Date of Birth: 1/8/1978
Born: Somerset, PA
Lives: Somerset, PA
Short to Mid Distance (1-12 miles)
OCR Coach: Brakken Kraker
Dustin Livengood: "Why Do I Race?"
I've heard several stories from people about how and why they got into obstacle course racing, and it made me think about my own. I don’t have significant life changing obstacles that I've overcome like some people that I consider amazingly brave and courageous. I think my story is more about determination and perseverance - maybe more of an "everyman" story. And, if I'm like a lot of other people out there who haven't yet tackled some of their obstacles, my story might inspire :) So, if you're a teenager who might do well to see that anything is possible, or a 20-something falling into the same trap I did, or a 30-something wondering if it's too late to change, there is hope from this guy's perspective. You don’t have to accept the world you have, but you can create the world you want!
I grew up in a small rural town in southwest Pennsylvania in a lower middle class family. I was not a state level athlete growing up. I was an okay soccer player and a pole vaulter/sprinter in track. After some turbulent teenage years with alcohol and having way too much "fun”, I graduated from high school and went straight into the workforce. My early 20’s were a whirlwind. I was married by the age of 21 to my high school sweetheart, Gina, and by 22 kicked a 2-pack a day smoking habit I had since I was 15. I was motivated by the fact that health insurance was just too expensive for a smoker and we had plans to grow our family. At the age of 23 I bought the painting business I had worked for since I got out of high school. The ages 23 to 30 were a blur. I was solely focused on making my business successful, but at a price! When I turned 30 I had a midlife meltdown lol! I had 2 great kids and a beautiful wife and I hardly spent time with them. At 5’5”, my 192 pounds was more than I was comfortable with and a real threat to my health and quality of life. From the high stress job and horrible lifestyle I developed uncontrollable asthma and allergies. I was a train wreck. My breaking point was Christmas morning, 2007, two weeks before my 30th birthday. My kids were opening their presents and I was 1000 miles away in my head worrying about my business and bills. That’s when I woke up, stepped back and really took a look at myself. I was disgusted with what I saw - unhealthy and unhappy. I was ashamed of what I’ve become. When I was a child and thought about what I would be like when I was older. I never imagined I would have become that. That’s when I knew I needed to do something, and fast.
I had fears that I was too far gone to change, but I was so unhappy with myself at the time, any change would have been something, so I started powerlifting. Being a little guy, benching came naturally and gave me a reason to workout. Weight classes at bench meets gave me a reason to lose weight. After a couple years, I had made great progress, but with the heavy lifting, came quite a bit of pain. I wanted to continue on my fitness path, so I got into P90X - which I loved! Then, when I was 35 a chance meeting with the dad of my son's friend who was training for a local mud run got me interested in OCR. I did a local mud run the next spring when I was 36, and although it was really hard it was also a ton of fun. At the after party we were talking with another racer and he was saying how the race was like a kids race compared to a Spartan Race. I took that as a challenge and two days later I signed up for the Palmerton Sprint in the open class.
I did nothing but P90X and the Insanity workout to train for the race, and it ended-up being the hardest thing I had ever done. I was so close to quitting at the bucket carry. I still remember when I finally crossed the finish line I told my wife “this isn’t for me” and we left. I thought I was in pretty good shape, but boy was I wrong! It was a very humbling experience. But it nagged at me constantly for two days and that's when I decided I wanted a trifecta. Lol. That’s what Spartan and OCR does to you. It lit a fire inside of me and made me want to be better. I earned my trifecta in my first year of racing and overall did pretty well. I finished 94th at Palmerton, 14th at Wintergreen, and 11th at Ohio all in the open class. So I started racing in the elites the next year.
My improvement in racing was great, but the best part was that after traveling and watching me race, my wife and kids wanted to start racing too. So, it turned into a family thing. We trained together and traveled up and down the East coast to races over the weekends. And, that when I woke up and found my “Why” - The reason I train so hard and race even harder. The greatest gift Spartan gave to me was my family! That’s when I realized, I started this journey selfishly for me. I wanted to look better. But what I came to see was it wasn’t selfish at all. I had to find myself first. How could I love my family fully if I didn’t love my self. Once that became clear everything fell into place. As a family we have had so many amazing journeys and have made so many memories over the past four years. I've been able to spend so much more quality time with my family. That has been my fuel to become the best athlete I can. I want my wife to be proud to say that I'm her husband and I want to be my kids' superhero! I want give them someone real to look up to, and I want to be able to look in the mirror and say I'm proud of me too.
Now at the start of my 40s, I am still making gains in my fitness. These bodies that we have been given can do so much more than we usually use them for. I have pushed my body and mind to places I never thought were possible. I have achieved a goal I set back in 2014 by getting my first Elite Spartan podium. I have also achieved multiple age group podiums and local race podiums this year. All of the hard work and sacrifice is really starting to payoff. Keep watching! I don't plan on slowing down anytime soon. So to anyone out there who thinks you "can't" because you're too heavy, too small, too old, too weak, not a runner, not genetically gifted, or that it's too late...you aren't, it isn't and you can! Don't let anything hold you back! Your world is yours to create so you may as well make it Amazing!
What was your first obstacle race and why did you do it?
Seven Spring Mud on the Mountain in Nov 2013. I wanted to get out of power lifting but needed something new to train for. A chance meeting with another dad got me interested and signed up for the race. Had a total blast playing in the mud.
What drives you to compete?
My Kids! I want to show them that anything is possible if you want it bad enough and are willing to work hard to get it. I want them to believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. And being crazy competitive helps too.
If you could run an obstacle race anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I think running in Sparta would be amazing!
What interesting fact do most fans of OCR not know about you?
At 145 lbs my best bench was 290 lbs and i can shoot flies with gum bands like a sniper.
Who is one of the OCR athletes you admire most and why?
I would have to say my son. At his age he totally blows me away with what he is capable of physically and mentally. But the most impressive thing is how he carries himself while he races and is able to inspire and touch the people around him during and after the races. As a father it makes me unbelievable proud to be at the finish line and see other competitive age group racers come up to him and congratulate him on his performance and thank him for inspiring them during the race.
If you hadn't found OCR, in what sport(s) would you be competing?
I would still be golfing. Golf is one of the few sports that requires perfect mechanics with mental toughness to good at it. I love how challenging the swing is to master.