More than Mud - Michael Holtz
More than Mud is an article and interview series dedicated to documenting the incredible characters and stories that we come across in the world of OCR and outdoor adventure and endurance racing events. They range from everyday heroes to extreme athletes but all have unique and engaging stories to tell.
How Did You Get Into OCR Racing?
Someone very important to me invited me to join him in a team obstacle course race in 2013. The race took place three months after I finished a year of treatment for stage-3b rectal cancer. He's a fast runner and has run 60 marathons. He is also a cancer survivor and one of the most inspiring and encouraging people I have ever known.
At the race, I was slow and unsteady on my feet because of neuropathy from cancer treatment. He stayed with me to the end. We did the team challenges together. I carried him piggyback up a hill. The race was a long slog and quite a bit longer than the 10K it was billed as, but we finished. And we did the race again the following year.
In the summer of 2015, Spartan Race brought their free workout to Knoxville, Tennessee. I came to the workout, ran into my friend Marc. Spent two hours working out while wearing a black T-shirt in the sun -- I was cooked, but I was hooked. Since then I have completed two Spartan Sprints.
How do you describe what you do to people outside of the OCR community? (and why you do it)
I'm an author and motivational speaker, using my experience as a cancer survivor and the fact that I should be dead from the disease as a springboard to tell people life is short, we should do things we love with people we love to be around, and we should be grateful for every minute of the life we have. I'm also a part-time PR guy and work full-time in public health.
What's been your most interesting or memorable moment in your OCR career so far?
I was the last finisher from my team (PTI Spartans) at the 2016 Spartan Sprint Atlanta. Outside the festival area, my teammates were waiting for me and cheered as I came out. That was both emotional and memorable.
What's the best training or racing advice you've ever received?
The best advice I've ever received is to always have a goal in mind. When one race is finished, start planning for the next one and get to work.
What personal challenges has OCR has helped you overcome?
OCR has helped me realize that I really can do anything I set my mind to. I'm a large guy with neuropathy in my feet and a permanent colostomy, but none of that has to stop me from challenging myself physically and mentally. I've also overcome worrying about body image. I don't look like an elite athlete and it is likely I never will, but I'm not competing against them ... I'm competing against me. I may be slow, but I have endurance for days. I will cross the finish line.
What inspires you?
My team inspires me. I have been welcomed in to a wonderful group of people who keep me motivated. My friend who invited me to that first obstacle course race inspires me. He's been a great encouragement on so many fronts. And my wife inspires me. Without her I wouldn't be alive, and she supports me in just about everything I do.
Any race stats you'd like to share? Any goals for this year?
Like I said, I'm slow. I finished Atlanta in 2:46. I would like to do a Spartan Super. I'm a little unsure about the beast and whether my feet can handle it. Maybe another year.
What's something about you that others might find surprising?
I ran a marathon three weeks before being diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and a half marathon four days after I was diagnosed.
What are your thoughts on the current state and future of OCR?
I think OCR is exciting right now. There are so many races and venues, so many incredible ways to challenge yourself and build camaraderie with team members. As a relative newbie, it seems the world of OCR has a lot to offer.
Photos courtesy of Spartan Race
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