My family is Italian. Actually, we are Italian-New Yorkers which is an entirely different kettle of fish from actual Italian. Think Giada de Laurentiis versus Marisa Tomei.
I recently found out that my family might not be as Italian as we think, though. Some of the names in the family tree have Greek origins. This explains a lot. Like why my husband can’t watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding without having flashbacks to just about every family get-together he’s ever come too. Seriously, replace the cast of that movie with the cast from A Bronx Tale and you’ve got a perfect representation of Christmas at Grandma’s house (multiple Nicks and everything.)
But even if Great-Great-Great-Great Grandma didn’t have an out-of-this-world souvlaki recipe, I am Greek because I am part of a Spartan family.
Oddly enough, I did not come to this conclusion at a Spartan Race. It was after the Obstacle Apocalypse race that I ran last Saturday.
This tiny, little race held at a paintball field in New Windsor, NY was the first run of it’s kind. It was an easy race with flat terrain and non-threatening obstacles. Since it was hosted by a paintball field, one of the obstacles was to shoot a target with a bright blue paintball. I missed because the communal protective face mask was 3 sizes too big and covered in the day’s rain, mud and previous users’ sweat and funk. My punishment was to take an ever so slightly longer route to the next obstacle.
It was also the first mud run that me and Jay were doing together and just us (we usually run with a team.) We were running this for fun. We just bought a water/shock-resistant camera and stopped to take pictures all along the route.
So we weren’t breaking any speed records here. We probably should have gotten a time of about 36 minutes (14 minutes slower than the psycho who finished #1 overall – his review of the race should be up relatively soon here) but instead we clocked in at 0:43:56. We knew a couple of Spartans were running this race, but they were in earlier heats and move a lot faster than us so I pretty much expected them to be gone by the time we crossed the finish line. Whatever. We were supposed to leave the Oktoberfestivities relatively early anyway to head to a VFW-sponsored pig roast.
We did not leave nearly as early as we thought we would. Spartan t-shirt-clad people were everywhere and we all drew together like a school of fish. Many people had run the Tuxedo Sprint the previous week. Some were waiting for the Pennsylvania Sprint next month. We met a couple in our wave that had done Tuxedo and were already addicted. Then, while sipping our free beers and getting some bratwurst, some of our Spartan friends that we thought we had missed showed up! They had just decided to run another lap or 2 before settling in for the after-party.
I spent over an hour hanging out and talking with a bunch of people that I had either only seen a couple of time before or had never met in my entire life! Anyone who knows me can tell you that I don’t do that. Most people think I am a snob or a bitch when they meet me because I take a LONG time to warm up to people. It’s not that I don’t like them. I’m just a severe introvert.
Somehow that just doesn’t happen with other Spartans. I instantly have some common ground. I instantly know that this person has a high likelihood of being a good person. Even in all my Spartan-centered Facebook groups we all have this strange bond or connection. If a Spartan gets hurt, others send recommendations to aid recovery. If a Spartan has relationship issues, another is there to take them out for a drink. If a Spartan needs someone to run with their child at a Junior Race, coverage is there. If a Spartan loses a loved one, condolence cards and casseroles are sent. I know actual biological families that don’t do that for one another.
I like to think that, maybe, we can all trace ourselves back to Sparta. Way back in the ancient empires (we Italians kinda had a hold on the whole area at one point or another) our ancestors were Spartan warriors or Roman soldiers fighting side-by-side in a phalanx. Maybe.