When I was about 12 and at a weeklong Boy Scout summer camp, I recall walking through the woods with a bunch of my fellow Scouts on our way to an outdoor Sunday Mass.
Paul Naehle, who was one of the senior scouts and had a booming voice, called out: “C’mon, Mele! You’re bringing up the rear!”
Lo these many years later, this was memorable for two reasons:
One, I remember feeling embarrassed that I was the caboose in this line of Scouts (aka the slowpoke).
And two, Paul’s voice thundered through the woods. But it turned out we were much closer to the site of the Mass than we realized, so when we got to where everyone had gathered, they turned around, wondering what Paul was shouting about, and, no doubt, who was this guy Mele.
Well, Paul, some 40 years later, I can proudly tell you I’m no longer bringing up the rear.
I just finished my second mud run – the Warrior Dash at Pocono Raceway – and I held up my end admirably.
For a guy pushing 53, I finished the 3.3-mile course, which includes 12 crazy obstacles, in 53 minutes. (I’m hoping that my finish time and age don’t continue to coincide as I get older.)
The obstacles struck me as much more challenging than last year.
Maybe last year I had the advantage of being a newbie and not knowing any better, or maybe I’m a year older and the body parts don’t move and pivot the way they once did.
I won’t lie: I did struggle more with some of the obstacles and I did stumble. Anything that called on me to use significant upper-body strength or balance I had trouble with.
Crawl through trenches of mud with barbed wire inches above my head? No problem.
Use ropes to climb a steep vertical incline to a great height and then swinging your leg around at the apex to make it back down a ladder-like lattice on the other side?
Hmmmm….That was trickier.
And getting through the “Pipeline,” heavy rope netting shaped like a cylinder, was particularly frustrating. My foot kept get caught in the gaps and there was not much room to work with.
Still, I am happy to say that I ran more of the course than I did in 2016 – even if at the end, my knees and legs were barking at me.
The thing that was most remarkable though was the turnout: People of all ages, shapes and sizes, and of all levels of fitness.
Some guys had the bodies of Greek gods and others of repeat visitors to Greek diners. (As for me, wearing tight-fitting leggings, I felt like a human sausage.)
Regardless of their body types, strangers were friendly and courteous to each other.
They took turns at the obstacle courses. They cheered or applauded encouragement for others. They lent a hand when needed.
And they did this all for charity – to raise money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
In the end, what I discovered is it isn’t how fast you finished or whether you look like you can grace the cover of Men’s Health magazine.
Challenging yourself, being in the community of others, and having fun for a good cause – that’s what it’s all about.