By: Andrea Duke, Haute Volée.

Shortly after attending Bird Camp this past August, I was standing at a major crossroads in my life. Where am I going? What am I doing all of this for? What’s next, Dre? All of these thoughts surrounded my running, the trajectory for the coming years, as well as the future of my personal life and identity.


When the Olympic Trials are over, where do I go from there? What do I do once the dream goal has been completed? Who will I become? For days, I turned to one of my favorite Gwen Stefani songs and heard her voice repeating in my head:


Naturally I'm worried if I do it alone

Who really cares 'cause it's your life

You never know, it could be great

Take a chance 'cause you might grow

What you waiting

What you waiting

What you waiting

What you waiting

What you waiting for!?


At my core, I am a runner. Qualifying for the Olympic Trials was a dream come true; an accomplishment that I never knew was attainable until months before my qualifying race in Chicago.


Snatched her OTQ at Chicago Marathon in 2:41:05.

Currently, I am fully focused on the Trials, which takes place in February, 2016. I am working my legs off to get faster and stronger. Those 26.2 miles will be the most incredible and mind-blowing miles of my life, and I will run with all my heart. But as someone who can’t just stop after achieving one goal, I know that I need to find something new, a new and potentially bigger goal - something to reach for and push myself towards after the Olympic Trials. Some runners may take time off after momentous events, but I will need a new challenge to keep fulfilling my competitive heart and mind. 


So, I have decided to take the path toward another life-altering experience – I am going to become an obstacle course racer. I am going to take my running abilities and apply them to a type of race that draws on all aspects of fitness. It takes more than speed and endurance to win at obstacle course racing. You need power to execute heavy log, sandbag, and bucket carries. You need strength and agility to climb ropes, complete monkey bars, and traverse walls. You need focus to complete balance-testing obstacles and throw spears precisely at targets. And you need grit, lots of grit, to battle the elements and terrain. Count me in, and expect to see me running as fast as possible to and from these various obstacles.


Why, you ask? Well, why not! I became interested in obstacle course racing (coined “OCR”) after I was approached by an aspiring elite obstacle course racer, Jason Wagner (IG: jwag511), to improve his running skills for Spartan Races. In my discussions with him about his training, I realized the incredible humanness of these competitions. I found myself asking him about various strength workouts and obstacles, excitedly watching Spartan Races on NBC Sports, and following other elite racers online.


Personally, I’m intrigued that time doesn’t matter in these races. There’s no goal pace. You race yourself and your competitors – not the clock. Every course is different. Obstacles are strategically placed to test your mental and physical limits.  So many unknowns, from terrain to weather, that they force every competitor to fight through pain and demons, all for the glory of jumping over the fire pit and crossing the finish line. 

This new adventure will take large amounts of dedication and discipline, similar to training for the Olympic Trials. You can trust that I will fly out of my comfort zone with every workout and every race. Knowing the strength and power of the elite women in OCR, I am inspired to bring my fierce perseverance to the sport. I may fail at every obstacle for a few races. It may take me a while to find my groove. But the one thing that’s certain is my fire to compete, and compete as hard as I can. No one thought I could make the Olympic Trials. I even doubted myself. But I want this. The upcoming year will have the select road races to keep my shoe in that sport, but the focus will be to represent Oiselle as its first OCR competitor.


Head up, wings out, scraped, bruised, and dirty. I will be documenting my OCR journey online, all while continuing my training for the Olympic Trials in 3 months. The endurance and speed from marathon running will hopefully be a huge advantage for me in the longer races, so my OCR training will be all about focusing on gaining strength and proficiency in the obstacles. With Gwen ringing in my ears and support from friends and family, I am ready to follow this advice: “Stop caring what people think. Stop taking caution in your actions. Listen to what you want, do what you want, this is your life.”


PS...Andrea will race at the Miami Spartan Sprint this Saturday 12/5! Follow along at @spartanrace.