...well, I will be. Reebok Spartan Races have finally made it to The Netherlands, and I registered to do a Spartan Sprint. Since I haven't done an obstacle course before, I figured I'd best start "easy": 5 km (3 miles) running punctuated with twenty obstacles ranging anywhere from scaling walls, crawling under barbed wire, climbing ropes, hauling, dragging or carrying heavy weights, swimming in mud, and jumping over fire.

Spartan races are increasing in popularity in terms of events (170 in 25 countries this year) and participants (1 million last year) of all skill levels. In addition to the US races it designs and organizes, Spartan will usually license its international races. Those non-US Spartan races adhere to the company's brand, product and safety guidelines, and the company provides oversight, guidance and support.

Of course, the historic Spartans are primarily known for their military strength and discipline. Spartan boys were raised to be soldiers and toughened by deprivation of basic needs. The ultimate disgrace for a Spartan was surrender, a philosophy that endures today among those who compete in Spartan races. As a throwback to ancient Hellas, an announcer traditionally asks the crowd, "Who am I?" at the start of each race. The yelled response is "I am Spartan!" followed by the war cry "AROO! AROO! AROO!"

For some people, Running Spartans is a career. Winning enough of these events--especially when you add the financial rewards of sponsorship deals etc.--can land elite racers a hefty sum. I'm not in it for that. I am in it to see if I have what it takes to go through an ordeal like this. And yes, it's devotional for me too.

Traditionally speaking, dedicating activity is not a way to honor the Gods. After all, it does not relate to Them directly, does not strengthen our bond with Them and They get nothing out of it. If I run and complete a Spartan, it's not going to establish kharis. But Hellenismos is a religion of Gods and ethics. Both matter and they strengthen each other. We are called by the Theoi to practice arete, the act of living up to one's full potential. The term arete was applied to anything and anyone superior. It is linked to knowledge and wisdom as well as physical beauty. It could even be applied to an exceptionally well crafted vase, the person who made it or even the seller, who sold it for more than it was worth. Needless to say it is also applied to those who live an ethical life.

Living up to arête is not easy: it challenges up to be our best mentally, physically, and spiritually. It means taking control of our life, to become an active participant in it. To keep trying to reach your goals, no matter what setbacks you suffer. That is the exact spirit of a Spartan race: to overcome literal obstacles that might seem beyond your ability to overcome.

I beast it out in the gym, on a bike or pounding the pavement almost every day, in order to be the best physical version of myself I can be. And I will definitely be calling on the Gods before my run, as well as send Them praise once I have completed the race--because I will finish the race, no matter what. That's the Spartan way, after all.