‘You’d never get me doing that’, people would say to me as I told them I had signed up to take part in this year’s Tough Mudder event.
This would always make me smile as I remembered saying the very same thing the year before.
But, here I was surprising myself, and about to embark on the most physically demanding challenge I had ever put my body through.
Tough Mudder is promoted as no ordinary mud run – it’s an experience. An escape from the everyday.
You’ll go over, around, and through your fears. You’ll test your strength, grit, and most importantly you’ll help the Mudders around you to do the same.
In other words: you run a number of miles through mud and navigate over obstacles that you cannot get over or through on your own.
My preparation for my challenge was rather minimal.
Yes, I’m a runner, but I have very little upper body strength and did nothing to improve this in the run up to the event.
Well, the day had arrived and I was feeling rather unprepared. I had deliberately avoided looking online at videos of the obstacles because I was convinced, if I did, I would want to back out.
Not knowing what was coming was my preferred strategy. Even so, this in no way eased my nerves.
I arrived at the busy Tough Mudder village on my own to wait for my team. I was running in a team of 10, and I only knew one of them, so my first challenge was to find them!
In looking around the first thing I noticed was every person with long hair wore braids. I checked my hair. Me too. At least I had got that one right!
The second thing I noticed was those who had completed their run didn’t look too bad.
They were smiling, and not as dirty as I thought they would be, (having run the course, I now know that this is because you enter an obstacle with water towards the end that washes off some of the mud).
Well, it can’t be that bad, I had thought!
I met my team, we got acquainted, and we headed to the start line.
Still not having any idea what to expect, we set off jogging, my nerves started to fade and adrenaline kicked in as the excitement of the unknown lay before me.
We completed the course with mud stuck all over our bodies (most stress-fully entangled in my hair).
Bruises that only became obvious as we washed our bodies but, most importantly, smiles on our faces.
Was it tough? Yes it was.
Did I look back and regret doing it? Not at all.
I reflected on this the day after as I sat feeling stiff and tired.
Why did I not regret doing it even though it was tough?
Maybe it was because we had defeated every single obstacle that stood in our way, no matter how tough they were.
But, this was only achievable because we worked in a team.
I could never do them on my own – it was literally impossible (and that is not just because I’m 5’2″ and female).
The only way to defeat the obstacles was to get up close and personal
with my team mates.
We climbed on each other, pushed each other up, dragged (yes that is a fair word) each other up, grabbed each other to stop us from falling, and encouraged each other to keep going every step of the way.
When one was struggling, we would all help.
This reminded me about the importance of vulnerability; getting up close and personal with one another to help us defeat the obstacles we face in life.
All I did was position myself in a way that people could lift me up and carry me over the obstacles.
But I had to allow them to do this. I had to let them get up close and personal, which is vulnerable.
That’s why I conquered the obstacles. Because I set myself up, to go with others to be my support, and I for them.
Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it’s just too bad, because there is no one to help
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10 (Good News)
There are things in my life that I have only conquered and defeated because I made myself vulnerable, admitted my weakness, and asked for support.
Vulnerability is a strength.
Showing your true self is a strength.
It allows for authentic relationships.
Admitting you need help is not a weakness. It is an incredible strength of character.
The obstacles we face in life are tough, but we become tougher than the obstacles when we position ourselves in a team.
Fear fades as we rely on one another to get through (or, over, in the case of Tough Mudder).
I found vulnerability my friend, not meant to bring me harm but to release me from it.
I thought my honesty would be the death of me; it wasn’t, it brought me life.
For so long I tried to control it, my weakness and confusion, wanting to hide it, never dreaming I’d boast in it.
For its in my weakness I realised my need for God.
We are designed for community. To journey through this life together.
There are things that we will face in our lives that we cannot defeat on our own, we need the strength of a team.
I hope that my Tough Mudder experience will always remind me that every time, life presents a difficult obstacle, I will not be overwhelmed and it will not stall or trap me because I will be vulnerable enough to share it with the right people and we will take it on together.
Isolation is a tactic of the enemy to separate us from the support that will make us stronger.
Community is God’s design. We become tough in a team.
Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Philippians 2:2 (The Message)