Run Like a Warrior

UFC lightweight Jim Miller’s quest to conquer The Spartan Race

Jim Miller almost fell off the face of the earth. On September 8, the UFC lightweight participated in the Tri-State NJ Super Spartan Race at Mountain Creek Park in Vernon, New Jersey. Just hours into the competition, the 30-year-old—decked out in a red TapouT shirt with matching red and white shorts, and his bib number 66981 written across his forehead in black paint—treaded up one of nature’s harshest inclines and held on for dear life.

Jim Miller“There was this one uphill,” he says. “It was like a double-black diamond—one of the nastiest ski slopes on the east coast. I was on my hands and feet, climbing it so I didn’t fall off the hill. It was so steep. It was one of those things where you turn around, look down, and go, ‘Holy shit!’”

So Miller did the only thing he could do—he stopped looking down, maintained his composure, and continued the most physically demanding race that he had ever participated in.

The Tri-State NJ Super Spartan Race “Open” heat kicked off Saturday morning at 10 a.m. with an 11-mile hike up the mountain, which reaches an elevation of 3,000 feet. A slew of obstacles followed, including a horizontal wall climb, a muddy barbwire crawl, and a tire toss drill.

“I knew going into it that it was gonna be hell getting up those ski slopes, and a lot of ups and downs,” says Miller. “That’s what it was for the first couple of miles. Being a fighter and being able to basically work out for a living, the obstacles weren’t too bad for me. They were fun and pretty easygoing, but those hills were tough.”

One of those fun obstacles involved throwing a spear at a medieval human replica made up of hay. Miller proved his marksmanship skills as he chucked the weapon into the upper right ventricle of the makeshift dummy’s heart on his first and only try. Another highlight was the 24-foot cliff dive into cold water. Both of those activities were documented on SpartanRace.TV.

Miller put up a faster time than 85 percent of the field, as he finished the megaobstacle course in 3:40:00. That’s pretty impressive, considering his decision to compete in the Spartan Race was just happenstance. Miller initially heard about the Spartan Race after his UFC on FOX headlining bout against Nate Diaz in May. The Jersey Boy didn’t commit to the competition at first, because he was waiting to hear back on his next scheduled fight. By the time August rolled around, however, nothing was lined up. That’s when he decided to enter the Spartan Race for one simple reason: “To have some fun by basically beating the crap out of myself for a couple hours.”

Miller was excited. So were his friends and family. They were beyond excited, but not enough to join him in his quest. “I was trying to get someone to run with me, but it’s funny because everyone was like, ‘Oh yeah. It’s cool. Oh, you want me to run with you? I don’t know,’ knowing it was gonna be a tough thing,” says Miller. “I really started training for it five weeks out, so it wasn’t the longest training for it, ya know? It was just funny to see people excited about it, and then you ask them to enter and they’re like, ‘No way.’”

Miller’s training included basic pad work, lifting, and circuit exercises. He also added an extra two-and-a-half-hour run to his routine. Although his friends and family opted not to beat the crap out of themselves for a couple of hours at the Spartan Race, quite a few individuals did—4,419 other individuals, to be exact.

The more Miller immersed himself with the participants, the more he realized that they shared some of the same characteristics as mixed martial artists—both have a passion for physically demanding tasks, both are dedicated to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and both embody the warrior spirit.

“Everyone was very supportive of everyone else, and there are a lot of similarities between people who do the races and MMA fans,” Miller says. “MMA is one of those sports supported by fans who are doers. The group at the Spartan Race, they’re there to push themselves and go through something, and it’s definitely similar to the type of people involved in MMA.”

With that in mind, Miller is already thinking about his next Spartan Race and how he can improve his time. “It’s going to be cool to learn from my mistakes and do even better next time,” says Miller.

SWIFT AND NIMBLE

With his first Spartan Race officially in the books, Jim Miller has a better understanding as to what qualities an athlete must have in order to be successful in this intense, physically demanding competition. He also believes many mixed martial artists already possess those qualities.

“As a fighter, if you’re training hard for Spartan Race, you will do pretty well,” Miller says. “It takes mental toughness to go in there and to keep going. It’s just the long distance cardio we don’t necessarily focus on, so I think a lot of my peers can do it and do pretty well with it.”

Including his peers in the heavyweight division?

“Maybe not,” he says with a laugh. “I would say 185 pounds and under. It’s not a big man sport. They can go play football. That’s where a 155-pounder like myself would be a ball boy.”

GET IN THE RACE

Want to test your warrior spirit without getting punched in the face? You can at one of Spartan Race’s upcoming events. Be sure to check their international schedule online at SpartanRace.com.

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