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Christy Brunner loves to challenge herself.

Now, the 2006 Spring Grove High School graduate is preparing for one of the most demanding challenges of her athletic career.

Saturday, Sept. 30, the 29-year-old Brunner will attempt to tame the “Beast” during the Spartan World Championship Weekend in Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

For those unfamiliar with Spartan racing, the competition is a trail run of varying distances featuring numerous obstacles. The relatively new sport can range from three miles to marathon length.

Saturday, Brunner will compete in the Elite Coin Holders Division of the “Beast” race, an event she had to qualify for earlier this year. It’s the first time she will compete in the Spartan World Championship.

Here’s how the “Beast” race is described on the Spartan.com website.

“If you’re looking to unleash your inner beast and go to places you never (imagined), the Spartan Beast is perfect for you. With 12-14 miles and 30-35 obstacles between you and the finish line, the Spartan Beast will test everything you’re made of: your strength, your endurance, your resolve. The unpredictable terrain and Spartan Obstacles are masterfully designed to push you deep into your discomfort zone and well past those self-imposed obstacles you once considered your limits. Beast mode: on.”

Sounds intimidating, doesn’t it?

The Lake Tahoe event will be even more taxing because it will be competed at altitude, where the air will be much thinner than in central Pennsylvania.

Testing her limits, however, is what attracted Brunner to Spartan racing in the first place.

“I love the obstacle part of the race and being in the woods and on the trail,” she said. “I also love the competitiveness to it. You can’t just be a runner to win these events. You have to be able to do it all.”

Her Spartan start: Brunner, who was a softball player and swimmer at Spring Grove, got involved in Spartan racing about two years ago when she went through some “major life changes.” She had a trainer whose goal was to become one of the top 100 male Elite Spartan racers in the nation. Brunner decided to follow his lead and aim to become a top 100 U.S. female Elite racer.

Consider it mission accomplished.

Brunner is currently ranked No. 73 in the nation after finishing No. 155 last season. She wants to finish this season ranked in the nation’s top 100.

Training partners: Brunner will travel to Lake Tahoe with two of her training partners, Andy Bell, who is actually her trainer, and Tim Kelly. Bell is a Cedar Cliff High School teacher, while Kelly is a Cedar Cliff grad.

 “Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she said.

Saturday, she’ll compete against some of best female Spartan racers in the world.

“As an Elite runner you have to complete all the obstacles,” she said. “If you fail to complete an obstacle, you have to do 30 burpees (a full-body exercise similar to a squat thrust). … If you don't come out of the race muddy, from head to toe, you may not be doing something right.”

In Lake Tahoe, Brunner is hoping to finish in the top half of the women’s Elite field.

“I plan to leave it all out on the course and not have any regrets when I finish,” she said. “I want to know I did everything I could to earn the place I did.”

Getting ready for race: To get ready for the race, Brunner has worked out two or three times a day, seven days a week.

“I have done a lot of running,” she said. “For the most part, I have had the strength, but my running needed a lot of work.”

Brunner, who is a physical education teacher at Susquenita High School in Perry County, has received lots of support from her students.

“My students are awesome about it,” she said. “They don't quite know how good I actually am, so when I tell them, they are quite surprised. I am a pretty humble person, so they do not know much about how good I kind of am. I don't like bragging too much about it, either.”

Every right to brag: Well, given her accomplishments thus far, Brunner has every right to brag.

Just getting to the Lake Tahoe event is a major athletic achievement.

Saturday, she’ll discover how she rates against some of the top female Spartan racers in the world.

It will likely be the biggest challenge of her athletic career.

Brunner, however, wouldn’t have it any other way.

Her “Beast mode” will most definitely be on.

— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.

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