Only a few weeks away from my 30th birthday, and I decided to run not only my first obstacle race, but my first 5K race ever.
First and foremost, I should put that I am not an active runner, nor have I really been a fan of just running. Maybe it's because I get bored with it too easily, or that I haven't done it enough. I prefer the art of dance, hooping, aerial stunts, obstacle courses, rock climbing, parkour, that kinda thing. But just plain running? Meh.
At least until I ran my first obstacle course 5K!
I do know lots of runners. One of my jobs is working for IWeLife, an event coordination company, and we put together all sorts of races around Atlanta. I see these races being put on. From the hard working volunteers to the runners and their spectators. People stretching, warming up. Some prepping for their first race ever, others who live for the sport and everyone in between. The race start, everyone running. The way people look so accomplished after they've crossed that finish line. People who care about fitness.
I've heard that running can be meditative, invigorating, and just an overall great workout. The times I've tried, I've usually ended up power walking. However, any activity is good for your body and mind! Usually it's about finding the workout that gets you in the zone, time flies by and before you know it you're sweating without realizing how active you've been. That's hoop dance for me (another article on that, later!). For others, it's just a nice brisk run. Enjoying trails and the scenery, getting lost in the music, and feeling that glorious runner's high.
Obstacle courses have been something that always enticed me. Not so much the running part, but the obstacles themselves- climbing over walls, crawling through mud, swimming through cold water (actually forget that last one, no cold water!)
So I decided to just go for it. I signed up with 2 of my friends and we began our training. With only about 3 weeks out. No problem right?
Well needless to say I should have trained more, but who doesn't? (There was a funny sign along the warrior dash route- "We wished you had trained, too!') ha ha.
Training included rock climbing and lovely scenic runs. And by runs I mean one run and a few brisk walks here and there. Hey, I told you I'm not a runner! Certainly during the race I was wishing I had ran more, to build up my endurance.
Now, let's fast forward to race day! We're all excited. We geared up in our running gear, packed water & food, and hit the road. 2 hour drive to Mountain City. From there we hiked to registration. With only 10 minutes to spare, we were in the starting line. Stretching and warming up, we were all pumped and ready.
The countdown and the starting signal. Fire blazed in the air as everyone DASHed forward, ready to conquer the course. This was pretty easy and fun. Couldn't wait for those obstacles! Just gotta keep running. Lots of hills and mini obstacles along the way, falling tree branches, rocks and so forth.
Getting winded, no problem- taking deep breaths in tune with my pacing. Enjoying the beautiful world around me- creeks flowing and the sunlight dancing in the air. After a while of doing this, I get tired. "When is the next water stop" "Why did I do this to myself" "Where are the obstacles, I'm ready to climb something!" and my body told me to keep going. I thought of the finish line, the medal, the feeling of accomplishment, and I picked up the pace once more.
I had gone nearly a mile and I was getting more and more frustrated at the length of this run, and at myself for not running more. I kept getting cramps and my body felt loosened. I was breathing heavily and becoming winded. I found a water stop and hydrated my body, and finally- the obstacles! I tackled the obstacles with determination. Climbing over mud mounds. Crawling through mud under barbed wire. Wading through mud.
Lots of mud.
After tackling the obstacles, my adrenaline kicked in and I was able to run even more. I had gotten my second wind and ran further than I thought I could. I passed by the 2nd mile. "Wow, already?" I thought. "This is great! Only 1 mile left!" I was beaming with pride with every step. Sometimes my body wanted to give out. "Keep going," I said to myself. "Mind over Matter" I paced myself and pushed through the pain.
The worst obstacle was the lake. The freezing cold lake. I didn't know it would be freezing before I jumped in. I saw the other runners jump right in and swim. I did the same and nearly had the wind knocked out of me from the shock. I swam hard. "This shouldn't be so hard, I'm a natural swimmer" and I was, growing up in Florida. The freezing water temperatures made my body heavy as I gasped for air. "Just keep swimming" Dory said in my head.
The obstacles were fun. As I climbed from the ground onto the obstacles, I remembered my Aerial Dance training- putting my life into my own hands. Literally! My grip tightened while my muddy feet slipped below me and I held on as I climbed over the slippery walls with my fellow warriors. "We are warriors" I said to myself.
I kept going, I knew I could do this. Nearing the end, we passed by people leaving the event. "You can do it!" They shouted at us. "You're not far behind! You're almost there!" The cheers echoed through my head and I picked up the pace. I thought about the medal I would adorn and show off with pride. The warrior's helmet I would wear. My friends waiting at the finish line. I was ready to taste the delicious beer waiting for us at the end.
We went up the last obstacle- the "Goliath" where you had to climb up to the top, and slide down a huge slide with muddy water waiting below. I sat down and shot forward with a quickness, splashing in the murky depths of the water below. I crawled out of the water through the mud. Wiping the dirt from my eyes and squinting into the sunlight- I saw it- The Finish Line!
I jumped to my feet and squished through the mud. I ran with the biggest smile on my face and passed the finish line. I did it! As the medal was put on me I felt the greatest sense of accomplishment. I had conquered the Warrior Dash! My very first race ever, and it was an obstacle course race! I was so proud and ecstatic.
As I drank every sip of my delicious winner's beer, I replayed the race over and over in my head. I looked around at all of my muddy companions. Some had just finished the race, others were just spectators, cheering their fellow runners on.
I celebrated with my friends during the festivities and met many more awesome people. We discussed everything- our favorite obstacles, how many obstacle course races we've done, and which ones we're looking forward to.
I feel so accomplished that I ran this race. Which is why I'm writing this blog article. I wanted to share my thoughts and feelings on this life-changing event. It's something everyone should try. Even if not an obstacle course race, just a race. That feeling when you cross the finish line is exhilarating. The cheers and the trophy you get to take home, along with a T-shirt full of memories.
Remember it's your body and mind, and a lot of this is mental. Work hard, train hard, and just jump right in it! Don't say "I could never" or "I can't". Remember, if it's important enough to you- you'll find a way. If not, you'll make an excuse. Enough excuses, get out there and accomplish something today!
It doesn't have to be an obstacle course race, this can apply to anything in your life. Training for a dance competition, or studying for a final exam. Doing something before your next birthday, or maybe crossing something off your bucket list. Do you want to do it? Then do it! Make it happen! If you say "I wish" or "I hope" then it's just a dream. Dreams are nice, but if you want to make it a REALITY, then you say "I will" and "I am going to!" Don't listen to the naysayers, listen to yourself. All that matters is what YOU think about yourself. You are the master of your own destiny!
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