A couple weeks ago I took part in our company’s annual 5K run. It’s the 4th year I’ve participated which is quite impressive considering I don’t like to run – at all! This explains why I was completely content to walk most of the 3.1 miles.
Someone once tried to explain to me how running is a metaphor for life. Something about only really competing against yourself, pushing to continue when you just want to stop, and the sense of accomplishment at the finish line. Not going to lie, the metaphor just didn’t sink in. Life isn’t a well groomed path where the only real obstacles are based on your own physical and mental toughness – at least not my life.
Last Saturday I had the chance to run another 5K with my wife and several friends. This was a different sort of race called The Dirty Dash. Participants can choose the 3.5 or 5.5 mile version (we wimped out and opted for the shorter run). The race began by running (by that I mean stumbling, slipping and sliding) up a muddy embankment with water spraying overhead. There were no smooth paths here; instead we encountered dusty, grimy and swamping trails. Obstacles are placed throughout the race including stacked hay bales to climb over, murky pools where you sink two feet deep into sucking sludge, slimy mud walls often only scalable with the help of someone on top, and a 200 foot waterslide where you get hosed down right before being jettisoned into another hazel colored pond of soot and soil.
It’s physically and mentally exhausting. It’s oddly therapeutic. It’s a blast!
No one gets through the race unscathed, scratches and scrapes are common. To say participants get dirty is an understatement. Mud cakes your shoes and clothes, weighs you down, and saps your energy with every step. It clumps in your hair, smudges your face, and obscures your vision. The occasional water break is a welcomed respite as much to quench your thirst as to be used to clean your face and hands.
Some of the obstacles feel impossible to conquer. You get through by laughing, or crying or grunting. You overcome the challenges with the help of your friends and teammates. Often you get a boost from a total stranger. In return, you turn back and lend a hand to the random guy or girl behind you as they struggle to make the climb.
You don’t always clear a hurdle on the first try, so you step back, take a deep breath and try again. Sometimes when you see an obstacle on the horizon you smile and say “bring it on!” Other times you see an obstacle and exasperatedly exclaim “You’ve got to be kidding me.” You leap over some hurdles with ease as others struggle to do the same. Then you find yourself clawing, fighting and crawling along while other people sail past.
Finishing the race is great, but it’s not really the point. The joy comes in the journey, in the doing, in the accomplishing, in the overcoming. It comes through the experiences and comradery discovered along the way. It seems to me that life feels far less like a marathon sprint and far more like a dirty dash.
Running the Dirty Dash was on my 2014 Bucket List. Good job me!