It's hard to see in this picture, but that's me with the gray hair all the way in the back with a fist in the air. My fellow team members of Boot Camp Challenge: Team Yankee and I are crossing the finish line at last Saturday's 2011 Mud Run MS Philly. The day before the race I decided that I wanted to run the 6.2 mile adventure run with 30 obstacles (all dealing with mud). Normally, I would have wanted to go yet not acted on it and the opportunity would have passed me by. But a friend helped me find an open slot on a team and my wife said she'd support me and come with the kids so bright and early on Saturday, June 11th my family and I arrived. By 9:30am my team had started, my wife and kids cheered me on and I was off.
I had not known at the time, but the day would go down as one of the most life-changing ones I had had in a many years. For the last two years, I have worked hard on facing fears and trying to overcome them. In competing in the Mud Run MS Philly, I not only faced down my fears, but also helped raise money to fight against MS.
My team consisted of 13 people of all different walks of life. As we ran at our own pace, I gravitated toward members of the team who ran at my pace and I went through many of the obstacles with three other team members. Pictured to the left is "The Wall." Around 4 miles into the race, I came out of a pond of mud and had to climb up (with slippery shoes and all) over the wall, come back down and then finish the rest of the race (and the remaining obstacles). I climbed over logs, went through low tunnels, walked across ravines, slid down hills into mud pits, swung across a mud pool, climbed up a platform and then jumped down in a mud pool, and sunk waist deep into mud. My body was bruised, tired and yet I did not give up--neither did my teammates. Yet when I arrived at the wall, the intimidation factor kicked in. Tired and hurting, climbing over a wobbling "wall" with slippery shoes worried me. I feared that I would fall. The woman before me climbed up halfway and then had to stop as she thought she might fall. When it was my turn, I started climbing up and as I came to the top, this thought went through my head: "Are you nuts? Don't go up anymore! If you fall, you'll get hurt." I stopped for a moment and then made a decision: Onward and upward. I made it to the top, slung my leg over the wall, and then climbed back on down. I did not allow my fear to stop me. I simply kept going.
About a quarter of a mile further, we came up against the rope wall and waited our turn to try and climb over the four very tall obstacles. To my right, a woman in her late thirties was about to climb over the top. Fear suddenly gripped her and she started vocalizing her concern, pausing and she was frightened of the height and of falling. And then a magical thing happened, all forty so of us--all from different teams--started yelling up at her: "You can do it!" She looked down at us, we up at her and then she struggled with gaining her balance at the top and used her momentum to roll over the top and started coming down the other side. All of us clapped and cheered her on as she had made it safe and sound. What a great moment!
For the rest of the race, my team worked together to help each other up and over rope walls, out of thick mud pits until, as a united front, we held hands and slid down a large slide into a pool of water (yep, you guessed it--with lots of mud in it) and then on our bellies dragged ourselves under ropes until we ran the last 50 yards and came screaming across the finish. If you want a good laugh, watch the minute and a half video below:
Why did I sign up for this? Why did I put my body through this punishment? Seriously, why?
In the video above, you can hear my son and daughter cheering me on. I wanted to prove not only to myself that I could complete the race but to show my kids that it's important to help others and to not give up. My son's shouting "Go, go, go, go!" helped me get through that last portion of mud on my stomach. My knees ached, my legs were sore from getting banged up climbing over the wall and I was tired. But I did not give up.
Many people who read my blog are writers themselves or want to be writers. How often do we have to face our fears when we stare at the blank page and need to start writing? Or deal with problems in our personal lives or on the job? There is only one way to conquer our fears: Stand up to them and try to overcome them. I have failed more times in my life than I can enumerate here, but still I get up. On Saturday's Mud Run, I learned three important things: Challenge yourself, try new things and most importantly---many people you will meet in life are simply amazing. Our team Captain, Lisa Di Ciccio Caramandi, is a four year breast cancer survivor, a grandmother and a great leader. Put simply: She rocks.
If I did not go to the race, I would not have met such wonderful people, learned much about my strengths or inspired my family to try new challenges. Now I need rest as I've earned it. Remember: Don't give up.