Eight months ago, Jamboree was nothing more than a brand of nail stickers to me. But then, I started working for Boy Scouts of America assisting with Jamboree preparation, gaining insights but never a full picture of what the Jamboree was all about.

After spending four full days at the Jamboree, I am now even more aware that my picture is still limited, but oh, how it’s grown!

The question I wanted to ask everyone I spoke to was, “What’s your favorite part of the Jamboree?” Answers varied from patch trading, zip-lining, SCUBA diving, hiking, the pioneer area, the Spartan Race, and more. Everywhere you looked,  Scouts asked questions and participated in activities. Few Scouts seemed as phased by the amount of hiking as the staff and leaders, but you could see such satisfaction in their actions.

There’s no way I could take it all in with just four short days on site, but the activity that stood out to me the most was the Spartan Race. We heard about it long before we saw it. The Spartan Race was responsible for “the first broken arm of the Jamboree”—a title that came with a patch to match. A staff member related the story of a Scout that ran the Spartan Race and was so close to breaking a record that he decided to run it again and rather than break the record, he broke his arm instead. Yet the enthusiasm of the Spartan Race was unscathed. Scout after Scout could be found singing its praise and it quickly took first place on my list of ‘must see at the Jamboree.’

When we finally made it to the top of Garden Ground Mountain (a three-mile hike up, by the way) where the Spartan Race was held, I headed immediately for a closer look. The starting line and flags were just that, a starting line and flags. It didn’t give me any clue to why Scouts were excited about this activity. Of course, hearing the young staff psyching up the Scouts by yelling things like, “We are Sparta!” and sending the runners off with a loud cheer “For Sparta!” brought a smile to my face as I wondered if they understood the reference. 

The enthusiasm was contagious, but it wasn’t until I started following the track for this race that I was really able to take in why. Obstacle after obstacle and challenge after challenge faced these Scouts from start to finish. Climbing over a mid-height wall was soon followed by the shouldering of what looked like a 40-pound bean bag that Scouts then had to carry downhill before taking it back uphill to drop off only, to run and jump over two low walls on their way to the next obstacle. The next obstacle in line? Flipping a floppy log twice lengthwise. Easier than it sounds, believe me.

Next in line was walking the wooden line. Scouts put the edge of their shoes on the lower wooden pieces and gripped the edge of 2x4s secured to the upper part as they inched their way around the corner of the wall. Once successful, it was time to get down and army crawl under large wooden pieces propped on hay bales. This was immediately followed by an inverted wall. My favorite part of the inverted wall was watching Scouts make it over and then call back to others to offer help. I consistently saw a Scout turning back to check on their team.

Next was the rubber web climb followed by a spear throw, and the highest wall of the course. This one proved to be more challenging than many expected. There were a few that managed to get over on the first or second try, there were others that again offered teamwork by offering a hand up, and there were a few that found it rather insurmountable.

From there, just two obstacles remained. A rope climb and one more mid-sized wall were in the final stretch before crossing the finish line. Each Scout that crossed the finish line was given a Spartan Race patch, a badge of pride, no doubt, after running the race in the West Virginia heat and humidity.

Just outside the finish line, Scouts gathered around the hydration station to wash dirt and mud off while they animatedly shared their excitement about the race. The determination and camaraderie found through these shared experiences will contribute to the character of these young Scouts. You can read more about one Scout’s experience at the Spartan Race here.

So many moments at Jamboree similar to this one make it all too clear why Boy Scouts and all its volunteers go to such lengths to create this life-changing experience for the youth. The Spartan Race is only one of many adventures to be had at Jamboree, but it undoubtedly left an impression on me.

Angela Shelley
Japanese Tour Guide turned Jamboree Joy Ride. Combine a dad full of natural curiosity of the world and a love of learning with a Scouting momma whose passion for children, education and the outdoors and you get a family with many Dutch oven cooking, camp song singing, compass-confounded exploring, squirrel-chasing experiences. Despite that, I never would have guessed I would one day be a National Parks and Monuments tour guide for Japanese people. And I never would have guessed I'd then move on to work for Boy Scouts of America.


  1. Darryl Alder
    Darryl Alder says:

    Of all the events at the 2017 Jamboree, this event was most surprising of all. It was a pretty basic obstacle course, simple but challenging. Some groups hiked 5 miles to Garden Ground Mountain just to run the course. Then they ran it again and again proving their youthful manhood. Dripping sweat and dirt, every runner sported a huge grin. My favorite interview though was with James’s troop (see “No Man Left Behind” — JAMES FOR SPARTA! by clicking the window above)

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