Inspiring Human: Hania Aitken - Obstacle Course Racer

Even if it's normal, choose to make it extraordinary

Life continually presents us with choices. Some are ours to make, some are inherited by us from the people around us. Every choice gives us an opportunity for growth and we have the responsibility to ourselves to make the most of it. 

Having initially connected online, we met Hania Aitken as part of a winning team at the Whai Ora Spirited Women Adventure Race. We think she has a pretty incredible attitude to life based on the choices she's made, so we thought we would take time to catch up with her and hear a little more about her extraordinary life. 

Hania currently lives in Mangatawhiri at the base of the Hunua ranges with her husband and four children (aged between 2 and 8 years old). She was born in Australia and raised in most part by her Czech mother, after her parents split when she was young. Hania credits her Mum as being the most powerful inspiration in her life, the woman who made sure her and her brother had what they needed growing up. She even took her children back to the Czech Republic for two and a half years to learn about another culture and language. An experience that moved Hania so much she is going to undertake it with her own children later this year. She will be taking her Mum with her for the most part of nine months so they can share this opportunity with the next generation of the family. She admits that she's slightly terrified about this adventure, but says "what's a worthwhile venture without a little fear thrown in?"

Speaking of adventures - one of the sports that Hania is involved in is, Obstacle Course Racing (OCR). And in particular she's now getting into Spartan Racing. Broken down into it's parts OCR is essentially completing a run while undertaking all sorts of obstacles along the way. Her first experience was taking part in the Tough Guy/Gal Challenge with her friend Tanya Ward. From here it was a gateway to bigger and better races over the next two years, leading to them both taking part in the Tough Mudder Obstacle Race. While they were training for this, the opportunity arose to apply for an Australian TV Series "Australian Spartan Team Race". Hania managed to convince both Tanya and their friend James to be part of it. So naturally they named their team James and the Peaches. 

Generally Spartan style racing is an individual sport, so doing it in a team was a new experience for Hania. We asked her what it was like being in a team like that 

"It was amazing - we could morph and change things to maximise each others strengths and to fortify each others weaknesses. The sense of achievement when you work together at something is so high especially as you literally cannot complete it by yourself, it shows how much we can achieve when we work with others."

Most of us would look at something like Spartan Racing and think that it's way out of our abilities. But after chatting with Hania, we realise it might not be. It takes determination more than anything else. Before having kids, she used to love running, but afterwards she felt like every time she ran she was falling apart. Each run seemed to result in another injury of one kind or another. So she decided to dial it back and walk instead. Thinking that something needed to change, she started a Bootcamp (primarily for herself), but also to get other parents in her area joining her in regaining their strength. She credits this three-morning-a-week circuit training mixed with strength training as the single biggest game changer for her body regaining its strength over time. And in her words, it has taken time.

If you're interested in OCR Hania recommends starting small, with friends, sign up and pay the money first - then start to train. Having a set date for your goal will help you stay accountable when the training gets tough. 

Hania recently completed the Spartan Beast race in Australia. It was a 22km run with 40 obstacles thrown in. For every missed or failed obstacle, you had to complete 30 burpees. But having said this, it's the community spirit of this race that keeps bringing her back. Those doing it are incredibly supportive of each other. Often other competitors will do sympathy burpees with those who aren't able to complete an obstacle just to encourage them to keep going. 

Her biggest inspirations are her family and all the heroic Mumma's around her. These women who juggle motherhood, fitness, community involvement and their relationships, giving everything to those around them to provide for them and to make a difference in their world. These women inspire her to keep doing what she does in the hopes that she too can inspire them to give their goals a go.Going forward, Hania is hoping to knock off a Spartan Trifecta. The Beast (which she's already done) a Spartan Super (14Km, 25+ Obstacles) and a Spartan Sprint (7km, 25+ Obstacles) in one calendar year. Spartan Racing is all over the world so she's hoping to complete these while she's away in the Czech Republic. She's also getting the family into it. Kids as young as four can participate in childrens versions, so she's excited to train with her tribe and take them through their first course. They have been itching to follow in their Mum's footsteps for a while now! 

Hania want's you to know that if you're reading this anyone can do OCR. You only get one life so it's your responsibility to make choices which can make the ordinary more extraordinary. It doesn't have to cost the earth to follow your heart, follow your hearts passions and show the others around you that they can be brave too. 

You can follow more about Hania's journey on her blog see more about Spartan Racing on her Instagram @extraordinarynormal

Hania, we wish you all the best with your adventures this year both with your gorgeous family and your racing! Fingers crossed your dream of having Spartan Racing here in New Zealand will come true soon. 

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