By Jerry Yeatts, F390000
I think I am a pretty “normal” person. For the most part, I like to plan and know what I am doing and where I am going. The Boy Scout mantra of “Be Prepared” holds true for me. When I am on a business trip, I have been known to set two alarms just to make sure I wake up on time in order to start my day. I try to be respectful of start times for meetings and appointments, realizing that others also have things to do and places to be. Yep, I’m pretty much just an average person.
Normal for me changed the weekend after Memorial Day. You see, my son gave my wife, my daughter, and me a Christmas “gift” of participating in a Warrior Dash. “What is that?” you may ask. It’s three miles of running down … and up … wooded trails, attempting to avoid all the mud from creeks that may have swelled from rains earlier in the week. It’s tackling obstacles such as barbed wire, only to then climb mounds of clay-like mud. It’s scaling walls, jumping over fire, and swimming through mud ponds.
Why on earth would anyone want to go through something like this? What was our son thinking when he gave this special present to us? Why would we rise at 5:00 a.m., drive three hours to some remote part of southeast Ohio, and subject ourselves to such torture? My first thought was that he wanted to see how much inheritance he would get if he could wipe out an entire family! Certainly, we had been better parents than that over the past 29 years of his life.
As we made our final approach to the Sunday Creek Raceway in Millfield, I was amazed at the number of other victims who also must have been coerced into undertaking such an activity. There were hundreds of cars already parked along the hillside, many of them filled with enthusiastic and willing participants sporting super-hero outfits, tutus, themed T-shirts, and other amusing costumes. I joked that the dirt track I saw in the distance was the course we would be tackling. Little did I know what was actually in store that morning.
I should have realized the intensity of this activity as I read through the waiver earlier in the morning. Words such as contaminated mud, danger, and death should have been a clear warning sign of things to come. I read every word of the waiver. When I informed my wife that she needed to initial each line and sign the bottom of the form, she did so without reading a single line. Talk about a trusting spouse! Of course, my daughter read the waiver word for word and knew every risk involved … just like her dad.
We proceeded to the registration line. Luckily, with a last name beginning with “Y,” the registration table we needed to go to didn’t have too long of a wait. We donned our souvenir Viking hats for a prerace photo. This would be the last “clean” photo we would have to mark this occasion.
As we approached the starting line, the emcee was prepping the warriors like a late-night TV talk show host would warm up the audience before the beginning of the show. Music was playing so loud that I could feel the drums beating through my chest. Or perhaps it was my heart beating a little faster with the anticipation of what was yet to come. As I heard the countdown, a flash of heat radiated up and down my body. Two huge propane torches simultaneously gave a blast of flame that not only indicated the start of the race but got the adrenaline flowing.
As with any race, after the starting gun was fired, for the first few moments no one seemed to move. We crept up to the start line and off we went through the woods. Although this was not a timed race, I still wore my Garmin Forerunner so I would know how far we had actually progressed through the course. Five, 10, 15 minutes passed. We hadn’t made it a mile yet! With so many people and one little path, running turned into jogging, which then turned into walking up some of the muddy paths.
We finally came to the clearing where the first obstacles awaited us. We crawled through barbed wire called Storming Normandy, and then found our way to mud mounds, followed by mud trenches. If this weren’t enough, with muddy shoes we climbed a wall referred to as Deadman’s Drop, and then we made our way to a rope tunnel called the Pipeline.
An hour into the race, and definitely the highlight of the race, was Goliath. Now, just mentioning the name Goliath conjures up thoughts of something absolutely huge. This last obstacle involved scaling a rope wall approximately 20 feet high, walking over a balance beam with water shooting up at you, and then skidding down a giant slide into a mud pond.
This was the most exhilarating, yet the most impactful, obstacle I faced all day. You see, it wasn’t just the obstacle that was awesome; it was the experience of total strangers helping each other. From being given words of encouragement and hints on climbing Deadman’s Drop, to a helping hand while trying to extricate oneself from the mud bog during the Goliath challenge, people of all ages were there to offer fellowship and friendship. At the finish line, spectators and participants gathered to cheer on muddied warriors who had just completed a challenge.
All in all, we faced 12 obstacles. Actually, there were 13 obstacles. The 13th obstacle was to face my own fear about doing something so incredibly beyond “normal” for me. What I found most amazing was how a group of like-minded individuals spanning several decades in age, and with different backgrounds and varying athletic abilities, could come together to accept a challenge.
The “gift” our son gave us didn’t just involve a registration fee for a race. It was much more important than that. This gift was a family sharing an experience, working together, giving each other encouragement, offering a hand when needed.
And, while you may not wish to scale walls, wade through mud, or crawl under barbed wire, remember that your FMCA “family” may offer similar traits of sharing experiences, working together, giving encouragement, and lending a hand when needed. That is what makes membership in this association so great.