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Obstacles Make Me Stronger

By: Sarat Pratapchandran Posted On: 11/13/2020


Dr. Blackburn

With his last obstacle to clear, Joe Blackburn, O.D.,’64, fell down a steep hill, wound up in a ditch filled with muddy water up to his neck, and got out fully soaked from a treacherous 4.2 mile run across muddy trails up one hill and down another with 20 obstacles to navigate. This longtime optometrist was testing the endurance of his lifetime.

Dr. Blackburn was competing in the Spartan Sprint Race at Castaic Lake Recreation Area just north of Los Angeles, California on December 7, 2019. His Optimize group, 500 people from 30 countries participated in one of the toughest races of their lives. The youngest was 14, and the oldest was Dr. Blackburn (81) who was also the only optometrist. The last race he ran was over four decades ago at the Houston Marathon and he had vowed he would never do it again.

However, five years ago, he joined “Optimize.me”, a physical and mental wellness program designed to optimize your energy, work, and love. Graduation and certification as an Optimize Coach required that he complete a Spartan race filled with 20 obstacles including steep climbs over a hilly terrain, clearing 6ft high wooden fences and crawling under barbed wire in the mud. To his bad luck, the trail was a quagmire from the heavy rain that fell for two days before the games.

“I fell four times coming down the hills because of the wet, slippery mud and I really wanted to give up,” he said. He questioned his sanity as he cleared each obstacle or did the 30 burpees required for not clearing an obstacle. Three quarters of the way through, he really questioned his ability to complete the course at this age. However, he did not give up, he just kept repeating the optimize slogan “Obstacles Make Me Stronger”. “Age need not be a limiting barrier if you truly want to achieve your goals and lead a happy life,” he said.

Will he do this again? “In June, I completed a virtual 3-mile Spartan Race on a treadmill at my gym, but no more mud for me!” he added.