It was about 10 minutes after leaving the starting line at the Warrior Dash at Pocono Raceway – keeping pace with the top third of my wave of fellow dashers – that I really, really wished I had had a second cup of coffee.
I knew there would be a dozen obstacles that included climbing through channels of mud and through pits of mud and wading through muddy water with barbed wire inches above your head, but this running thing?
That was going to get old quickly.
Notably, though, within about 15 minutes after starting, participants were not running like they were in a marathon.
Instead, they were walking and talking with each other and enjoying the experience.
What I learned was that this “race” was not really a race at all.
The competition was inside your head.
Could you clamber up the side of a tall barn-shaped structure and climb down the other side?
Could you walk across a narrow board spanning a pool of muddy water and not lose your balance?
Could you take a rope and climb a steep incline and then use a rope to get yourself down? (I felt like Batman and Robin from the 1960s television series where they scale the side of a building.)
I truly was not sure how I would perform until I got out there.
Each obstacle was marked with a sign that read “Danger: Obstacle Ahead.”
Holy crap. That was intimidating.
Reading the fine print on the waiver I signed was also not exactly reassuring.
It said that I understood the dash was a test of my physical and mental limits and “an inherently dangerous activity” that included extreme obstacles of fire, mud pits, barbed wire, cargo nets, heights, climbing and jumping into water, among other feats of derring-do.
It went on to say that the course might include plants, insects and wild animals.
It even mentioned death three times for crying out loud!
I will say though that the course was infused with a sense of humor. The obstacles were dotted with signs like “Yes, we wish you had trained too” and “If your ex could see you now.”
The thing that I came to appreciate as I climbed and crawled was that if you kept your mind focused on the fun, you could have a good time.
Yes, I had poured myself into some tight-fitting bike shorts that made me feel like a sausage. There were plenty of muscled shirtless guys who easily lapped me.
But you know what?
There were also people of every shape and size and a few guys of a certain age like me out there giving it their all.
Driving home I was a bit sore, hungry and had some muddy grit in my ears even after showering.
Still, I was elated because:
a.) I made it.
b.) The median age of the participants had to be like 27.
c.) And I got through the course in respectable time.
Maybe as A.A. Milne said: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem…”