We sit down with the “energized agent,” Westley Silvestri, who is a 4x American Ninja Warrior and has completed over 100 OCR events. Westley discusses overcoming grief and hardships, and how to constantly challenge yourself and live life to the fullest.
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A LOOK INSIDE THE EPISODE:
TM: Were you doing OCR before you went and did the Ninja?
W: Yes, I got into Tough Mudder and Spartan and all those other OCR events when my roommate passed away. So, I bought my first house out here in California when I came back from New Mexico, and we met at the restaurant we were both working at. He was a bartender, I was a bartender-server, and we just hit it off. He had the same story of this terrible ex-girlfriend and I went through a terrible breakup of mine, so we’re sitting there closing down one day, and we start chopping it up. He tells me a story and I tell him my story, and I go, “Did we just become best friends?” So he goes, “Listen, I gotta tell you, man, I’m broke. I can’t afford to live out here on my own.” And I go, “Dude, I just bought my first place. I have an extra room [with my girlfriend at the time, my wife now]. Why don’t you just come live with us? Pay us whatever amount of rent you can afford 500 bucks, or whatever it is.” It’s just so hard to break in new friends that I didn’t want to lose him because he was going to go back to New Jersey. So I was like, “Dude, just come live with me.” He’d been drinking at the time and dabbling into drugs and I’m not for that life whatsoever. So he would ask me, “How are you sober?” And I was like, “Well, it’s easy. I just don’t drink. Pretty simple.” So he goes, “Let’s do that. I’m gonna set a goal. I’m gonna put a date on the calendar. I want to run the LA Marathon on my 100th Day of sobriety.” That’s a great goal. That’s fantastic.
Now, I have always been in shape, but I’ve never taken my fitness to this next level until he passed away. So in that training for the LA Marathon, he would sign up for Spartans and Tough Mudders, and these mud runs that were local. All of a sudden, he went to sleep one night and passed away at 35 years old of cardiomyopathy and it rocked me. It hits so hard, because so many people just say, nothing’s guaranteed, you’re not guaranteed tomorrow, live every day as if it was your last. You hear that, but it doesn’t truly hit home until you walk in, and you find your roommate passed away. He was so young, like he had his whole life ahead of him and for it to just be taken away like that. I go, “I gotta change, something has to get me going.” I was on like, this hamster wheel. I knew what I wanted, but I wasn’t going after it as much as I am now.
I went through this dark depression of probably a solid month. For one month, I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I didn’t want to see anybody. And one day, I woke up and I looked in the mirror and I go, “What are we doing, man? What are we doing, we’re wasting our life. Your friend just passed away. That could be you. Get your ass up and get your ass going.” So I saw that he had signed up for a local OCR, and I go, “I got to do that. I’m gonna run in his place, I’m gonna run in his honor.” So I put his name on my back, I walk up to the checking booth, I tell them the story. I go, “Hey, he unfortunately passed away and I want to honor him and I want to run for him.” At that event, his group was there and the group had signed up for the 5k. He, of course, the psycho, signed up for the 10k. I have never ran more than a mile in my life and now I’m about to run with the weight of him through this six mile obstacle course with mud and barbed wire, and I’ve never done this before.
321 go, now I’m on the course by myself. I’m in these mud pits, I’m covered. Got a little scraped up from that barbed wire because I don’t know how to keep my ass down. I don’t know how to do these things, I don’t have the technique. And I’m crying. And all of a sudden, there’s this girl on the course and she was a mutual friend of mine and his. She goes, “I see what you’re doing out there and it’s truly inspiring.” I go, “Thank you,” and there’s just tears of mud. We get sent off in waves and I’m not the fastest by any means, but I had gotten ahead of my wave, but I hadn’t caught up to the wave in front of me. So as I’m crossing the finish line, I’m by myself. When people are just pouring through, they’re collecting their headbands or collecting their metals and everyone’s just high-fiving, but I’m by myself, for like, 20 yards in front of me and 20 yards behind me. There’s no one around. I crossed the finish line, I lowered my head. They put that metal around my neck, and I lose it. I go, “We did it, man.” I look up to the heavens and I’m bawling because I miss my friend. I looked down and I hold this metal and she had put two metals around my neck, and I was gone. I get chills telling that story today.