#033 – There are many reasons to start running. But once you start, you will discover a world of mental and physical benefits. In this episode, Demetra Dentes will share why she started running and her journey to qualify as an elite Spartan obstacle course racer.
- Why turn to fitness during a difficult time
- How to keep going when you are not motivated
- Advice for new and experienced runners
Demetra is a law student at Penn State Law and primarily a mountain racer. She started Spartan racing in 2019 and has now qualified to race elite in 2022.
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Richard Conner 0:00
Welcome to Episode 33. Today we’re going to speak with Demetra Dentes, who is a law student and spurt an obstacle course racer, she is going to share her inspiring story about how she went from an abusive relationship and being told she couldn’t do obstacles, all the way to qualifying as an elite in Spartan obstacle course races. Hope you enjoy. Here’s what you can look forward to on this episode of Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast.
Demetra Dentes 0:31
You know, I’m going to go for like an hour long run today and it’s taken me that long, it does take a while sometimes, but it’s there’s I feel like there’s two different levels of a runner right you have like, like very beginning level runners, which I have been up until like this year, where you feel as though it’s like, Okay, I gotta go for a run to make sure I do better and yada, yada, yada. And then you hit that point where you become a runner for meditation. It almost feels like a meditation to go for a run and to clear your mind and make sure that you are here you’re in the present moment mentally you are there in the moment running, feeling good. And you know, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Welcome to Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast, whether you are new to running or seasoned, get tips and the inspiration that you need to achieve your health and fitness goals. Now, here’s your host, Richard Conner.
Richard Conner 1:36
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast. I’m here with today’s guest, Demetra Dentes. Demetra is a law student at Penn State law, primarily a mountain racer, started Spartan racing in 2019, and has now qualified to race elite in 2022. So welcome to the show Demetra.
Demetra Dentes 1:59
Thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to be here.
Richard Conner 2:03
I’m excited to have you here as well. You know, I love your story about how you got into running and all the work and the races that you’re doing now. And you just qualified for a lead for Spartan, which I think is super cool. So we’re definitely going to talk about that. But really just I’m really excited to share your story with the Inspire Virtual Runs community.
Demetra Dentes 2:23
Sounds fantastic. I can’t wait to tell it.
Richard Conner 2:27
All right. So let’s go ahead and get started. And I would love for the Inspire Virtual Runs community to get to know you a little bit better. So let’s, uh, if you could tell us a little bit more about yourself.
Demetra Dentes 2:37
Yeah, absolutely. So as you said before, I am a Penn State law student. Um, I never in a million years saw myself going to law school. But here we are. And I in undergrad just was very scholastic base, I didn’t do many sports, I did some clubs, field hockey here and there. But nothing too crazy. Um, I did a lot of sports growing up. So I think when I got to undergrad, I just wanted to kind of Reel back from that a little bit and take a little bit of time to just relax and focus on school. Um, but then, around my junior year of college, I got into this relationship, and I were he was in the army and he was an infantry, I’ll just say that much. But other than that, it was started, okay. But then it became actually very abusive, mentally, very, to say the least, it was difficult. And he, him and I would talk about all the stuff that he does on a daily basis being in the army. Obviously, it’s very difficult job, especially being an infantry, it can be very taxing, and but part of their daily day to day activities is going to PT. And their PT training was a lot of obstacles, which is how we eventually get to obstacle course racing. But he, one time we were having the discussion I said, Oh, it’d be fun to try it once like on my end, I’d love to try it. And he goes, he literally said this word for word. You never do what I do. And I sat there Wow, that’s very, number one very rude. Number two that just it just kind of like diminish me that much more. So then eventually I get out of that relationship, thank God. And then thereafter, I started to say to myself, you know what, I need something to motivate me to get myself in the right spirits. And I always found that I was happiest when I was doing sports or being active. And so I thought to myself, you know what, let’s just find something to do and that took a couple months. I was in the gym. gym in and out. But then I always find excuses not to go. Um, I then thereafter find an advertisement for Spartan racing. And for the listeners that don’t know really what that is, it’s all obstacle course racing. So there’s multiple different lengths, which we’ll get into a little later. But it’s very much there’s like the basics, rope climbing, barbed wire, crawl, stuff like that. And honestly, I did not do any of the obstacles at first, barely passed any of them at first. So but I, a lot of my main focus when I first started was the reading. And, but when I committed to that first race, it really put me in a new mindset of Holy cow, if I don’t start training soon, this race is going to really kill me. I just worked that much harder to make sure I could get through the race. And it felt so good that I just kept on going. And here we are.
