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Theology Faculty Embrace Their Inner Spartans with Obstacle-Course Race

Setting aside their studies of Scripture and theological analysis, three faculty members from the College of Theology and Christian Ministry engaged recently in a less thoughtful—and certainly much dirtier—activity: a Spartan Race.

Professor of Theology/Religion and the Arts Dr. Steve Guthrie, Lecturer in Religion Dr. Gideon Park and Assistant Professor of Theology Dr. Manuel Cruz competed in the “Spartan Military Sprint” at Fort Campbell on Aug. 20. The five-mile race challenged participants with more than 20 obstacles that included a rope climb, wall jumps, barbed wire crawl, Hercules hoist, mud slope climb, sand bag carry, atlas stone carry and javelin throw.

Guthrie said, “The course involved a lot of trail running, through woods, over hilly terrain and along and through creeks and streams. The most challenging part of the race, actually, was the condition of the course. It rained heavily the night before the race, the morning of the race, and then through parts of the race itself. So what had been dirt trails instead became ankle-deep or even knee-deep mud.”

The group’s participation in the event grew from Park’s arrival on campus last fall as part of a “teaching externship” he did while completing his PhD at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Guthrie was assigned as Park’s faculty mentor, and over the next year he, Park and Cruz began working out together at Belmont’s gym. Guthrie mentioned that the training felt like an extension of the faculty mentorship as the three men used their workouts to talk about professional and academic goals as well as to discuss how to pursue those goals while staying healthy as husbands and fathers and people.

Cruz said the Spartan race felt like a perfect capstone project for all of the spring and summer workouts, but it also inspired him in unexpected ways about the strength to be found in community. “I learned that much of what I perceived as my physical limits were in fact mental limits. Training, team support and the pressure of race day helped me push my body further than I thought possible… On race day, knowing that I was not getting left behind, knowing that our team of fellow theologians would be there quite literally to carry me strengthened my resolve to push on, as we waded through miles of mud. We forged incredible bonds of friendship. While crossing a river, we came across a living parable of the power and dignity of friendship and teamwork. A squad of military helicopter pilots in full flight gear were racing with one of their fellow soldiers who had lost both his legs on deployment. Up and down hills, muddy embankments and 10-foot walls, they pulled, pushed and carried their comrade in his ‘Freedom Chair!’ In the love and strength of community, all things became possible. This is the lesson I take from the race, a lesson I plan to take back to campus and into my own life.”

The CTCM faculty noted that physically they came out of the race sore but surprisingly unscathed, completing the course in just under three hours.

Park added, “We did a good job of training for Spartan Race doing hill sprints at the Capitol Building, trail runs at Percy Warner and even a downtown run through Broadway! The sheer amount of mud simply made the course far more challenging than we expected. But the most important thing is that we started the course together and finished it together!”

Students and CTCM faculty beware… the trio noted they hope to keep racing and plan to recruit some new Spartans from their College for next year’s Fort Campbell event.

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