Jumping Fire May Be a Little Nuts, but It Can Change Your Life

Walking barefoot over a bed of hot coals at 1200 degrees Fahrenheit takes a steely resolve seldom few of us have. Another 1200 statistic would be when the practice is said to have originated in B.C. era India.

Firewalking is considered a rite of passage. So too for many people pushing their physical limits through 5K, 10K and longer obstacle course races like Spartan, Rugged Maniac, Civilian Military Combine, Tough Mudder, GORUCK Challenge, The Murph and the defunct Warrior Dash.

Over the past handful of years, I’ve enjoyed running many of these obstacle races, though the most recent two I’ve taken on is the obstacle-devoid Spartan Trail 10K runs. I can say without a doubt each one of these fitness endurance events has been a game changer for me, including this past weekend at Palmerton, Pennsylvania in the Pocono Mountains.

Spartan Trail will test you, regardless of your cardio and strength levels, namely the two kilometers worth of punishing uphill through the ascending woods up the ski slope at Blue Mountain. Entrants heave, gasp and grunt in this section particularly. Consider myself inclusive of that both times I’ve run this event. It’s brutal.

Yet the payoff for all of that grueling work is an exhilarating downhill blast where you can make up some of your time if you’re concerned about competing against the open field. The true reward comes at the final drop toward the finish line where you’re expected to jump an elongated fire pit as your proverbial rite of passage through sweat, pain and stamina. All Spartan racers (with the exception of Stadion event competitors), will jump fire. It’s as prerequisite as spear throwing, monkey bars and burpees in the obstacle races.

As intimidating as the prospect of a torched ankle or worse, a face-first tumble into blazing embers may be, run one of these events and whether you’re gassed or still revved at the end, the recompense is that glorious fire jump.

The fire jump is symbolic of triumph over adversity, of overcoming fear with resilience. That transcendence with heat broiling beneath your legs and torso before the completion medal is earned…that, my friends, is the reason to do the whole daggone thing.

–Ray Van Horn, Jr.

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