Who’s afraid of a little mud?
Certainly I could handle a little mud on me, I thought briefly, when I accepted the challenge from a friend to participate in the Dirty Girl Mud Run, a 5k run and obstacle course through the mud.
What I didn’t think about when I registered online and threw down my $65 to join Team Fifty Shades of Dirty, was that a Mud Run meant getting muddy. And I think part of me also thought that race day, which was ten months away, would never actually come.
But as race day grew closer, my perhaps somewhat irrational fear of getting muddy kept rearing it’s ugly, fearful head.
Two weeks prior to race day
To say that the upcoming mud run was causing me great anxiety would be an understatement. I was losing sleep, waking in the night obsessing over ways to get out of it. I even went so far as to “accidentally” do a major ankle roll while running one morning; I limped home thinking, “Oh, bummer, guess I can’t do the mud run now,” and tried not to smile too big about that. I couldn’t take the insanity anymore. I needed to make a decision and be done with it.
I finally decided to not run the race. Whew. What a relief!
When I mentioned this to, NP, my twelve-year-old son, I didn’t receive the supportive reaction I had hoped for. Instead I got this:“I’m not doing the mud run,” I said. “Why?” he asked with a slight exhale of disappointment in his voice. “Because I’m afraid of the mud,” I said weakly. He looked at me with puzzled eyes and furrowed, discriminating eyebrows. “Don’t move,” he said as he ran into the garage. He came back in with a Lululemon shopping bag (because we have like a gazillion of those around here—we kinda LOVE Lulu), and pointed to one of those inspirational quotes on the side of the bag: “Do one thing a day that scares you.” “You’re doing the run,” he said.
He was right. I needed to do this. I needed to get over this fear. And I needed to show my son that fear was something to challenge, not hide from.
One week prior to race day
As it got closer to race day, I was again doubting my ability to kick this fear in the ass. I turned to my Superstar Stepdaughter, Gia (aka marathon runner, ambassador to Lululemon’s Madison Avenue store in NYC, and my fave running guru) for advice. Given that she had just finished the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in San Francisco where tuxedo-clad firemen greeted the runners at the finish line with little blue Tiffany boxes, I knew she’d see the ridiculousness of what I was up for and would understand (and hopefully support) my desire to bail out.
Instead, she sent me a list of eight reasons to do the mud run:
- 5k – great distance . . . easy for you and it will be over in less than an hour.
- Friends – If you were going at this alone I would tell you to bag it, but because it’s a group of girls all together I think the friendship/story will be really fun.
- Getting muddy can be liberating. Seriously, wear some old clothes, old shoes, put some olive oil in your hair so that the mud doesn’t get soaked in, and go to town. It’s probably going to be hard at first, but once you’re dirty, you’re dirty. Live it up!
- I know you know this one, but it’s a great thing for NP to see you accomplish.
- The photos. Classic and incredibly useful on your blog.
- Swag. You are sure to get some great swag!
- Promotion. Write about the fear, the getting ready, the experience, all of it, and then post your article on the Dirty Girl Facebook page and on all of the event sponsors’ pages. You are sure to get some publicity from it.
- Mud is good for your skin?!
Hmm . . . again, not the reaction I was looking for. But a list like that leaves very little room for any argument.
Race day arrived
I woke in the morning in a surprisingly calm state of presence. I headed outside for a quick, two-mile, warm-up run. By noon, I had boarded a big, yellow, muddy school bus with my fellow racing pals and a load of other crazy women headed to the event. Within thirty minutes of arriving we were at the start line. The music pumped in my ears and through my veins. Woo hoo! The countdown began: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!
Team Fifty Shades of Dirty was off
We hit the rocky, winding trail laughing and smiling, pumped up from all that girl energy. But, the smiles were short-lived (at least mine was) when we were faced with our first mud pond. We looked at each other and jumped in, albeit a bit hesitantly. The mud seeped into my shoes and oozed its way between my toes. Cold. Wet. Slimy. And likely trashing my pedicure. Fuck. I was not liking this. One. Bit. I looked down at my muddy thighs and began wiping off the mud (as if that was going to help the situation). I quickly realized my feudalistic attempt at cleanliness, stopped the obsessive behavior, and just ran. Around the next bend in the trail we came upon The Mud Crawl. And there we were: On our bellies. Under a net. Crawling through thick, dirty mud.
And that’s when it hit me
I had hit my fear point right then. It couldn’t possibly get any worse than this. And that realization brought me great comfort. I looked down at my muddy self to take inventory: shoes, socks, legs, skirt, top, hands, and arms. I was Fifty Shades of Dirty. And I was having a blast.
We were laughing, running, burning major calories, and raising money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation. I felt like the eight-year-old girl I used to know—the one who hadn’t yet grown phobic of a little dirt; the one who had yet to discover that uneasy place of self-conscienceness; the one who woke up every morning without a plan, without an agenda; the one who said yes, more often than no. I reveled in that memory, that bliss. Then I turned on my best Girl Rambo and picked up the pace.
Dirty Girl Mud Run is not a competition. There are no timings clocked, there are no awards given. But being in that mud and jumping those obstacles, I quickly became acquainted with my most competitive self. I found myself running past other Dirty Girls calling out, “On your left!” as I kicked up the dust, darting around them. (The fact that most of them were half my age meant nothing. Really, it’s not a competition, I reminded myself. Yeah, right.)
Crossing the finish line
We danced through the final mud pond to cheers and photos at the finish line and made a beeline for the beer tent. It was a sweet mix of old friends and new—laughs, smiles, muddy hugs, cold beers, and high-fives all around.
A long, hot shower; lots of body oil (mud is VERY drying on the skin!); a clean pair of jeans; a pink, frilly top; a spritz of Lolita Lempicka; a little bling and I was all shiny and normal again. Only now I had kicked some major ass against fear and will never really be “normal” ever again.
What fear do you need to kick in the ass? Really.