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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.

Related:

Some Final Thoughts Before My First Mud Run

What I Discovered in Conquering the Warrior Dash

Training for the Warrior Dash!

Some Final Thoughts Before My First Mud Run

I’ve got this.

I do.

Right. Right?

It’s the day before I “participate” (read: run, fall down, scrape my knees, get wet, get muddy and fall down some more) in a so-called mud run, this one the Warrior Dash at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.

For those not familiar with these races, they feature a series of obstacles, including rope tunnels to climb through, large inclined ramps to scale and mud pits with names like Chaotic Cargo and Deadman’s Drop.

And, oh yeah, this is for fun and charity. It benefits the St. Jude Children’s Hospital.

I had signed up for my first Warrior Dash last year but ultimately had to be a no-show because I could not get off the time from work.

But this year I have no such excuse.

The crazy thing is I’ve not run in a competitive event since I was a freshman in high school which was … (*takes out abacus, calculator and counts on his fingers and toes*) … a long time ago.

Further, you’re talking about a guy who did not like gym class in high school because I would sweat too much. (By contrast, however, as a kid, I would spend afternoons running around the neighborhood, playing “army,” climbing rocks and rolling around in the grass. So go figure.)

My wife has asked me several times in the past week or so if I was growing nervous as race day approached.

No, I said with a shrug. I’ve been working out regularly and even though I am nearly 52, I’m pretty sure I can hack this.

But her questions have prompted me to look more closely at the race course.

A dozen obstacles consisting of mud, fire, rope nets, climbing, balancing on a board and crawling under barbed wire.

That’s scary enough but even scarier is that I will be impersonating an athlete, pouring my body into one of those forming-fitting biker shorts, which will accent my muffin-top (you’re welcome for that image), shorts and one of those sleek shirt tops.

So come tomorrow, after an hour, I will emerge muddy, sweaty, bloodied but victorious.

I got this. Right?

I guess I will find out tomorrow.