Love Goes the Distance
by Spartan Australia, New Zealand & Fiji • May 18th, 2023

“The warning is you’ll fall in love with it.”

Ironic, isn’t it? That is what Rachel Cardillo had to say when reflecting on Spartan: the world’s most gruelling yet rewarding endurance and obstacle race.

And she would know. Not only is Cardillo “addicted” to Spartan, she also fell in love with her now husband while racing. In an unlikely love story, Rachel and Rob met competing at an event in Perth, Western Australia back in 2017 and last year tied the knot.

There’s plenty of love in Yara Alves too. The Spartan legend, lights up courses around the world with her beaming smile, belying the long distances she’s racing.

The Los Angeles local says her self-titled ‘stay-cations’ are an added perk.

“Usually, you’re not running on the streets. You’re in these wonderful places where you’d never think you’d ever be, let alone be doing an obstacle race.

It’s different - it’s the trails, the views, the people.” Yara explains.

This November, the Fiji Spartan Trifecta hosted by Fiji Airways will land in Fiji with support from the local Government and Fiji Airways.

In the picturesque Sabeto Valley, just a short drive from Nadi on Fiji’s main island, the event is being billed as The Race in Paradise. With distances from five kilometres with 20 obstacles, to 50 kilometres with 60 obstacles there is a Spartan event for everyone.

Spread over four days, there are seven races across varying distances and number of obstacles, catering for those just wanting to set their own pace, up to the pros at the elite level. Children aged four to 13 can also race in the Kids categories.

With races offering trails through native villages and rainforests, against the backdrop from the peak of the Sleeping Giants, it’s not hard to see why many have quickly signed up.

On paper, Rachel admits Spartan may look gruelling, even intimidating.

“But life is about doing the scary things,” she says.

“Getting out there and being brave. That’s what makes you feel alive.”

“I would say to any newcomer, expect it to be physically hard but you’ll enjoy it because the community will get around you and get you through,” Rob adds.

“If you think you’re going to struggle, you’re not.”

Struggling is the last thing you’d think watching Yara Alves compete.

Despite labelling herself “never really a runner”, the 43-year-old last year completed a world record 33 Trifectas.

Put simply, that’s three races over five, ten and 21 kilometre distances across one weekend, 33 times over.

Over 70 obstacles - including climbing walls and flipping tyres, it was completed with her positively infectious attitude.

“In the moment I’ve learned no matter how hard something is, if your mind is right and you’re having fun it changes the environment,” Alves explains.

“When things get rough, I laugh. I crack jokes in the middle of events, it’s part of me getting through it. I’ve had people say I’ve pulled them through a race making them laugh, so it’s helping myself and I guess it works.

“It’s just my face saying, ‘I got this’!”

Fiji will be at least the 20th country Alves has raced in (“I hear it’s so beautiful. I want my passport stamped to say I’ve been there!”) and schedule permitting, the event may even play host to yet another record.

Alves is aiming to complete her 100th Trifecta weekend, becoming the first ever female to do so.

But it’s not just the achievements that draw people to Spartan, the Cardillos say it’s the community that spurs them on.

Rob – a Spartan brand ambassador, volunteers on top of racing and recalls meeting a woman who marked her 70th birthday by doing the 21 kilometre Beast, just to prove to her grandchildren age is just a number.

“I got tingles speaking to her out on course,” he says. “That’s inspirational, seeing someone who wants to prove the younger generation wrong.”

Yara has already got a place to stay in Fiji thanks to meeting some “crazy Australians” at an event last year, while it was a similar fate for 25-year old elite male Dylan Pardy who first competed in 2015 and hasn’t looked back.

He still races with the same like-minded people that dragged him to the event at Sydney Football Stadium and is looking forward to the Fiji race in November.

“I thought I’d give that a try because there was no mud and getting dirty,” he laughs recalling his first event. “I loved it and have been hooked ever since.”

It’ll be the first time Dylan visits a pacific island, and is planning to extend his stay.

“It’s great to experience a different culture I think, I’ve heard the people there are super friendly and I can’t wait to see the beautiful sites.”

Yara is already Googling things to do on the island, she too wants to stick around in Fiji after competing.

“I’m a summer person, I hate the cold.

“As much as I do these races in awful weather sometimes, when it’s good weather and a good place to hang out that’s what I look forward to.”

The Cardillos have yet to travel overseas since the beginning of the pandemic and getting married, and hope to make it to Fiji if life permits.

The elite couple have covered just about every inch of Australia racing, but have only competed in a handful of countries overseas.

“If you speak to anyone who’s raced Spartan, they’ll say we have all these great experiences travelling but then tag on a little holiday to experience the culture,” Rob says.

We’ll make a holiday out of it, the weekend (racing) then a week travelling. We are avid hikers, so we’d go and look for a trail and find somewhere to go. We’re thrill seekers.”

Plenty of thrills are promised come November at the Aviva Racecourse, offering athletes the chance to traverse the Sabeto Mountain Track and trail stunning local villages, proving it’ll be one of the most scenic yet challenging Spartan locations ever.

“Just give it a go,” Rachel says.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen in a race, you could podium or even win it.”

And maybe, just maybe fall in love.

The Fiji Spartan Trifecta is from November 9-12, 2023. Fiji Airways is the official presenting partner of Fiji Spartan and will be bringing athletes in from across the world to enjoy the tropical landscapes, pristine beaches, and warm hospitality that Fiji is famous across the world for.

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