Richard Conner 6:05
Oh, wow. That I mean, there was there was a lot there. So congratulations on that first race. I mean, that sounds like it was if you’ve never done it before, it can be quite challenging, and you don’t really know what to expect. So, you know, congratulations for getting through that. So I mean, that’s just a fascinating story, how you kind of took that negative and turned it into a positive, right? Where you were kind of belittled, I don’t know if it goes far to say discriminated against, right to say that you can’t do this, and you really showed that you could so so what a wonderful story. I mean, how, what what was that? Like? Like, what kind of ran through your mind? I am going to do this. And that’s kind of like how did you go from from that to the Spartan Race?
Demetra Dentes 6:49
With the owner of Spartan Joe de Sena, he originally created these because of that military structure that really set these military men up for success. They got up at 5am, they did all these obstacles in their training. And for me, I saw the Spartan Race, I’m thinking to myself, this is exactly what they do. And it has running involved. And honestly, the reading part is the only part that I feel like I’m having issues with, so I just got to train on my running and make sure I can do obstacles will be okay. And honestly, I was just gonna push through that first race to get through it and say that I could do it. And then as every Spartan racer that says, I got the bug. And you just keep on going and keep on signing up for races keep going to these events, and it’s just life changing, honestly.
Richard Conner 7:50
Yeah, it absolutely is. And I love what you said about your experience in the first one it was it was challenging to do and some folks may think well, you’re in sports, you grew up doing sports, you’re a runner, quote, unquote, you’re a runner, of course, this is easy, you can do it. That’s not something that that I can do. But it’s it’s a challenge. It’s a new challenge that you had to learn how to do and you know, I’ll share my experience. I did my first Spartan Race, I think it was about three years ago. And similar experience. I grew up in sports, but I wasn’t really athletic, but I did cross country and I did a little track. So you know, when I found the Spartan Race, it felt like a new challenge for me. And I trained a little bit for quite a few months, I did a little PT for my shoulder. I did some of the workouts that they had recommended. I’m like, Okay, I’m ready to go. I started the race. I did the first three obstacles, great, no problem, I’m feeling really good about myself. And then I got to the fourth one, and I failed it. And I literally lost my will to live. I’m thinking I’ve got like another three plus miles to go we at the time we didn’t know how long each of the races were right, it wasn’t right standardized it is today. And I knew there was at least two or three other obstacles that I had really little very little chance of succeeding. So you know after those 30 burpees it was just like this is this is really tough. But um, but I did it you know, I got back up and I finished a race. And just like you I was like, You know what, got to train differently. You got to train better for the next one. And that’s kind of that’s kind of where I’m at so so really great. I think anybody could do it, but you got to put your mind to it. And you know, don’t discount it. If someone is a runner don’t discount that they automatically could do you know something like a Spartan obstacle course race?
Demetra Dentes 9:37
Oh, absolutely. I grew up playing the team sports. I’ll tell you that much. But I was never the best at it. I was never like, I was never a cross country runner. I when I was doing team sports, I was playing defense. And I was playing the back defense. I wasn’t moving anywhere. There was nowhere I was going that was passed. Maybe the 25 yard line if that. So, trust me when I tell you I never, ever ran, doing these Spartan races has beaten me forced me to become a runner. And honestly, I can say that it’s taken me from, like 2019 to 21 to be genuinely comfortable to say, No, I’m going to go for like an hour long run today and it’s taken me that long, it does take a while sometimes. But it’s, there’s I feel like there’s two different levels of a runner right? You have like, like very beginning level runners, which I have been up until like this year, where you feel as though it’s like, Okay, I gotta go for a run to make sure I do better and yada, yada, yada. And then you hit that point where you become a runner. for meditation, it almost feels like a meditation to go for a run and to clear your mind and make sure that you are here, you’re in the present moment, mentally you are there. In the moment, running, feeling good. And you know, it’s the best feeling in the world. It’s it took me a while to like running genuinely. But it got there. And it’s not, it’s definitely a scary thought. At first, it’s definitely a scary thought at first to even start to you’re like, Where the heck do I start, but honestly, just putting on your sneakers and going is probably the best way to even get there.
