I am lucky to have four wonderful children, three boys and a girl. They range from 26 to 18 years old, with my daughter being the youngest.  

Over the past 10 years, all four of my kids have participated in one or more Spartan Races. Spartan Races are military-style obstacle races that range from three, eight or 12+ miles with over 30 obstacles. My oldest two sons have participated in five of these races each. All have completed the longest/hardest one. My 16-year-old daughter did better than her brothers in one of these races!

Since then, all my kids have looked back to these experiences to help them with life’s challenges. It helped them learn the basic principles of hard work and persistence. They know if you want to finish the race, you need to be prepared. It takes months and months of training. For each race, we created a written plan. Each week of preparation included three days of running and three days of lifting weights that included pull-ups and the dreaded burpees. On Saturdays, we got up early and spent one to four hours trail running and hiking in the foothills above our home. It wasn’t always easy, but they persevered and became stronger along the way. 

One of the great things about Spartan Races is you are allowed to help each other. When someone is struggling, we help them with obstacles, share nutrition, give words of encouragement and work as a team. In my experience with races, someone will have a strong race and feel great and someone will struggle. When you are having a good race, you help others along the way knowing someday you will be the one who needs help.  

Unfortunately, we witness many who can’t finish the race. They weren’t ready, they didn’t train. Over 10 percent of participants do not finish the race. 

Life is hard. No one can escape it. However, when we come out the other side, we learn we can do hard things. We are less intimidated by challenging situations and difficult times. We learn from our experience and are more likely to approach challenges with more confidence in the future. After the first Spartan Race, my kids couldn’t wait to do another one. When you know what to expect you prepare even more. 

Associated Food Stores and our independent retailers have survived and thrived over the last 82 years and have faced many hard things. I remember the concerns many had when Walmart and Winco came to town. We spent months preparing for this new competition. We did research and found best practices on how to successfully compete. Many of our stores put additional effort and investments into their stores and team. Ultimately few, if any, stores closed due to this new competition. This is just one example of a challenge many of our retailers, and the “One AFS” system, have faced. Through this, and other obstacles, we have survived and thrived.  We know if we work hard, are prepared and collaborate as a team we will continue succeeding.  

The One AFS system is constantly training and planning for challenges and opportunities that will come our way. We are investing in warehouse modernization, centralized production, New Vistas, data analytics, Exclusive Brands, remodels, digital marketing, new stores, etc. The list goes on and on. We are prepared for the opportunities and challenges that come our way. We will be there to support and help each other when struggles occur. We have amazing retailers, a dedicated team, committed vendors and loyal guests who together form communities that flourish now and will continue to grow in the future.