Thousands of men and women from around the world push themselves to the limit mentally and physically as they go through one of the most grueling obstacle course races in the world.
Norfolk native Nick Rodgers is one of those competitors who will travel around the country to participate in the Spartan Races and Conquer the Gauntlet obstacle course races.
Rodgers, 31, grew up running track and field and cross country at Norfolk High School and Bloomfield.
Rodgers was a Class D state champion in the mile and 2-mile his senior year at Bloomfield.
He then competed in the two sports for two years in college at Garden City Community College, where he was an athletic and academic all-American in cross country before he transferred to the University of Arizona.
At Arizona, Rodgers veered away from athletics and focused on his academics.
In 2014, after changing his major, he graduated from South Dakota State University, where he got his degree in exercise science.
After college, he went back to Arizona and worked at Fischer Institute in Phoenix as a sports strength and conditioner for professional athletes.
Once he finished his internship, Rodgers made his way back to Norfolk, where he found employment at Faith Regional Health Services and Mel's.
Rodgers was away from running competitively for nearly 10 years before the thought crept back into his mind.
In 2017, his fiancée, Kara Naumann, found a post on Facebook advertising for a Warrior Dash race in Tekamah. Not only did he participate in the race, but he took home second place and qualified for the North American Championships in Vermont.
"I always wanted to do one of those because they looked cool," Rodgers said. "Not only did I fall back in love with running, but it was something different because there were obstacles and I always had a love for weight-lifting and exercise. It was a combination of something I really enjoyed."
This was the first of many races Rodgers would encounter.
In 2018 and 2019, Rodgers competed in almost 20 different obstacle course races in either the Spartan Races and Conquer the Gauntlet obstacle course races around the country.
Rodgers has won six races and qualified for the North American Championship every year since he's joined the obstacle course race circuit.
These obstacle course races are not your ordinary marathon or Ironman triathlon races, Rodgers emphasized.
"Imagine running for miles, then going through an obstacle like American Ninja Warrior where you are on a peg wall or something, then you run some more and then do another obstacle like swimming, climbing or lifting something," Rodgers said. "It's an all-around athlete type of race."
To train for these types of obstacle races, Rodgers will lift three to four times a week and run five to six times a week.
Rodgers also has to be creative when training for obstacle courses, so to get ready for them, he has different types of obstacles set up at his home.
"In Spartan Races, there's a spear throw. In my backyard I have a set-up where I built a giant chair, strapped a hay bale to it and I made my own spears," Rodgers said. "The stuff that I see on the course, I try to replicate it at home. My neighbors look at me weird when I'm running around throwing spears outside."
Every race site has different obstacles and has a different layout to the course so Rodgers has to be ready for anything.
He doesn't have a trainer, but he goes off of his past education, knowledge and previous running experience.
One of the most memorable races Rodgers will always have in the back of his mind was last year, when he injured and rolled his right ankle in the second mile of a 13.1 mile race during a Spartan Race in Montana.
"I was carrying a sandbag down this hill, I stepped awkwardly and I rolled my ankle really hard with that extra 80 pounds of sand on my body," Rodgers said. "I had to decide if I wanted to continue on because we were in the mountains of Montana. I had to limp my way 11 more miles while completing all of these different obstacles."
Even though he will compete in almost any obstacle race, his favorite race is the Conquer the Gauntlet obstacle course race series.
"Their obstacles are a little more challenging than most," Rodgers said. "I want to be challenged, and they are very intense."
Rodgers’ family is still learning about the obstacle race events, but he has full support from them and especially from his fiancée.
"Nick is very humble and keeps to himself, so I am his loud cheerleader," Kara Naumann said. "My house is basically a jungle gym."
She will even show up to his races and surprise Rodgers, thousands of miles away from home.
The next race, Rodgers will have a healthy ankle as he will kick off the season at the Montana Ultra, Beast and Super Spartan Race on May 2-3.
"It's my first race and it's back in Montana where I got hurt last year, so I want to redeem myself," Rodgers said.
Assuming he qualifies for the North American National Championships in 2020, Rodgers then would have an automatic qualifier bid for the OCR World Championships on Oct. 2-4 in Stratton, Vermont.
"The main goal is to go to the World Championships this year and see how I can do," Rodgers said.