Richard Conner 11:29
Absolutely, absolutely. And kind of overcoming number one that fear or that that doubt, you know if you can or can’t do it. And then and then yeah, just the physical aspect of it. And building up to that one hour run where, you know, up until a year ago, I didn’t run anything, let’s say over like a 10k. So I was a cross country runner, but really 5k runs were really my jam. And about a year ago, I decided or more than a year ago, I decided to do a Spartan trifecta, which you know, is a sprint, super and bese. So 5k 10k and half marathon, and I never run a half marathon before that this is before so I’m like, Alright, I’m going to run a half marathon distance, and do these obstacles on top of that. So that was my challenge for the last year. But you know, with COVID, everything went virtual. So I did the virtual sprint, super and beast, and it was great. So you know, I had the half marathon and I built up to that distance. And at that time, I didn’t think or know if I could do it. But each week I just increased the distance until I finally got there. So and then when I did it, it was great. I you know, I did it. I did it within the time I wanted to do it. And it all worked out really well. So it was just a great experience.
Demetra Dentes 12:47
Yeah, my first experience with a half marathon was also with Spartan so like my again, similar to you my very minimal running experience was all these five K’s that were like, benefit 5K’s or like something like that. And then similar to you again, I did the one sprint and I said alright, I gotta go for the trifecta. I got to do this. So I did the palmerton Super, which was a challenge like I like we said before, I’m a mountain racer, they used to have what they call the mountain series, which basically was working the benefit, I believe it was Air Force, but the poverty was part of the mountain series and killing it was part of the mountain series. And Killington is now ranked the number one hardest Spartan event in the nation. So I when I saw that I said, Oh, good, I’m probably going to die, but I that’s what’s gonna happen. Then I went to the event, and I said, You know what, it’s just double a super, it’s fine. I’ll get there.
I tried to just, I tried to wrap my mind around it. But I also did not bring nearly enough fuel for those kinds of races, unless you’re doing the virtual one, which I feel like it’s much easier to just kind of just do the do the exercises and then run and I feel like with the actual Spartan event, half marathons, you have to bring the right fuel. So the first race I got to mile while I got to Spartan mile 13. But at that point, I believe it was actually mile, like 14, maybe if not 15. And you rounded this corner. And we’re all like yes, we’ve completed 13 miles It’s so good. And you realize you have to go all the way back down. And then there’s this. They called it a second death march because the for this venue. There’s this icon Like death march that’s always talked about on all the social media platforms. And we’ve already been through that. So we said yes, we don’t have any more inclined, we’re good to go. Then there was a second super steep incline and we’re all looking at each other thinking, holy cow, are we serious? I was just happy to even have finished the race. Um, but then thereafter, I did kill it and again this past year, and that one was even harder than the last one because
Richard Conner 15:31
oh no, itget easier.
Demetra Dentes 15:36
It should get easier. They made it harder. So what happened was at the end of this race, they did the same thing again, they threw in a last incline, but this incline was even worse than the last one.
Richard Conner 15:48
Oh, wow. That’s incredible. So I’ve had no desire to do Killington, but I’ve heard a lot of stories about it. And I saw, you know, I saw a posting someone asked, What is the hardest Spartan Race, and someone else had responded. Killington Beast, Killington, Super Killington, Sprint and Killington Kids. Poor kids bad if that’s the case, I can’t I can’t imagine what that race is like, but but hats off to you, because I know that is the hardest race and that is, it’s quite challenging to be up on that mountain. So So congratulations for that.
Demetra Dentes 16:24
Thank you. I appreciate it. It was a lot. It was a fun venue, but it was a lot.
Richard Conner 16:30
So let’s talk a little bit more about that. So you progress through the Spartan races, you’ve done that the toughest one, at least here in the US, I don’t know maybe even in the world, and now that you qualified for elite status, so tell, you know, tell tell us about that you’ve gone from not running to basically being challenged to now you’re an elite, you know, elite status, that’s tremendous. So So tell me a little bit about that.
Demetra Dentes 16:52
Yeah, um, so the first time I got the notification that I qualified was actually for Killington in 2019. And the only reason why I qualified is because I was fourth out of four people in my age group. I got because you have to place in order to qualify for elite, you have to place either top five in your age group or top 10 in elite to re qualify. And I got the notification that I qualified. And I said that I said, the only reason I qualified is because I got fourth out of four. So I said, All right, if I get the notification again, I’m going to do it. I’m going to sign up elite, and I’m going to just go for it. So I qualified again at the 2020 Greek peak, winter, spring and winter sprint Spartan Race. And that is my original venue. It is my favorite venue. It is the most fun venue, in my opinion, because I run best in the cold, which a lot of people say that it kind of like locks them up a little bit. I used to be a downhill ski racer. So with the mountain venue, this event was like I was going back home. So to be able to run on that mountain. It was such a great experience. I was like I raced down it, but now I get to run up, race up. So um, but with that venue, I it was my first ever completely clean race. I had not missed a single obstacle. I didn’t have to do a single burpee. It was insane. I couldn’t
Richard Conner 18:29
no burpees, Come on.
