Paul Lachance sets sights on 100th Spartan raceJun 29, 2021 08:24AM ● By Corey Colombin
80-year-old veteran and cancer survivor aims to complete 100th Spartan Race
Imagine an extreme obstacle race that involves hefting 60-pound sandbags, crawling through
mud, scaling steep walls and traversing cargo
nets, interspersed with jogging distances of up
to 13 miles. Now imagine doing a trifecta—three
races building up from 3 miles to 6, to the final
13-mile race—all for the fun of it!
Paul Lachance has not only imagined it; he’s on track to finish eight trifectas this year—the same year he turns 80.
Lachance wasn’t always a fitness fanatic. In fact, he’s experienced some health issues that might’ve sidelined even the heartiest of older adults. Back in 2006, he underwent a quadruple bypass surgery. It was while in physical therapy post-surgery that he made the decision to get a better handle on his health, turning to the world of Spartan Races in 2014.
“I started taking more interest in physical fitness and searching the internet for interesting workouts,” Lachance said. “I came across these people crawling in the mud, going over walls, and said, ‘I can do this.’”
Spartan Races feature a series of challenging obstacles across distances that can span as long as a marathon. These obstacle courses have become quite the craze for people of all ages to test their mettle.
Lachance was 73 when he discovered Spartan Races. Although there are age classes for competing, he found that the 60-and-up class had fewer competitors and wasn’t nearly as fun. Now, he competes in the open class for anyone age 16 and older. While admittedly a slower jogger and not nearly as agile as the others on the obstacles, Lachance is a stand-out competitor with the distinction of being the oldest racer nearly every time.
He doesn’t race competitively for money prizes, but he does race for the glory of finishing. Lachance’s walls of medals and ribbons tell the story of a determined man. He’s competed across Colorado and in 13 different states, meeting many amazing racers along the way.
A Navy veteran, he often mingles with both able-bodied and impaired vets who participate to support the Wounded Warriors Project.
So far, he has competed in 81 races. Just two years after he started racing, Lachance completed three trifectas. Each year since he’s upped the challenge by adding another. While he wasn’t able to compete in 2020, he expects to complete eight trifectas in 2021 among the 22 races on his schedule, which includes his 100th Spartan Race in Dallas, Texas, in October.
“My 100th race is a secondary goal and just happens to be coincidental to my primary goal of getting eight trifectas at age 80,” he said.
To commemorate this banner year, Lachance created T-shirts touting the slogan “8 at 80.” His hope is to have as many people as possible wearing the shirts to the races in support of this monumental effort. Purchased T-shirts also support the veteran’s group, American Warrior Initiative.
“American Warrior Initiative actually has been helping me for several years with clothing that supports military personnel when they return home,” he explained. “On Fridays, we wear a red shirt that reads ‘RED...Remember Everyone Deployed.’”
Throughout his life, Lachance has ignored perceived limitations and naysaying. Now, he acts decades younger than the year printed on his birth certificate. When he isn’t traveling to compete and racking up medals, he actively manages his Grand Junction property appraisal business.
Between races, Lachance keeps in physical shape by jogging around nearby Connected Lakes.
Because he’s often the oldest competitor at Spartan Races, Lachance’s mere appearance acts as an inspiration to other racers and onlookers. He takes that role seriously, although he’s taken a few tumbles.
He makes it look easy, but his journey hasn’t always been. Just two years ago, Lachance was treated for cancer. On his first race after chemotherapy, he wasn’t quite up to his pre-cancer fitness and had a mishap on the Vertical Cargo Net challenge. While Lachance climbed to the top of the big vertical net handily, there he faltered, slipping down the entire 15-foot height, landing on his back. The crowd and fellow racers audibly gasped, followed by a hush. When he dusted himself off and continued the race, his determination had the crowd on their feet, cheering him on.
Lachance is sponsored by Boost Oxygen, bearing its slogan “Suck it Up.” For someone who perseveres through challenges and powers through to the finish line every time, the company couldn’t have picked a better person.
“The hardest part of the race is any steep, long hill,” Lachance said. “I get winded very easily when going uphill, so I have to stop often and simply readjust my inner self.”
Because his mere presence is so inspiring, every stumble and every victory becomes that much more dramatic.
“There’s a reason I’m doing Spartan Races after my heart and cancer issues, and that’s to basically inspire others: youngsters, older people who may have given up or think that they’re too old, people with physical issues, etc.,” Lachance said. “When someone comes up to me and says that I’m their inspiration—they’ve shown my video to their parents to get them off the couch, or simply represent my Navy military affiliation—I feel that I’ve positively impacted them.”
It’s not just fellow racers and onlookers that look to Lachance for inspiration. His family has become his own cheering squad, with his grandchildren making stands to display his growing collection of medals, and artwork celebrating his racing tenacity. The grandkids have a nickname for their Spartan grandpa: “The Beast.”
As for 2022, Lachance is hopeful.
“If my health allows, I’ll be out there inspiring others,” he said. “I’m just an old man having fun with all the youngsters. As long as it’s fun, I’ll be out there. The world needs more positive role models, so why not me?”
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