Oct 16, 2015 06:57PM ● Published by Susan Ryder
We climbed the 20-foot cargo net to the top to the platform above. A big red target painted on an air-filled landing pad awaited us at the bottom of that platform. I thought, no problem, until I looked over the edge. My stomach lurched. Fear seized me. It just isn’t natural to throw myself off of this. Mustering all my courage, I jumped with a hearty scream. My twin sister jumped next. After I pulled her off the pad she asked “Why’d you hold your nose?”
This was part of our experience at the Pittsburgh Muderella event. The event consists of a 5-7 mile mud challenge with obstacles along the course. It emboldens women to “Own Your Strong” and reminds them that “You’re Stronger Than You Think You Are.”
I didn’t feel very strong after a trip to the doctor where he informed me that I had gained 10 lbs. in the past two years and that my cholesterol was up. He said, however, that if I lost a few pounds my cholesterol should return to normal levels. This visit served as the catalyst for my signing up for the Muderella.
The race was in September, our birthday month, and it seemed right that my twin sister, Sandy, and I should embark on this race together, in celebration of our 48th birthday. Even better, the race was not far from her alma mater, Slippery Rock University.
The Muderella website contained training videos to help women get their strong on. So we began the planking (Ugh!), the squats (My knees!), and the pushups (Yikes!). Little by little we got stronger and began feeling more confident in our ability to complete this challenge. Our biggest fear wasn’t getting hurt, it was embarrassing ourselves.
After the summer of preparing, the race day arrived. I felt like I could throw up. What were we thinking! We donned our face paint, temporary tattoos and purple hair ribbons. The race felt like a strange combination of Rambo meets Cinderella.
Our personal accoutrements looked lame compared to many. One group of women wore pink shirts with boas and paper tiaras, another donned matching yellow “muddy beavers” shirts and yet another group’s shirts announced “The Dirt Shirt Girls.” More than a few women wore tutus.
One shirt however, caught my immediate attention. It said “In memory of Holly George.” I asked the woman if she could tell me Holly’s story. She said her friend had been shot nine times by her significant other, leaving four children without a mother. That’s when I remembered that while this run was all about physical fitness for my sister and I, it was about stopping domestic violence for many others.
Muderella partners with Futures Without Violence, an organization which works to prevent violence against women. I talked with another group of women and asked them why they participated. Three of the four said it was because they had experienced domestic violence.
Humbled at the survivors around us San and I hit the course. We ran or walked, as the terrain our bodies would allow. We climbed over wooden walls; crossed pits of mud on four inch planks, this sounds much easier than it was; crawled on our hands and knees under cargo nets; and trudged through pits of thick mud only to crawl over an embankment and into another pit.
Women of all shapes, sizes, and ages ran the course. I asked one woman who lagged behind the rest of her group how she was doing. Her response, “I’m lapping the people sitting on the couch.”
Along the course women were encouraging and helping one another. They held the heavy cargo net so it wouldn’t hit us in the head, stood at the bottom of the 20- foot jump to reassure women that they could do it, and helped a woman stuck, to the top of her right thigh, in the mud. Three of us spent half an hour trying to dig her out. Eventually the staff had to come and extract her. Most importantly, we didn’t allow her to sit in that mud alone.
My sister and I laughed, shivered, grunted, and swore our way through the course. What a blast!
Would we do it again? Without hesitation.
Events like these remind us that when, not if, we face
challenges in life we will feel afraid. Hopefully we will have friends to sit in the
mud with us when that’s all we can do. Often we will want to turn around or run
away, but with the encouragement of the supportive people around us we can jump
feet first, with a scream, and clamp our noses for the ride if necessary.