Demetra Dentes 18:30
No, burpees, I seriously no burpees. It was the craziest moment.
Richard Conner 18:36
Even the spear throw
Demetra Dentes 18:37
I was, I was shocked. very shocked. I got over the fire jump. And I looked back at over the finish line. I’m thinking myself, I didn’t have to do a single burpee. I was in total shock. And I finished with my best time ever, I couldn’t believe it. And I ended up finishing fourth out of 25 in my age group. And that’s when I re-qualified. And I sat there and I said, You know what? Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s do it. This is my year. 2020 is the year and I feel like everyone said that pre COVID. I was like, 2020 is the year to do it. And then the pandemic habit. And it was literally the weekend before everything started shutting down. So I believe that was the first weekend of March. Because then a lot of students were also on spring break the following week. And that’s when all of our schools started to say because I was, that was my first year in law school. So we got an email the following Tuesday, say, we are now officially fully remote for the rest of the semester. yada yada yada. And I to say the least was disappointed, but hopeful because I was like, You know what, maybe this is just for a little bit. We all thought it was maybe going to be a couple months. And so when I submitted my application for elite and I got accepted, I said yes, this is what I’m gonna do. I immediately signed up for palmerton Elite and I said I have this commitment now I can’t back down. Unfortunately, I can’t because the race got kids I that the race got canceled. I also had qualified for World trifecta championships in Sparta, Greece. So those got postponed to 2021, which now have been postponed to 2022. Um, and it was devastating to say the least. But then the virtual trifecta happened. And I decided to do that within 48 hours, because I thought to myself, that’s what an elite would try to do, right and elite would try to do this and push themselves to get this done within a certain amount of time, because that’s really what a trifecta weekend is. So as the for the listeners that don’t know this Spartan also has these race events called trifecta, weekends. And the weekends will consist of a beast at the beginning of the weekend, so Saturday, and then they’ll have a Super Sunday morning, and then end the weekend with a spring. So I did everything in reverse. But I did it as those that trifecta weekend. And it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. But I also did not feel as totally diminished. I guess the word would be as I normally would feel after Spartan Race, because I don’t know about you after the virtual but after the virtual for me the half marathon, I felt like a million bucks, I was like I’m on air right now, I can keep going, I feel like and then I know, it’s like, if I kept going, wouldn’t that be a good idea.
Richard Conner 21:54
Especially if you just finished a sprint and the super, you know, ahead of that, that would
Demetra Dentes 21:59
exactly so and so after that I kind of have to re train myself, I did not think that I was elite material anymore. Um, so from all my races this past year, I registered an age group, just because I thought it would be easiest that way. And, you know, just was happy to be like racing again, that’s where my mind was at. And I could build myself back up into the racer that I wanted to be, um, I then qualified for the age group North American championships that took place in Tahoe. And I that race was very difficult to say the least. But I was very happy to go do it, it was definitely changed because there was no water obstacles because of the drought. And there was also no fire jump because of the fire ban. So it was a lot different than the normal races but it was again, so much fun. Definitely life changing. And if I qualify as an elite I will definitely be going back
Richard Conner 23:11
Oh, what a wonderful story well again, congratulations on everything that you’ve accomplished even through the pandemic through the heartbreak of races being cancelled, which you know, I know I was just like wait a minute, I just bought this trifecta pass and I had my mind set on doing this there’s the sprint, super, and beast and all that just you know went away so so hats off to you for everything you’ve done, you know, all the way through this pandemic.
Demetra Dentes 23:36
Yeah, thanks so much you too.
Richard Conner 23:38
So tell me a little bit about like how have you kept yourself motivated like to keep going to keep training to keep pushing yourself because you know, we’re living in a time where this is not normal, right? Where we’re in a situation where we have different pressures in life and and being isolated and there’s just a lot going on, you know, over the last 18 months so like how have you kind of stayed motivated or you know, kind of kept up with your fitness?
