Brock and I did Tough Mudder in March of 2011. We had been together a little less than a year. It really was a transformative experience for our relationship and had a significant impact on my learning to trust again. We continue to do events together that require teamwork and perseverance. In fact, we have decided to consciously make that a cornerstone of our relationship. Most recently, we took the beast (AKA Tiger) on an 8 mile canoe trip down the Chattahoochee. Due to the recent rains, the water was very high and there were quite a few newly fallen trees across the swollen river. At one point, we thought we had reached an impasse where the combination of fallen trees and debris blocked our passage. Brock saw an opportunity, turned the canoe around so that he was leading the boat and I was paddling backwards from the distant front. He carefully guided the canoe through a narrow gap in the trees. I was traveling blind, relying fully on him to tell me when to duck or dodge from the large branches. Three years ago, that same situation would have caused anxiety, as I wondered if I could count on him. Now? I trust again. And that’s a good place to be.
Originally posted in winter 2012:
When I told my family last year that I had signed up (and paid good money) for an 11 mile obstacle run, I think their first response was to shuffle through their contacts looking for the psychiatrist I saw in the early months of the divorce. “You’re doing WHAT? Why?,” I heard repeatedly, usually followed with a resigned head shake, “You’re crazy.” Crazy I may be, but I felt compelled to do the event and I am so glad that I did. Tough Mudder was more to me than a run.
A few months after the July disaster of my marriage, I signed up for my very first race ever: a half marathon. This was a bit preemptive, since not only had I never competed, I still was weak and skinny. I went into that race only having completed the distance once before. That was the worst race of my life (cold, rain, illness), but I endured and made it through. It was exactly the confidence boost I needed at that point.
Over the next several months, I ran more races, but none of them required me to dig all that deep into myself. None of them gave me the sense of triumph over adversity that I was seeking.
Then came Mudder. My boyfriend was the one who actually found this race and he proposed that we enter together. I loved the idea immediately. With a shared purpose, we hit the gym with renewed vigor and not a little trepidation.
The event itself was unbelievable. It turned out that it was slated to be held in a dry county, so the money that normally went towards beer instead paid for a longer track – almost 15 miles up and down (did I mention up?) a motocross track. The temperature was cold, and the water obstacles were colder, as volunteers emptied flats of ice into the streams.
It was an amazing challenge for my boyfriend and I to tackle together. It gave a true sense of working together and overcoming adversity. My other races had been alone; it was beautiful to have someone to share this with. It helped me learn to trust him, learn that he was not going to abandon me when the going got tough. We pushed each other, encouraged each other, lifted each other, and even shared some muddy, sweaty kisses. It was amazing.
I think everyone, especially those re-centering after trauma, should do their own version of Tough Mudder. Something that pushes you further than you comfortably want to go. Something to show you what you can accomplish. Something to show you that discomfort is temporary. Something to show you that the support of friends can help get you through when you want to quit. When the big picture of what you have to overcome is too big, it helps to have a little Mudder to think back on and realize, “I can do this.”