“Don’t let seeing the failures of others hinder your own success.”
2016 and 2017 have marked many important firsts for Justin Lawlor. Not only did he graduate from high school and recently start his first semester of college—studying Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL—he tackled his first Spartan race (the 2016 Tri-State NJ Spartan Super).“Once I started doing the first Spartan Race, I was hooked and signed up for every available one I could for 2017,” he says.
Lawlor hardly hails from an endurance sports background; instead, he was a short distance track athlete throughout three years of high school, competing in the 100m, 200m, 400m, and 400m relay. But in his senior year, he decided to forgo his place on the team. “To counteract not doing any sports senior year, I decided to give Spartan Races a try to have an athletic competition that I could still be apart of,” says Lawlor. “But that wasn’t the only reason I started doing Spartan races. Freshman year, my track coach and biology teacher at the time was talking about competing in a Spartan race towards the end of the year. Ever since that moment I was extremely interested in taking part in one, but didn’t know how or where to start. The next few years I forgot about it until I started seeing advertisements again, so I checked the Spartan website and signed up to volunteer, because I heard you could get a free race if you did.”
Initially, Lawlor’s goal was simply to try the new sport and push his personal limits. Start lines don’t scare him—he’s just eager to see what endurance adventures he can complete. “I always want to test myself to see if I can accomplish a 5, 10, or even 14 mile race, regardless of how long it takes me,” he says.
That go-for-broke attitude inspired Lawlor to tackle a Spartan Double Trifecta in 2017. He’s already accomplished two Sprints (the Tri-State NY Spartan Sprint and the Pennsylvania Spartan Sprint), two Supers (the Pennsylvania Spartan Super and the Boston Spartan Super), and one Beast (the Tri-State NJ Spartan Beast), and will compete in his sixth Spartan Race in December (the Central Florida Beast). As he racks up his impressive collection of finisher medals, Lawlor uses the Athlinks app to track his progress and stay motivated. “The Athlinks app is my main source of information,” he says. “It’s very convenient; it has all of the races I’ve competed in with an easy-to-use set up. It helps remind me of where I’ve been and how I can improve for the next race.”
And improve he has—Lawlor recently earned a PR at the Boston Spartan Super on August 6th, clocking 2:24:11 and cutting his previous best Super time (4:39:10 at the Tri-State NJ Super Spartan) nearly in half. “This particular race was very important. It was the last race that I was going to do for awhile with my racing companion, Janecia Cabrera (a close friend and former coworker) before I left for college,” says Lawlor. “We traveled about 250 miles and camped for a few days, so it was a great experience. Leading up to race day was a little hectic. It downpoured the day we volunteered. We volunteered at the monkey bars, and seeing hundreds of people slip off just feet from the bell was disheartening. But I kept telling myself, ‘Don’t let seeing the failures of others hinder your own success.’”
With that mantra front of mind throughout the race, Lawlor prevailed. “Janecia usually pulls ahead of me at the start, and stays ahead for the entirety of the race. But this time I wanted to prove something to myself—that I could not only keep up with her, but finish before her. Every time I came to a point where I was walking, I thought to myself: when Janecia gets to this point, will she be walking or continuing to run? This helped motivate me to strive to do better than I had before,” says Lawlor, adding, “Friendly competition never hurt anyone.”
Friends and family are a big part of what keeps Lawlor heading for new race start lines. Throughout his Spartan journey, in addition to Cabrera, he’s competed alongside good friend Brittany Todd and his brother, Nathan Lawlor. “They’re all very important to me. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am now without their support,” says Lawlor.
Having a Spartan PR result as part of his Athlinks profile will also help Lawlor maintain his drive and make his next athletic step up. “Athlinks helps remind you of how well you’ve performed in the past and what you need to strive for in the future,” says the motivated 18-year-old.
In addition to a degree in aeronautics, Lawlor’s future plans include a broad interest in endurance events. “With starting college, I’ve met a few people that, myself included, want to complete a triathlon this year, as well as many other running type races,” he says. “Any type of endurance, obstacle, or just plain running races, I’m willing to do and will try do. Every time I race I always meet new people and see people that I would have never thought would be able to do it. Every person I meet and see motivates me and basically tells me that ‘If they can do it, I can do it.’ “
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