Demetra Dentes 24:06
If I may, perfectly honest, did not at first, um, when I found out about everything that happened, like trifecta, worlds being pushed off 2020 itself was okay, because I think I was had this thing in my mind, as most people did in 2020 that they said, Alright, this is only gonna last so long. We’re gonna get into 2021 and things are gonna be normal again. Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, they did not feel normal. With early 2021 I just got into a new relationship. So I had gained a lot of this like comfort, weight, if you will, from being in a relationship and like not feeling like you really have to try so hard to look so good. You just Want to eat in New York and do things, and I had gained almost 15 pounds. And then I had registered for all of my races for this year, and thought, alright, I should get on the horn, I should start like, running again, I should start doing this. And then I went to the gym, and I feel like things are exponentially harder to do. It was insane. Because it even though like 15 pounds, like in the broad picture, is it a lot, it can feel like a lot. It’s it’s, it’s very strange to feel that difference when you go and work out when you go run. And for me, I was trying to go run every single day, at least for like a little bit, it wasn’t going to be like hour long runs like I do now. But there are going to be maybe 10 minutes on the treadmill, 20 minutes on the treadmill, if that like something to just keep me moving. And I had to work to lose all that weight again. And it was very motivating for me, just because I knew I wanted to do a lot better. I wanted to get back to that elite status, when I was getting back to events. And so if I want it to be that elite status, I used to feel good running again. And in order to feel good running again, I need to get back into the shape that I need to be. And I think my biggest motivation was that I knew what that felt like. I knew how I felt during that super clean race where I had to do and did not do any burpees. And I wanted to feel like that again, and get to become even better. And to not have to do any burpees for surfers. On my upcoming venues. I mean, sometimes it does happen like Yeah, but you know, it’s good to know that I have that motivation, just because I’ve done it before it makes you think you’ve done it once. There’s nothing to say that you can’t do it again, you can definitely do it again, you know, so for me, I think the motivating factor was that I had done it before. And so I was planning on doing it again. And I still have that plan. In my mind. I’m just also currently a law student goes both ways, you have to make sure that your comforts and stress stress levels are met. But you also want to make sure you are racing so racing properly. So
Richard Conner 27:37
very cool. Very cool. Well, thank you for sharing that. Kind of as we as we wrap up here. Is there anything that you want to share with the Inspire Virtual Runs community to help inspire them to start running, or continue running or even restart their journey. Um,
Demetra Dentes 27:53
I would say for anyone that is starting to run, don’t think that all everyone was born a runner. Because not everyone was born a runner, I was definitely not born a runner. I started by putting on a pair of sneakers and trying to run three miles ended up running to and stopped about eight times. I think it’s easy to say that it is difficult to start running if you are not a in born, amazing runner. But if you just start from somewhere and your body will adapt, your body will become a better runner over time. And it does take some time. So be patient, for people that are restarting, which I think is a big thing right now because of the pandemic. And because of all this time that people have really felt unmotivated to do much. We are opening back up, we are starting to do events. Again, all these cool experiences are coming back up to fruition. I say just commit to an event, even if it’s like a 5k even if it’s a sprint, Spartan, or even if it’s just a road race, something to put your mind into that train of thought to say okay, I should probably start getting back in the running game, we should probably start maybe doing some dead hands like stuff, stuff like that. And I think that literally starting with like the smallest commitment can be the start of the best journey of your life and it’s going to be difficult. It always is difficult to start. But you’ll be grateful that you started today instead of starting tomorrow because any kind of any kind of advantage that you may have of a day or an extra training session will help you in whatever event that you do decide to do. So.
Richard Conner 29:55
sage advice for listeners. Thank you so much Demetra. Thank you again for your time. Thank you for sharing your story. How can the community follow you find you and follow your journey online.
Demetra Dentes 30:10
So you can follow me on Instagram, which my handle is dem d e, m, as in Mary underscore dentres, d e n t e s, as you’ll see my name spelled. And then you can also follow me on my YouTube channels, just as my name is spelled here on the episode to meet your dad test. I do post a lot of race recaps and such like that training sessions, all of the above. So definitely come find me on social media. If you have any questions, let me know.
Richard Conner 30:41
Thank you so much. So I will include that in the show notes, show notes. Just once again, just want to say thank you so much for coming on the show. Good luck with your upcoming races, and especially next year. And you know, have a great day.
Demetra Dentes 30:55
Thank you so much here as well.
Richard Conner 30:58
Wow, such a great conversation with Demetra. And I’d like to share my three key takeaways from the conversation. The first one is how she turned a negative into a positive. She was told she couldn’t do something. And she set out to do it despite the mental and physical challenges. The second thing is she didn’t let obstacles get in the way. She didn’t let the pandemic get in the way of doing her races. She turned to virtual and stayed active to reach her goals. And third, is she talked about starting with the smallest commitment and building on that. And eventually you’ll get to where you want to go. So I hope you really enjoyed this episode as much as I did. Please check us out at inspirevirtualruns.com, you’ll have all the latest episodes, as well as links to our social media platforms. So thanks again for listening, and have a great day.
That’s it for this episode of Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast. If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave a review. Also, be sure to click the subscribe button so you don’t miss an episode. Thanks for listening.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai