LAUGHLIN — Any Spartan racer will tell you competing in these obstacle course events changes  lives in ways they never imagined. 

Spartan events focus on sport and athleticism, pushing the bodies and minds of competitors to the limit across miles of unforgiving terrain while they conquer signature obstacles.

The premise is if people can climb over rope walls, crawl through barbed wire and make their way through fire or mud pits while carrying a bucket of cement to cross the finish line, everything else seems to fall into place.

These events not only changed Natalie Miano’s body and mindset, but her entire lifestyle.

The Montclair, California, athlete is the mother of two little boys and wife of fellow Spartan racer Mark Batres. Her first race was five years ago, three months after giving birth to her second child.

“For me it was an eye-opener in that I had lost a lot of my full-body fitness,” she said. “I was still running through my pregnancies, but I couldn’t even do a push-up or a pull-up, I was so weak. 

“I had just gone a couple years of having two kids and just hadn’t done any workouts outside of just running,” she added. “So I thought a Spartan race would be a good motivator, to get me to work on my full-body fitness, because there are other things you have to prepare for other than just running on trails. You have to climb ropes and you have to do monkey bars, and I thought it would be a fun way to get myself motivated to train for those obstacles and regain some of my lost fitness.”

Miano said she gained fitness and so much more.

“Making the Spartan Pro Team and becoming one of the Top 10 in the national series has been my

 biggest accomplishment. Five years ago, I went from frumpy postpartum mom to ‘I want to get back to doing push-ups and pull-ups,’ to where I am now.

“My husband and I have created a business around Spartan where he’s coaching and I’m helping him with that business,” she explained. “We’re doing actually quite well and we have a life around Spartan. We travel all over the world, so I think my biggest accomplishment is in the level I’m competing at now, where I’m consistently running in the top 10 spot in the nation, which I’m really proud of — and also the fact that I’ve been able to take my kids all over the world. My 7-year-old has been on an airplane well over 50 times. so they just think travel is the coolest thing and they’re so into world travel and they’re good travelers. I think it’s a cool lifestyle. Life has come such a long way because of Spartan, so I’m pretty excited about it.”

Miano and Batres, both North American Obstacle Course Racing Champions, return to compete in the Laughlin Spartan race Saturday and Sunday at the Laughlin Events Park (corner of Bruce Woodbury Drive and Thomas Edison Drive).

They will be joined by more than 5,000 adult competitors and 200 kids, challenging themselves during the two-day contest presented by the Laughlin Tourism Commission. The Laughlin race also includes the Para Spartan heat for adaptive athletes. It is designed to minimize the impact of impairments on sport performance and to ensure the success of an athlete is determined by skill, fitness, power, endurance, tactical ability and mental focus. There is a spectator fee of $25 per day, cash only, paid as you enter.

For more information visit Spartan.com.

Before competition gets underway, everyone is invited to the Spartan Open House today from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at the Laughlin Events Park. The event is free to attend and is a chance for newbies and expert Spartans alike to hang out pre-race, practice on obstacles, join a guided obstacle tour with an SGX certified coach, who can answer all questions about what to expect on race day, as well as provide expert tips on how to crush Spartan obstacles like a pro; plus get early access to merchandise, meet new Spartans while soaking up the music and pre-race vibe in festival style, and more. Anyone 14 years and up will have time to practice on the obstacles. People of all ages are welcome.

So how did Miano go from the mindset, “Oh, God, this is too hard,” to “Wow, this is fun?”

“I have no idea. My first race — I really kind of hated it — it was rough. I mean, I didn’t do very well, and I failed a lot,” she said. “But I think what is enticing about these obstacle races, is there’s something that drives you to want to get better.

If you’re out there and you’re successful the first time, you might not be interested in it. But because you fail something it gives you something to work on, something to come back to, and the addiction, I think, hits when you get your first milestone or overcome your first big challenge.

“Just doing the race was a big challenge in itself, just to cross the finish line, but it was more than that. I failed at low climb, I failed at monkey bars and I fell off, but something told me I could actually do it. I got like half-way, you know? So I think you get addicted when you actually complete something that you failed before. You hit that bell, and you’re like, ‘I got it!’ It’s really exciting,” she added. “My husband and I have done hundreds of races now. We have three bins of all the Spartan medal we’ve won and we’ve only been doing this for five years.”

While Miano and Batres have training routines that cover most of the bases, Miano still faces challenges and works to overcome them.

“As crazy as it is for me I think my biggest challenge I’ve had to work on in the last five years is running, even though when I came into the sport, I could run,” she said. “That wasn’t something I was failing, and I was a decent runner, but once I started to get really competitive — now I’m clawing at the heels of the top girls and once I started to see myself in the top 10 a lot, at the big races — I started to see myself as a potential top 10 in the world. I was like, ‘Okay, I need to run faster, ‘cause these girls can run.’

“Now I’m a couple of minutes off from the top girls so now the majority of my focus is still running because I don’t care how good I do at obstacles, there’s no chance I’ll ever be close to the top girls unless I get faster. There’s still more challenges ahead. I’ve still got my work cut out for me.”

Miano is looking forward to coming back to Laughlin, where she and her husband won last year.

“We just love that course,” she said. “For us, it’s fast, it’s flat, you roll on it, it’s so fun and it has some of the off-road ups and downs and they’re really fun, kind of like a roller coaster, you just bomb up and down these short little hills. I like the wide openness of it. I missed my spear at one point but I was able to just grind it out to pass the rest of the girls and get the win because I could see them from so far away. “The spectators were awesome,” she added. They had a great view of us and for the whole race they were cheering for us, because its such a wide open course. I loved the venue, it’s super close to where the hotels.

“It’s a great course for kids, too,” she explained.  “I actually have two kids who have albinism, which is kind of crazy because it is super sunny and hot out there. It isn’t  isn’t the best thing for them, but the course itself was really great for them because they don’t do as well with too many obstructions on the trail. A lot of Spartan kids races are in the bushes. The Laughlin course was just perfect for kids, and honestly it was a great family time. So we’re very fond of the course and will probably come back every year.”

She said Laughlin is a good place to get started in Spartan racing.

“This is the best course to start on. So if anybody new is doing the Laughlin course, they made a very wise choice because it’s not necessarily one of the easiest, but it is the easiest to get started on. 

It won’t expose too many weaknesses with the running part of it, which is nice, because it’s relatively flat,” she added. “Some Spartan races want people climbing 4,000 or 5,000 feet in a race and that’s just hard for a newbie. They’re like, ‘man, not only do I fail these obstacles but try doing it while I’m running up a ski slope for five hours.’ It can really be harsh.

“Laughlin is a great starter course and my advice to people who are new t o it — just be open, understand you’re gonna have burpees, just get through it and stay positive and use the help that’s out there on the course. Get help from other people and just enjoy the community, because the people are what make it so special — people that you’re going to race next to. It’s the best community in the world. You’ll never come across another community that’s as supportive and positive as the obstacle racing community.”

The Spartan racing schedule

Saturday, Nov. 16

Grounds open (6 a.m.)

Elite Men (7:30 a.m.)

Elite Women (7:45 a.m.)

Age Group (30-34, 35-39) start time (8 a.m.)

Ages (40-44, 45-49) start time (8:15 a.m.)

Ages (14-17, 18-24, 25-29, 50-54, 55-59 and 60+ start time (8:30 a.m.)

Afternoon start time begins (11:15 a.m.), last heat (12:30 p.m.)

Waves of 250+ racers will be released every 15 minutes.  

Post Race celebration Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho 5:30-8:30pm 

Sunday, Nov. 17

Elite Men (7:30 a.m.)

Elite Women (7:45 a.m.)

Age Group (30-34, 35-39) start time (8 a.m.)

Ages (40-44, 45-49) start time (8:15 a.m.)

Ages (14-17, 18-24, 25-29, 50-54, 55-59 and 60+ start time (8:30 a.m.)

Morning start times (9 a.m.-noon), last heat (noon)

1:00pm Afternoon Start Times Begin

Para Heat

Para Spartan Elite (8:30 a.m.)

Para Spartan Open (8:45 p.m.) 

COMPETITIVE 2-MILE KIDS RACE

Age Groups 10-11 and 12-13

Saturday and Sunday

Males start time (9 a.m.); Females (9:15 a.m.) 

2 MILE KIDS RACE

Ages 10-13

Saturday and Sunday start time (noon)

1 MILE KIDS RACE

Ages 7-9

Saturday start times (10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m.)

Sunday start times (10 a.m., 11a.m., 1 p.m.)

HALF-MILE KIDS RACE

Ages 4-6

Saturday start times (10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m.) 

Sunday Start Times - 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a m., 1:30 p.m.). 

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