A Long Way from Georgia

A journal entry from Lefty Kapanadze

I was born and raised in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. In a family with an athletic background, I was the only one to battle with serious health issues as a child. I survived sepsis, and I struggled with chronic bronchitis and multiple cases of pneumonia, but I never thought my life would change with running.

I was a swimmer in my youth, and I played baseball despite my health struggles. My father was my coach and he was much stricter with me than others, because I was his son. After running in Caucasus Mountains at 14, I felt strength and powerful will to take back my health. Then, I started pushing myself beyond the limits. I learned how to train my body and my willpower during really harsh times. The lessons of never giving up and never losing hope that my father taught me I often tested during my training and almost every day of my youth.

Georgia was fighting for its freedom and independence from the Soviet communists. Back in late 80s and 90s, Georgia had bad war times. I remember seeing tanks and armed troops on our streets, devastation, suffering, and even death.

Poverty was so bad that people barely survived; it was a disaster! I still remember how we had no meat for three years. We were surviving on beans and buckwheat, sometimes soy. We had to stay in line in front of the store all night long just to buy one loaf of bread in the morning. We had no gas, no heating or AC during winter and summer. There was no electricity and hot water, cold water was running only few hours a day. Despite those difficult times and my health struggles, I never lost my passion for sports, I just couldn’t give it up. While I would never want anybody to go through the kinds of hardships that I did, those harsh times made me who I am today.

Professional swimming was my first sport. Unfortunately, during the tough Soviet conditions of the 90s, the sport became impossible to train for in Georgia as all the swimming pools were shutdown. 

Therefore, I began focusing on baseball as my primary sport. I was a nasty left-handed pitcher with 8 different throws (who tosses change up/knuckle ball on a full count). I played for Georgian National baseball team and eventually a few years for Maryland State minor league baseball team.  Unfortunately, I had to back away from baseball due to an elbow injury.

The adrenaline junkie part of me has always loved mountain downhill biking. From building customized downhill bikes to competitive racing, this sport is still one of my favorites and a hobby that I will always keep. I finished competitive downhill biking after I had a serious injury in July 2010 during downhill competition at US open series. I crashed my left side sciatic nerve, and I could not walk or stand on my feet for months. The ER doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to do sports, lift weights or run anymore. I refused to accept their prognosis, but I could not afford doctors, hospitals, and PT. So, with a lot of effort and willpower, I managed to recover from injury by myself. I still use biking as my active recovery and highly recommend it to everyone, especially after OCR racing and endurance running.

I never ran competitively before OCR. I just liked running by myself. Surprisingly, long distance running became my passion, because I was curious about my body’s physical limits. I studied running and sports physiology on my own long before I became a certified trainer. But running didn’t bring me to obstacle course racing, my wife did. She introduced me to OCR by secretly signing me up for Spartan Race in Wintergreen, VA. I was instantly hooked. I started racing as an elite runner at US Spartan Races in 2017, and life since then has changed.

I finally found the sport that brought out most of my athletic skills and gave me the drive to do and become more. I’ve always thought I was just an avid runner and there was nothing special about me to try running competitively. Well, the OCR sport, and Spartan Race in particular, opened up my eyes and gave me a new vision. I worked hard to achieve my goals in the past 2 years of OCR and becoming one of the few elites to podium at every Spartan Race distance (Stadium, Sprint, Super, Beast, Ultra Best) seemed unreachable for me just a year ago. My last of all distances to conquer was the Ultra Beast, which I won at Spartan Ultra in Spartanburg, SC, in 2018. It was also a big honor to become first Georgian to qualify and represent Republic of Georgia at Spartan World Championships in 2017 and 2018.

Above all, I am very happy to announce that I received an invitation from Spartan Race to become a Spartan Pro athlete for 2019. This is an opportunity and privilege I’ve really desired for the past 2 years of OCR. I am truly honored to be selected by Spartan Race.  My journey continues and I’m grateful to God for allowing me to go through all my hardships and for all the blessing in my life.


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