Tough Mudder 2016- Pulaski, TN
The task ahead of us was an obstacle course, which covered over ten miles of rolling hills, and included twenty three obstacles. My body type is not exactly designed for jumping, climbing, and shimmying through miles of less-than-level terrain, but I guess that comfort is not really the market that the folks at Tough Mudder are trying to captivate. It was of no consequence, as I was going to be accompanied by Amanda, and six of our adventurous friends. The company was perfect. The weather was perfect. The event was perfect.
The day started off with a kind gesture. As we were leaving the parking lot of our hotel, heading towards the event, we had a nice exchange with an older lady. After a simple, “good morning, how are you?”, we began a conversation and she offered us each a “Honey Crisp Apple” from her home city in Michigan. She was proud of her apples, and she was proud of where she came from. I immediately liked her. The apple was delicious, but probably more-so because I enjoyed the sweetness of the woman’s heart than the apple. People are good. I think all people are giving, when we do not have the perceived threat of scarcity. I live in a world of abundance, and I felt as if this nice lady shared my sentiments.
We were off to the event. The Tough Mudder was run very smoothly, from check-in, to parking, to restrooms, to start-times. They released us in heats, thirty minutes apart from each other. Upon entering the “corral”, you could feel the intensity building. We were to go through a warmup, which was led by the greatest hype-man since Flavor Flav. He had the “IT” factor, and he succeeded in getting all of our blood pumping. I could not help but think about how energized the athletes must feel before running onto a football field before a college football game. If I could feel this jacked while beginning a Tough Mudder, I can’t imagine running out in front of one hundred thousand people. I had not felt this energized and alive since I was a senior in high school.
The hype man, as well as the gentleman in charge of getting us started, made it very, very clear that this was not a race. This was an event. It was meant to be an experience, an experience in which you learned about your own mental fortitude, but also encouraged compassion, and demanded that you be willing to help others. The course was designed to ensure that no one could make it through alone. At some point, you would need the help of the people around you. Some of us would need that help more often than others…but we all would need it. I feel that this mirrored life nicely. We were required to greet at least one person whom we did not know. We were required to place our hands on a stranger. And, we were required to give words of affirmation to an unfamiliar face, pledging to help one another.
And we were off….
To no one’s surprise, the event kicked off with a hill that went straight up. It would take no time to meet the familiar burn of expanding lungs. We were all free to run at our own pace, as obstacles would ensure that we would meet up with the entire team within a half mile or so. We stuck together as one, I could not asked for a better, more supportive cast of people to have been enjoying this day with. However, I’m sure I could have found a more sane group, as the mental functions of my comrades was certainly in question. Signing up for events like this requires a lack of torque on many brain screws, and on many levels.
We had arrived at the Mud Mile 2.0. This was a series of about ten ridges, consisting of about waist-high water, and approximately eight feet high ridges made entirely of slippery mud walls. As we made our way through this most challenging part of the course, I was able to pause for a moment and see the entire event for what it was, in a nutshell. This one sound-byte encompassed the entire record. It was one part of one obstacle, but it was, for all intents and purposes, what I believe the Tough Mudder to be about.
No one could have navigated the slippery slopes of these walls without assistance. Some needed more help than others, but we all needed help. There was a need for every body type. The smaller, lighter athletes were needed, so they could be easily boosted to the tops of the ridges. The bigger, beefier folks were needed to provide a base for which to muscle the individuals up to the top. And, the top-strong people were needed for pulling the people behind them up to the peak of the ridge. It was humanity in action. It was a moment where goodness and decency were on display. Humans were acting humane, and people were being considerate of one another, even in the the chaos and unfamiliarity of the environment.
I was waiting at the bottom of the ridge, where I felt I could be more beneficial in boosting people to the top. As I looked behind me, I saw the all-too-familiar eyes of insecurity and self-doubt, wading her way through the water and cautiously approaching the ridge. It was a heavier, younger girl, with a muddy face and innocent blue eyes. I immediately admired her for having the courage to sign up for an event as intimidating as this. There was a fear inside of her, matched only by her embarrassment and self-doubt. At this moment, she believed herself to be in over her head. She felt as if this whole thing was a big mistake. She was someone’s daughter, and there was a dad out there somewhere, who couldn’t be more proud of his little girl’s decision to sign up for an event as challenging this. It might seem as if I am reading too much into what is only being shown to me by the look in someone’s eyes, but if there is one thing I know, it is the look of fear, insecurity, self-doubt, and regret. I know all too well what it looks and feels like to feel defeated, alone, and out of place.
As the young girl cautiously made her way towards me and the opposing ridge, she said, “I’m sorry…I-I-I, I’m really heavy and it’s going to be hard to get me up there.” She surveyed the people around her, either waiting for more help, or afraid that people would see her trying to make it to the top. I can’t really explain the feeling that came over me, as it was equal parts anger and frustration, mixed with compassion and excitement. It pissed me off that she would allow herself to feel this way. It pissed me off that I have felt this same way, so many times. I brought my hand from the water and I pointed my finger staunchly at her. As sternly as possibly, I said, “Don’t talk like that about yourself. Not here. Not today.” I then held out my hands, with my fingers latched together, and I said, “Now, put your foot right here. Take a big step up, I’m fixin to chunk you over the other side of that wall.” I can’t remember the last time that I felt so strong. I can’t remember a time when I felt like it was that important that I succeed in what I was trying to accomplish- not just for me, but for her, especially. This moment was important. It was important for her confidence and it was important for my desire to help someone else. It was about to go down, and if I had anything to do with it, she was about to go up. As we counted down from three-two-one, it felt as if every weight I have ever lifted, every sled I have ever pushed, and every sack that I have ever thrown had prepared me for this one moment- this one moment that really mattered. As I dug my feet, lowered my hips, and locked my shoulders, I knew that she was about to launch. Both of us would be better for the experience. I thanked God for being sober and aware enough to appreciate these types of experiences.
I’m pretty sure that I read somewhere that our purpose is “to fit ourselves to be of maximum service to God and to others”. Many of you will understand this.
As I began to look around for someone to help me get over the wall, I paused to watch the magic. I watched as people naturally gravitated towards whomever needed the help most, at that given time. I watched as humans scanned the environment, and calculated where they needed to be to provide the most help. I watched as the beefcakes on top shimmied over to extend their arms to those who were struggling at the bottom. I observed as the smaller folks laid across the bigger guys feet, providing anchors so they could better do their jobs. There was no argument. There was nobody left behind. There was no name-calling, and no one was considered a burden. There was an objective, and that objective was met with no complaints. What I was witnessing was humanity. It was an exercise of our nature. It was the potential that is inside of us.
There is good in our society. The environment, past experiences, and perception is what dictates our behavior, but I was witnessing that, if placed in the right scenario, people care- they are willing to help. What I saw was compassion. What I witnessed was caring. What I experienced was the Tough Mudder.
The event continued in much of the same way that it began. We all finished together, happy healthy, and strong. I strongly encourage you to experience a Tough Mudder, or an event similar to it. Just find a group and get registered for it. There is so much to be taken away from an experience like this. You owe it to yourself.
Have an outstanding day.
Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,