Go through, then help through…
I like adventure. I like challenges. I like to try new things and have exciting experiences. It makes me someone who says ‘yes’ a lot.
“Want to jump out of a plane to celebrate your 40th?” “Yes!”
“Want to ski down the mountain headfirst and see how fast we can go?” “Yes!” (60 mph, by the way).
“Want to go galloping along the beach on horseback (in France where they have no health and safety rules)?” “Yes!”
“Want to do a 12 mile obstacle course called Tough Mudder with 28 obstacles designed to kill you?” “Yes! Wait…what?!” Too late. I was signed up and booked in, and there was no going back.
Devised by the British Special Forces, Tough Mudder is 12 miles of hell (that’s what they call it- really!). There are walls to get over that are so high you can only climb them by standing on people’s shoulders. There are ice-cube filled containers to wade through. There are cold, dirty rivers to cross, live electric wires to electrocute you and when they call it ‘Mudder’ it’s because there are points during the course where the mud is so thick it falls off you in giant blobs of smelliness, tripping you up as you try to keep running the distance. This was quite possibly the stupidest idea I had ever said yes to.
And yet, I did it anyway. And I’m glad I did. We need things in our lives that ask more from us than we are sometimes willing to give. We need opportunities to push up against our self-imposed restrictors and take a step or two outside of our comfort zone (or should it be called control zone?). We need to be those who cultivate the discipline it takes to train; mentally, physically and spiritually to accomplish great feats we would ordinarily never even try.
And as it happens, I learnt a few things along the way. For instance, I learnt the importance of self-discipline and preparation. For six months before the event, I trained on the Yorkshire moors; in the cold, in the rain, in the biting wind. I went running (I HATE running) and never once did I want to do it. But I did it anyway because it was good for me. Because if I didn’t train, I would again be the victim of my own stupidity.
Too many people in life fall victim to their own lack of self-discipline and lack of preparation. They want the end result but are not prepared to do what it takes to get there. They want the victory but not the battle, the fitness but not the training, the qualification but not the study. Sadly, you rarely get one without the other, so I trained.
I learnt the importance of placing yourself alongside people that are going to be there for you – be your cheerleaders, your comrades and you theirs. At the start of the obstacle course, they give you a pep talk. And it’s not what you’d expect. They tell you Tough Mudder is not a competition- it’s an endurance test. And the people next to you, whether you know them or not, are not your competitors, they are your teammates. They will be the ones alongside you when you are at your most tired, your most hungry and your most cold. The course has been specifically designed for you not to be able to complete it alone. The rule is this: you go through, then you help through. Simple. You gratefully receive a helping hand from the person in front of you and, as you complete your obstacle, you turn around and help the person who is right behind you. Whether you know them or not, and whether you like them or not. Them’s the rules…and I liked the rules.
I think life’s rules should include that: go through, then help through. Let’s not be people that are in it to win it, focused only on our own race. Let’s not be too proud, or too ashamed to ask for help, to receive help over the obstacles in life that were specifically designed for us to need someone else. Let’s not be afraid to fall, to stumble, (I did both) to cry (I did that too) and accept that this is all part of the journey of life. And, as they say, life is not whether you win or lose, it’s how you played the game.
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