the women’s elite race kicked off at 11:30 a.m. local time and the beginning was very similar to almost all the other big races of the season, with the flat and fast specialist Mericle taking the pack out early at a blistering pace, with a group of strong contenders from around the world, including Webster, remaining hot on her heels.
The first gauntlet of obstacles came around the mile three mark with the bucket carry, bender and spear. At this point, Mericle maintained about a one-minute lead over Webster and Leigh Ann Wasteney. At the spear, Mericle was able to fire hers and get a stick while Webster and many other athletes like Wasteney, Hammond, and Faye Stenning all missed theirs and had to complete 30 burpees as Mericle began to open a sizeable lead.
After some more climbing, the dreaded double sandbag carry and swim, mile eight featured another gauntlet of upper body obstacles that included helix, rope climb and monkey in the middle (two sections of twister, a set of monkey bars, and another two sections of twister with no place to rest.) At this point, Mericle had about a five-minute lead, and with practically no failable obstacles and an athlete running one of the best races of her career, she would be extremely difficult to catch.
Unfortunately for Webster when she rang the bell for monkey in the middle, she came down awkwardly on her ankle and she grimaced in pain. As she braces the side of the fencing and discusses the issue with medical, she charges forward toward the A-Frame Cargo Net. Her courage to continue through this race was nothing short of inspiring and although her chances of catching Mericle were gone, her determination to press onward showed the heart of a champion.
“I’ve quit in races before. To me, I’d take the one more hour of physical pain any day over the mental disappointment and struggle I knew I’d deal with after the race if I let myself quit. I had worked so hard to get here; I just couldn’t give up without trying to go at least a little but further. I kept telling myself that, and suddenly, I was through the last part of the course and approaching the finish line,” said Webster.
In any conditions, completing a spartan beast in this altitude is remarkable. When artic conditions are added; it’s gutsy. Then there are still so many more things that can go right or wrong throughout the course of a nearly three-hour power struggle of a race like an injury that make quitting seem favorable and finishing a daunting task for even the top-level Spartan Pros. Despite Webster not taking the gold this weekend, she delivered one of her most championship caliber races today and should be an inspiration to all athletes in this sport.