The Spartan Race has been called "the world's toughest race."
One local woman took up the challenge last weekend when she competed in and finished the Spartan Race in Charlotte, N.C.
The race earned its name due to the obstacles each participant must conquer over the course's 3-plus miles. This particular course was 5 miles, which Valerie Lofton was not aware of until she got there.
But, it didn't matter at that point, she said, as she was going to do it.
Lofton traveled to Charlotte to meet her brother, his girlfriend, a friend of his, and her 13-year-old niece to make up their team. At 54, Lofton was the elder member of her team. Their team name was Coast 2 Coast since her brother and his girlfriend came from Seattle, Lofton from Florida and her niece and brother's friend from South Carolina.
Over the course of three hours, all were required to run, jump, climb, roll, and crawl over, under, around, and through various obstacles, most of which were filled with mud or muddy, slushy water.
Why would a woman want to do such a thing?
Lofton says while the event did benefit some charities, she doesn't know which ones because what was important to her was first of all, to be with family, and second, to encourage her daughters to stay active and healthy.
"I don't love running, but I will," she said. "However, I do enjoy overcoming obstacles."
Being active and staying healthy has been a lifelong quest for Lofton, who says she has always been into fitness. She was a gymnast in her youth, and now teaches yoga, works out, and walks the beach as part of South Walton Turtle Watch.
Last year, she competed in a similar, but smaller scale event held in Niceville — the Emerald Coast Mud Run. She has already signed up to compete in this one again in May.
She heard about the Spartan from her brother who has done several and is hooked on them. The one in Charlotte had between 20 and 25 obstacles to conquer. If you failed to conquer an obstacle, you must do 30 burpies. Lofton said she failed two.
"It was different in the Carolinas because of the clay dirt, which necessitated sliding down big hills of mud," she said. "Some areas were up to my knees, and some up to my waist in mud. You had to climb out of the mud pit and ring a bell, then slide down."
There were also several weight challenges and walls to climb that were 6-8 feet tall.
One challenge she thought that would never end was crawling on her belly under barbed wire with the wire directly above your back.
She said it was difficult, but all in the team helped each other.
"And, at the end, you get to jump over fire," she enthused.
What if you don't make that one?
"Oh, you make it," she answers with a chuckle. "Everyone makes it."
Some folks just enjoy a challenge.
Since she now scours sites online looking for her next challenge, Lofton said she has begun to narrow down her choices by the appeal of the medals given to those who finish.
"I love medals and this one gave a cool medal. I've started not signing up for things unless they have a medal," she said.
And her search continues as she looks for another.
"I was so sore and muddy at the end that it showering four times to get all the mud out of my hair..," she said.
But she earned a cool medal.