How I Define Hero!

**UPDATE! Less than 24 hours after posting this, the Death Race is finished and The subject of this article, James Horgan, has completed the race!!! Now you all see why I wrote this, right?!**

Just shy of two years ago, I met a man named James Horgan. While we have yet to officially met, thanks to this digital age we live in, I think it’s truthful to say I can call him friend. This weekend, as you all know, the Death Race began in Pittsfield, VT. You can see my previous post to see what it is exactly if you are unsure. James is one those Death Racers (at least as of “press” time he is).


When he and I started chatting, we (and a couple other’s) came up with this crazy idea to put together what we considered to be a small running club of sorts (more on that at some point later). We would get together, run some obstacle races, maybe train together before them, etc. We thought how cool would it be to get some shirts done up, we could be all matchy-matchy and even look like a team. We tossed around some names and finally decided on the Massachusetts Spahtens. We adopted the name because, at the time, we were both Street Team members of the Spartan Race. The Spahten part came from the dialectical specific traits most folks have in the Massachusetts, and most of the New England area. The team, at current count is now over 800 large, and we have incorporated the whole New England region to bring you one of the most diverse group of racer’s from elites to beginners to those that just want to have fun with friends and run. We are now known as the New England Spahtens!

As we talked I learned more and more about him. He works as a firefighter/ EMT. The job description of a firefighter/ EMT reads like the instruction manual on how to be a selfless human being. Both are equally defined by one word, hero. My family and I recently did an obstacle race called Hero Rush, which boasts a course designed with the firefighter in mind. I knew there would be firefighters there, firetrucks and more. It was my hope that my two sons would look upon this experience in awe, to see so many inspiring men and women. To see the firetrucks and just smile because that stuff is awesome, which they did. To me, those are the types of people I want my children to look up to, the types of people I hope my children will become. You know, the heroes just like Mr. Horgan.

Last year, Spartan Race introduced the first marathon distance obstacle race, the Ultra-Beast. James was accepted to be one of the participants. Unfortunately, he was pulled from the course for not making a time cut-off. This was demoralizing to him. I remember reading posts where he just beat himself up over and over about it. After a time, he reflected on it and said in a blog post “I only want one thing and one thing only. Another shot at it. In my personal life this is going to be twice as hard. But I am a blessed man. I am thankful for all that is set before me. Challenges and rewards alike. I just want a chance to fix my choices and be able to put the 100% at it again. “ When asked later on, about his biggest accomplishment in obstacle racing, he said this about the Ultra-Beast, “My biggest accomplishment is continuing to do races and become more fit.  I was able secure a spot in the Ultra Beast in 2012 and though I was pulled from the course for time, it is both my best and worst day.

James, being one of the founders of the Spahtens, is a true leader. He is humble, outspoken when needed and lives the truth he speaks. It’s that simple. I have been avidly following the race, specifically in hopes of hearing about my fellow teammates, and more specifically, for updates on James.

The latest news I have heard from the race is that he is still at it. One of our teammates, Vince Rhee was there and had this to say, “As for Horgan’s exit: After 2 laps, you spun what amounted to a roulette wheel, which had three choices: swim a 3rd lap, done (no more laps!), or DQ from the race. James, spent from his 2nd lap, gave the wheel a pretty hard spin… As it went ’round and ’round, Don said something to the effect “you’re wasting a lot of seconds (* – note: James was nearing a time cutoff) waiting for the wheel to stop”. James basically gave Don a “really? f*** you.” stare and just reached out and GRABBED THE SPINNING WHEEL… which stopped on a ‘done’ space.”

I look forward to following James’ experience in the Death Race, and to continue telling my kids about him. Oh, did I mention that he celebrated his 40th birthday at the Death Race?!? Being a man of nearly 40 myself, I am in awe of this feat and am so hoping for his success. I look up to him, my kids look up to him, I know for sure his family looks up to him and I am definitively sure our teammates in the New England Spahtens look up to him. Keep it going James, we are all thinking of you. Whether you DNF or get your skull, you are still a hero and inspiration to me!

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
― Nelson Mandela

** photos courtesy of Paul Jones, Vince Rhee and Lisa Klinkenberg all members of the New England Spahtens!!


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