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Elite Washington D.C. Spartan Racer Embraces a New Challenge

Elite Washington D.C. Spartan Racer Embraces a New Challenge

Friday, January 9, 2015 - 10:01am

David Magida. Photo provided by Spartan Race Series.

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Growing up in the DC suburbs of Montgomery County, Maryland, David Magida always admired the elite runners competing for the Georgetown Running Club (GRC) racing team, and thought he might one day join their ranks.

A runner since childhood, Magida 27, now based in Washington DC, says he wasn’t a superstar in high school track and cross country but was fast enough to get the attention of a few coaches at the collegiate level. He decided to run for Bucknell University, but after a season plagued by injuries, he left the team and took a break from running. This break turned into five full years, but Magida stayed active. Working with runners, bodybuilders, and many other athletes, he learned about yoga, resistance training, plyometric training, high intensity interval training, and countless other approaches to fitness.

Magida was working on his Master’s degree at the University of Miami in 2011 when he saw an ad for a “Spartan Race”. Described as an “8-mile race involving a combination of brute strength, endurance, running ability and tenacity,” Magida thought the event was a perfect fit for his skill set. On race day however, in temperatures topping 97 degrees, he barely finished and nearly passed out at the finish line. He recalls thinking, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

Despite his inauspicious beginning, Magida was hooked. The following year he ran a few more Spartan Races, including a 30 mile event on the ski slopes of Killington, Vermont, known as the Spartan Ultra Beast. Since then he has run about 25 Spartan events, traveling internationally and becoming one of 10 men nationally to compete on the Spartan Race Pro Team.

Spartan Race has a year-long ranking system known as their Points Series, where points are determined by the length of the race and the percentage of time a competitor finishes behind the winner. In 2012, Magida finished 9th nationally in the points series. He took a huge leap forward in 2013 with a 5th place finish, winning four races and finishing on the podium in nine out of his 18 race appearances.

On the road or on a track, Magida acknowledges that there are many runners who are naturally faster than him. But the obstacles and terrain of a Spartan Race serve as the great equalizer, demanding well rounded, versatile athletes with a high pain threshold. He says, “What’s incredible about the sport is how many variables can impact a race. Mountains, long swims in freezing cold water, carrying 80 lbs buckets of rocks or 40 lbs sandbags up ski slopes, climbing ropes, back to back tasks designed to exhaust one particular muscle group, and of course, burpees.”

Though by any estimation Magida has proven his superior athletic and mental strength, he is always looking for his next challenge. He is now seeking to improve his core running and racing skills and compete with some of the athletes on the local road race circuit. Pursuit of this goal led him to reach out to Jerry Alexander, Head Coach of GRC. After a hard sell to Coach Jerry on why he thought he was a good fit for the team, Magida plans to begin joining the GRC Men’s weekly track workouts as and compete in several road races wearing a GRC singlet this year.

What drew him to GRC is the opportunity to train in a group setting with superior athletes. Describing the team as “just loaded with talent on both the men’s and women’s squads,” Magida is looking forward to the opportunity to train with partners of that caliber, which he believes will push him to get the most he can out of himself.

Training with a team will also be a welcome change from what he describes as the monotony of training alone. He is also looking forward to working with Alexander, saying, “Jerry has had a track record of success coaching other athletes, and in my opinion, even the most knowledgeable people can sometimes use a coach. I’m no exception and I would never pretend to be. I am tremendously grateful to Jerry for the opportunity and honored that I get to call myself a member of this prestigious team. I believe running with these men is exactly what I need to take the next step in my racing career.”

Alexander is looking forward to the opportunity to coach Magida, saying "I was hesitant at first to bring David on with GRC because his road PRs are not at the level that we like to see for prospective members. But after an exhaustive interrogation, David convinced me that the toughness that has made him so good in the Spartan races will translate to the track and the roads. He's got some work to do to hang with the GRC men, but he's ready to do it, and I'm excited to watch his progress."

Not content just to be an athlete on the side, Magida has decided to leverage his success within the sport of obstacle racing to shift his career from consulting to the world of fitness. Later this year, he will be opening his own group personal training facility, Elevate Interval Fitness. With a planned location at the intersection of14th Street and Belmont in NW DC, Magida envisions his training facility as an alternative to a traditional gym.

Calling it “a boutique gym” or a group personal training facility, Elevate will provide its members a unique workout in a group setting every time they come in, with a focus on high intensity interval and circuit training. Through group classes of up to 26 participants, Magida will run the participants through a series of resistance routines involving dumbbells, kettle bells, elastic bands, and TRX straps. These routines will be complemented by high-intensity cardio on rowing machines and treadmills.  Further, the programming will aim to enhance not just physical strength, but mental and emotional strength as well. David's goal is to provide an environment where people will feel comfortable and excited to train. He will also be teaching Spartan Group Exercise classes, which will be outdoor workouts designed to prepare participants for the challenges of a Spartan Race.

Magida believes this will be a truly unique fitness experience, saying “Participants will draw energy and motivation from the people around them to get the most out of themselves. And we structure the workouts so that people of all levels, from beginners to elite athletes can all train together. And the best part in my opinion is, each participant has his or her own workout station. Our members will NEVER have to wait in line for a machine. And they will never feel crowded.”

As is typical of all his life pursuits, Magida has a structured plan for moving forward. He believes in setting both long-term goals and short-term objectives. At the top of the list of short-term objectives would be winning the Spartan Race World Championship in Killington, Vermont. In road racing, he would like to make some significant improvements to his 5K and 10K times, with a dream goal in the long term to go sub 15:00 for the 5K and sub 31:00 for the 10K.

He also has high hopes for his fitness facility. In five years he hopes to expand to a number of different gyms, with the goal to share his program with as many people as possible. Magida believes his concept is fun and effective and there’s a great opportunity for growth.

Magida recognizes the amount of work that will go into these objectives and says, “I know these expectations are lofty, but if you don’t aim high, what’s the point? “

However, most important are the continued friendships and experiences Magida has gained throughout his fitness pursuits. He says, “This year I had the privilege of racing some of the top athletes on the planet including Olympic runners and triathletes, as well as world class trail runners. These racing experiences have been incredible and the friendships I’ve built with many of the athletes I’ve competed with will no doubt last a lifetime.”

For anyone who would like a sneak preview of David’s fitness facility, Magida will be co-hosting a FREE Spartan Race workout along with some of the founders of Spartan Race on May 3. This outdoor workout will be 1 hour long and comes with a free T-Shirt as well. Visit to register.

About the Author

Erin Masterson is a runner and writer based in Alexandria, Virginia. She has served since 2014 as the President of the NOVA Running Club, a diverse community running club based in Alexandria. A track and cross country athlete at the College of William and Mary, Erin transitioned to long distance running after college. She completed three consecutive Boston Marathons from 2013-2015, with a personal best time of 3:08:24 in 2015. During that period, as part of a phase of “serial racing,” Erin completed 79 races in three years, including “30 for 30” the year she turned 30 in 2013 and “31 for 31” in 2014. Erin is an RRCA Level II-certified running coach. She balances her training, coaching, and NOVA responsibilities with her job at Virginia Hospital Center.