I recently finished my first ever Tough Mudder (for those who have never heard of it, Tough Mudder is an obstacle course event that you definitely have to be a little bit insane to do). My boyfriend and I spent the weekend in Vermont camping and enjoying the mountains. I’m really glad we got to get away for a couple of days (and thankfully we both had the foresight to take the day after the Mudder off from work–we were just a little bit sore…).
Neither of us had done an event like this before, both admittedly nervous as we drove to Mt. Snow the morning of the Mudder. Never has a mountain looked so big as Mt. Snow did as we stood in the parking lot and realized we might be in over our heads. Thank goodness my boyfriend is just as stubborn as I am — we started the trek to the starting line, wrote our numbers on our bodies in Sharpie, and started warming up.
My expectations of Tough Mudder were, as many expectations are, completely inaccurate.
I envisioned hundreds of perfectly fit people jogging steadily up steep trails and easily clearing obstacles. I started out really intimidated by those at the start line with me, looking at muscles and the famous headbands that signify previous Mudder completion. But the leader, who was essentially giving us a pep talk, said that a blind man was doing the course today. Cancer survivors were on the course today. People who wanted nothing more than to prove something to themselves were on the course today, perfectly or not so perfectly fit. I fell into the latter category.
When I registered for Tough Mudder, I wasn’t sure why I was doing it. Maybe it was because I wanted motivation to get in better shape after recovering from an injury; maybe I like to show off; maybe I just wanted to play in the mud. Regardless of my motivations, I took a knee with the other Mudders at the start line and listened to stories of people with weaker bodies and stronger minds than I. I decided I wasn’t going to be hard on myself during Tough Mudder. Whatever I could accomplish out there, if only for one day, was going to be enough. This, for me, was the real reason I was doing it. It is alarmingly easy to be your own bully, an ugly monster I struggle with daily. But I decided that even if I couldn’t finish an obstacle or needed a moment to rest, I wasn’t going to rob myself of credit. I was doing something that scared me, and that should be enough.
So I did it. The first two miles were rough, starting with a winding switchback trail up the side of Mt. Snow. Halfway up I turned around and felt proud that I even made it that far. Proud that I already completed one obstacle and didn’t care that I had scratches and mud. The baby steps to self-confidence were already starting to move inside me.
The next eight miles weren’t as rough. The first few obstacles made me feel good that I could do them, but I felt better about the fact that I could keep climbing a mountain, too. Before I knew it, I was slithering through mud and jumping hay bales and wanting to do it again. I ate some dirt and genuinely didn’t care. A small secret about me: I am afraid of heights. I don’t like climbing things that require me to look in front and not behind. It seems like falling is inevitable and easy.
Therefore, one of the obstacles I was most nervous about included scaling a wall using pegs. Of course, it was one of the first ones. It is called “The Liberator.” There was a helpful friend at the top who helped pull me over. And then I helped pull someone else over. I climbed a wall with pegs and my legs. Confidence built, I kept on going.
By the tail end of the race, I quickly climbed up a ladder to a 15 foot high plank and jumped into a pit of muddy water. I really loved that obstacle, mostly because I am a strong swimmer so the jumping was easy, but more so because I climbed a really tall ladder without thinking about it. And the ladders have always been harder for me than cannonballs.
So that’s it. I guess I did Tough Mudder to get over my fear of walls. Walls that are too high to see the other side. Walls that require you to stare straight at them, and not over or behind them. Walls that once climbed, stand tall and say you did this.
It is really hard to argue with a wall. Despite the bully in your brain wanting to take you down, the physical proof is right there, built before you even conquered it. And that is reason enough to say, “I am proud of myself. I did that.”