Richard Stout felt what it was like to be on the main stage of the Arnold Amateur World Championships and Strongman Fitness Championships when he participated on March 2 in Columbus.
He lifted a hollowed-out log (or log-shaped instrument), hoisted it over his head and proudly displayed the 290 pounds above his 5-foot-8, 195-pound frame en route to winning the event.
The Niles resident and 2005 John F. Kennedy High School graduate eventually parlayed his performance to finish in fourth place at the world competition in the lightweight class.
There was also a heavyweight division, in which the top two receive professional contracts and are part of the World Strongest Man competitions you see on ESPN.
"The experience of being there and seeing the gap between the competitors is so tight, so close," Stout said. "There's no room for error. You have to really practice events every day, really be at the top of your game. There's really no being satisfied of what you did this year.
"You can be satisfied, but you have to come back hard. If you don't, you may not even make the main stage next year or qualify for World Championships. That's everyone's goal."
Stout's trip toward the World Championships began a couple of years ago at World of Fitness in Niles with his former high school football teammate at Kennedy, Steve Telego, who was lifting tires and Atlas stones.
"He got done playing football, just graduated," Stout said. "A lot of it carried over from his football training, flipping tires and lifting Atlas stones. It's pretty fun, a lot of movement events."
Stout played club lacrosse in college, so the competitive streak was alive and well within him. But it was much more than a competitive edge that got Stout interested in becoming a strongman.
"It's not just the power movements," Stout said. "There's a lot of speed and agility involved as well. That's how it got my interest because it's a little bit of both. I thought it would be a little fun, something different."
His training wasn't quick at all.
"It started real slow, learning the proper form on the lifts," Stout said. "Once I started doing more of the lifts and more of the events, I was like, 'I can do this.' It was pretty fun because it was different from any type of lifting I did before."
One of the events in a strongman competition is the Atlas stones, which has a competitor take five round stones weighing from 135 to 365 pounds and place them on a pedestal. Then there is the Farmer's Walk, where two cylinder-like structures are in each hand and have to be carried through a course.
"You have to have good, quick feet. You have to be able to stay on your feet doing something like that," Stout said.
"It was fun to meet other competitors from other countries," Stout said. "It was nice being in Columbus, too. I had a lot of followers, family and friends able to come down. I tried to have a lot of fun with it because I put a lot of effort into the training."
It didn't seem that way after nationals last year in Texas, when he hurt his back.
"I was trying to have a lot more fun because I took it a little too serious and I didn't do as well as I wanted to when I was in Texas," Stout said. "This time, I learned a little bit more and had fun."
When everything was done and fourth place was secure at the World Championships, Stout said he's looking forward to getting back to Columbus next year.
"When I got to the last couple of events, I realized I had a good shot going to the championship," he said. " 'Don't think about it, just have fun, just keep doing what you've been doing. Enjoy yourself. Just live in the moment.' When I finished Day 1, they said you're going to be going on the main stage. You're guaranteed to get a medal. I was extremely excited, knowing all my friends were able to come back and watch the competition live. Being on the main stage was unreal, being in front of all those peoples and the TVs. It was like a dream come true because that's the farthest we can go in strongman for lightweight class.
"I'm really hungry now to start working to get back for next year."