This weekend I joined a few thousand other mildly crazy real people to take part in the Rugged Maniac, which is a 5k course made up of hills, mud, and 25 different obstacles to be tackled by the fit and those who wish they were more fit (ie: me). Back in the springtime, a group of my co-workers thought it would be nifty to sign up for this event. A great team-building opportunity, and heck, we had months to prepare. Visions of ninja-like hard-core deeply focused training sessions danced in our heads – until of course we realized we all work full time and barely manage to fit in some form of exercise as time allows — and none of us really want to be a Ninja.
Nevertheless, we persisted, and together, with camaraderie and encouragement, we participated and all crossed the finish line triumphant (also wet, filthy and exhausted) together.
That evening, as I iced my knee and popped Advil like candy, I reflected on the event and what it taught me.
Power: The sheer number of people who show up and participate in the event is amazing. There are people of all ages (teens and up), cultures, and various levels of fitness. The ratio of men and women seemed an even match – once again destroying the concept of women being the weaker sex. It was a true mix of people and abilities. Granted, I was not there at 9am when the elite athletes take to the course as a competitive race. I’m sure they are speeding up and down the hills and flying through the air on each obstacle. I’m happy for them, and I’m glad I did not witness the intimidation of their athleticism. As for the rest of us, we all had some basic level of ability and fitness. As a matter of fact, just to get to the starting line, we had to heave ourselves up and over a chest-high blockade wall. A not so subtle message that if you can’t at least do that, you may as well go back and be a spectator. Seeing that many people pumped up to give it their all was a refreshing contrast to the doom and gloom news we hear about how unhealthy Americans are… supposedly skyrocketing obesity rates, debilitating injuries or illnesses and overall sloth-mode. I saw no sloths. Rugged Maniac has grown to 30 locations across the country and Canada, averaging a total of approximately 150,000 participants per year. That’s a whole lot of pretty healthy people. Bravo.
Perspective: We had a couple of 15-year old young women on our team, and they scampered through the course, with virtually no difficulties. Mud Runs have been a thing since about 1995, and Rugged Maniac events have been held since 2010. That means that I could have taken part in an event like this 10, 15, even 20 years ago when I was younger and much more fit. I wish now that I had, and was wondering why I never did. I think it is because in those days, I would have felt like I needed to be competitive, to place in the race, take no shortcuts and do every obstacle perfectly. And I knew, even then, that I was not of the athletic level to do that. So I backed away. Fast forward to now, and at 53, my perspective has changed. None of our team members were “in it to win it”, only to be “in it to finish.” I chose to participate not just because of a wee bit of peer pressure, but because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I knew I had the support of my team, and if anything was just too difficult, I could go around the obstacle. With age comes perhaps not just wisdom, but also a “what the hell, why not” attitude. My goal was to simply get to the finish line with no major injuries, and to not disappoint my teammates. There were 3 of the 25 obstacles that I failed at, but still gave them an effort (video clip evidence below). I went from a fast jog to a slow jog to a walk for much of the course. And I still felt like I succeeded. Even when, around obstacle #10, something went “ping” in my left knee and it was no longer operating at maximum (albeit aged and arthritic) capacity… I still finished on my own two feet.
The other perspective that makes me laugh is that not only did all of us crazy folks willingly sign up for the activity, but we paid to do so, AND we spent most of the event splashing through muddy water… either on our hands and knees, falling into it, or speeding down a slide into it, totally engulfed. When else are any of us happy to be filthy and cold?
Positivity: Speaking of happy… every person there came out on a beautiful sunny early Fall day to have fun. Teammates supported and helped each other, other participants called out warnings about upcoming obstacles, people stepped aside to let team members go together. We saw one man dressed in a Spiderman outfit, another in a clown costume. There were team Tshirts with clever and funny names. We yelled, we cheered, we laughed. We bonded with our teammates – and in our group, formed an even stronger bond among co-workers and friends. Every person there felt a proud sense of accomplishment. It was a mass of happy, enthusiastic and muddy humanity in sunny and beautiful New England – a stark contrast to everything we see and hear on the news every day. This is the stuff we need more of. Time together doing something positive.
And so, today as I feel sore, am limping a bit, and have counted all of my bruises, I’m still glad I did it. That we ALL did it.
Now, for your amusement, a true Real Woman moment. This clip is of the final obstacle. After 3.1 miles of hills, thick mud and cold water, 24 other obstacles, and a knee that had given up, I knew damn well I would not make it up that wall. But I had to give it a try. Yes, that hurt a bit. But it was worth it.