Spartan Tough

Jason Umansky has conquered some of the toughest races.


By Elin Avdian and Ryan Avakian

Running isn’t exactly the thought that most people get in their head when they hear the word ‘fun.’

This was the case for Jason Umansky, a World History teacher at Hoover High School, until he found Spartan races.

“I played soccer at a young age and I hated the running aspect of it, and this [Spartan race] was a way for me to just try and find a fun way out of it,” said Umansky.

Now, he starts his day off bright and early, straight at 4:30 a.m., by training for his Spartan races.

“A couple of years ago I had a hard time running a mile, now I’m trying to do a 30-mile run in about 12 months.”

Training is one of the hardest and most time consuming parts of any sport. Umansky trains in a bit of everything before competing.

“It’s a little bit of everything, a little cardio, weights, hit type workouts and being consistent every day,” he said.

So what exactly are these races that Umansky runs like? (The distance of them, the obstacles included?)

He’s a beast.”

— Edgar Stepanyan

Umanky responded with, “these runs are from anywhere around five kilometers-50 kilometers and it could range from 25 obstacles all the way to about 60 obstacles.”

He explained that the obstacles are usually varied, but mostly similar since they are all set up in the same type of environment. Some of them include bringing a sandbag up a mountain or crawling under barbed wire and even climbing up five-story A-frames.

These races are pretty popular with the number of runners being in the thousands. The shorter the distances on these obstacle courses, the more people that run them. There’s different heats but over the weekends there are about 6,000 to 7,000 people who come out to race. The longer events on the other hand may bring anywhere from 15,000-20,000 people.

So far Umanksy has finished five races and has five scheduled in the next five months. These events are also all over the world so he’s traveling in a couple of weeks to run a 21k up in Lake Tahoe, where the 1916 Winter Olympics were held. There’s also one in Phoenix, Santa Clarita, and one all the way in Montana during May.

Umansky has gone through a lot of obstacles during these Spartan Races, but so far out of all the obstacles, his least favorite is diving under the water barrier because “after running 15 miles, getting soaking wet and still having 10 miles to go is not very fun.” Most of these races are on elevation and mountainous areas because they try to make these races as tough as possible.

When asked about when it gets really tough to get through the rest of the race, he responded with some wise words, “I never hit that point, cause I know if I hit that point and I don’t get what I want in terms of time, I’ll be up all night thinking about it. For me, the fear of not doing how I want gives me anxiety. I won’t let that happen.”

Edgar Stepanyan, a fellow teacher at Hoover High, has also ran some of these races alongside Umansky. When asked about Umansky and what type of a runner he is, Stepanyan responded with, “He pushes himself and that makes me want to push myself. He’s a beast!”

How does Umanksy feel after all of his races?

“I feel very hungry!” stated Umansky. “I do this tradition with Stepanyan where we go to Dennys after the race.”

All of that training to run these races (even with the immense hungriness after) pays off!

The closest Umansky has been to first place was on the shorter runs with the 5k’s where he placed 28th and 30th out of 6,000 other people! He even  has the medals to prove it.

“In this past one, I got 34th out of 16,000, and usually I finish in the first or second percentile. It’s my goal to run in the elite heat.”

They are also talking about putting these races into the Olympics and Umanksy would love to compete in one. “I’m way far out, but I mean you gotta start somewhere, right?”

Imagine watching TV and seeing your history teacher from high school competing in the Olympics!

Umansky was also asked about his other hobbies, in which he responded with, “I love to travel around the world and I love to use these spartan races as a reason to travel. They force me to go see things, and give me the best of both worlds.”

“There is one coming up in Greece where I can compete where the Spartans used to actually do this! I just love traveling, running, sporting events, and concerts. I just want to do something all the time, I don’t like just sitting around,” he said.

Everything is hard on its own account and there is no success without pushing yourself and being motivated to do what you do.

“It all depends on how hard you work to get there but I’m still younger so I have time on my hands.”