The start line is a familiar place these days; the adrenaline a close friend as it prepares me for what’s to come; those around me companions in the battle to finish. This familiarity is something I’ve grown to take for granted.
On Saturday, it was a different story. The familiar feeling was shifted as for the first time I stepped to the start line with people who have never raced before. Their nerves fuelled my own as I wondered if this introduction to obstacle racing would scare them away. What if these friends who had watched my muddy adventures decided it was madness? What if they hated it? What if, on the course, we fought?
These nerves were pushed away quickly as we meandered into a mud pit. With nothing to prove, and nothing to lose, we weren’t working hard, we were simply playing. Yvonne cried out in disgust as the mud covered her legs, but soon the squeamish squeals turned into laughter.
“This is amazing! I understand your love of this now!” She laughed as we approached cars to crawl under, slip through and slide over. As we approached the fireman’s pole to slide down, I took a deep breath.
In spite of the fun nature of the day, heights still shake me. Standing at the top, I looked at the woman next to me. Her hands shook as she gripped the pole, “I can’t. I can’t.” She muttered. Pushing away my own fear, I gripped the pole, and counted down from three. “Together.” I told her, and we slid to the ground.
That is the soul and spirit of obstacle racing. The way strangers help strangers. The ability to push away your own fear for the sake of someone who needs to know that this small drop to the ground won’t kill them. A quick hug and a high five and on we continued.
Yvonne attempted and completed every obstacle. Her determination to try amazed me. She climbed to the top of the tyre wall, keeping on moving even as her legs shook. As she got to the top she sat and breathed shakily, and then swung her leg down and began to climb bit by bit until she hit the ground. I’ve never seen a broader smile on her face.
The day was a chance to introduce special people whom I adore to the sport I adore. The finish line hug was made sweeter by sharing it with the person who was subjected to my exam and Beast anxiety, knowing that he had loved playing in the mud made my heart lighter.
For all the start line anxiety, I found that this day of playing in the mud with friends was perhaps the most joyful of races. The slide; the mud; the walls; the high fives; the hugs. These made the day.
Sometimes, I need to step away from the intensity of races and simply play. This wasn’t emotionally gruelling. This wasn’t physically demanding. But it was joyful. And that makes it more than worth it.