Sometime in May I discovered the Mud Ninja 5k www.mudninja.com. Given I just released my devotional Confessions of a Ninja Mom; it seemed like a perfect fit. My husband and I thought it would be a great thing for us to do with our oldest daughter who is now 14. She’s into that kind of thing. So thinking this was a normal 5k (yes, it clearly isn’t on the website, however in our excited naiveté we didn’t realize how intense it is) our idea was to train by run/walk. Dan and my daughter started running outside, and me on the treadmill. Together we did some upper body but not consistently. We knew there would be a couple obstacles.
Saturday was the day. Perhaps the moment we realized how intense this race really was going to be was when we saw crowds of people duct taping their shoes to their feet. We soon understood the wisdom of this.
The MC’s voice boomed over the speaker, “This is a group race and if you don’t have people with you then now is the time to find them. This race is designed to not be able to finish on your own.” There were people everywhere that had binge drank on too much RedBull, and caffeine funnels.
As I stood in line to start our journey there was no way I could have known the intensity that lie before me. The thought of a 5k should be used loosely here. I would have welcomed a nice jog on some pavement. But this was not that. This can best be described as the show “American Ninja Warrior” with lots of mud and up and down mountains. Early on I got separated from Dan and my daughter.
Less than a mile into this race I found myself in front of an obstacle called the “Gorilla Bars”. They were kind of like monkey bars that moved above my head with a pit of mud on the ground. I figured I might as well try to do them because if I fell I’d just fall in the mud. While that thought seemed wise what happened was far from that. When I fell into the mud my body went one direction and my feet when another. As my feet sunk into the mud I heard my knee “pop”, and a voice screamed in the air over all the chaos. I realized it was my screams. As the volunteers pulled me out of the pit, I wanted to just lie in the mud and cry. After all we had trained for this, I didn’t want to have to quit. I wanted to finish what I had started. The people were calling for a medic. Part of me knew that they were trying to pull me justifiably for this injury, but I couldn’t let them. Struggling like a new born deer, I pulled myself off and forced myself to walk. I knew this knee injury. It was the same thing I had done in college while skiing and had been healed from. I also knew that while painful, it wasn’t surgery worthy, and I couldn’t stop. My dad who was a grunt solder in Vietnam and has survived an amazing amount in his life has always said to me, “You have two choices in life; you can lie down and die or get up and keep fighting.”
Adrenaline can be a drill sergeant and the words of my father seemed to echo in my ears. My knee would pop out of place two more times during my course, but no matter how hard they kept trying to pull me out of the race, I wouldn’t let them. I pushed my way through. I found myself limping my way through what was longer than a 5K. I heard someone say it was over 4 miles. At one part we had to go down three stories on the side of a mountain, climbing up a nasty incline they named a “Widow Maker.” When I needed to stop on the side, I did. About a mile later I found Dan and my daughter who had been worried about me. Together we climbed down two other mountains and back up, we crawled through 100ft of mud in a tunnel ‘Shawshank Style’ (Oh yes, I am so writing that in a book), Dan pulled me up a mountain that I would have never made it without him, and out of the 25 obstacles I made my way through about 17 of them. Dan and My daughter braved 20 of them. I limped my way through it but, together we finished.
I joked my way through the event that this had been the hardest physical thing I’d done since childbirth and at least at the end of childbirth I got a kid. In the picture is the medal they donned on me. I am officially a ninja.
During our journey, I learned some great life lessons that I’d love to share:
*This adventure was a lot like life. So many times things happen, we get hurt, and we find ourselves trying to figure out how we got in this situation in the first place. Quitting may seem like an easier option, but it’s not. Yeah I got hurt, I wasn’t around my family, and I wanted to cry. In fact I’m pretty sure I did a few times, but I am so glad I didn’t quit. You have to persevere and endure (Matt 24:13). You have to push forward farther than you think humanly possible. Dan laughed at me because at one point I was speaking in tongues praying rather loud on the trail. At that point I didn’t care who heard me. I needed divine help.
* I witnessed the best comradery I have ever experienced. Maybe it was because all the runners were in pain and united in the same goals. It didn’t matter who we were or if we’d ever met. Complete strangers were helping people out and cheering each other on. I had one woman I’ll call my “Water Angel” come back down a mountain to give me water. I had been resting on the side of the mountain, alone and doing my best to keep going. She blessed me. We talked later, I gave her a book. I wish I could tell you I’ve seen the same unity in the church as a whole but I haven’t. I wrote a book some years ago called Cursing the Church or Helping it? It reminded me a lot of this. It was a great reminder to me how much we need to act like this in the church. We are a team. There were so many times someone encouraged me and kept me going. I wouldn’t have finished without that. So often we try to be our own islands but in truth God has created us to be a team. May we all remember that and be that for each other.
*My husband so promptly pointed out that the event was also a good reminder of how important it is to truly prepare for what is before us in life. We all agree that our idea of training for this race was not enough. I spoke to one woman on the trial who told me she did this race every year, and all year she trains. She does a full cross country, upper body, hiking, and aerobic regime. My husband’s point was if you look at this, how important is it to follow God’s leading when God wants us to train for things that we don’t see a point in doing. While we finished our race we weren’t able to complete all obstacles in the way. Meaning, if we don’t train doing the things God has us do maybe there are some things in life we aren’t able to do because we didn’t prepare. Attempting the obstacle where people jumped across a mud pit from by using a gymnastic spring board to land onto a cargo net and climb up it may NOT have been one I would have tried with more preparation, however I still could have been more prepared for others.
*So many times we go through our daily lives and we don’t really live. We get caught up in a monotonous rut. Sometimes we need to go completely outside of our comfort zone to wake up and live. God wants us to enjoy our lives. This was one of these wake up moments in my world. As hard as it was, it is a memory that will stay with me. As I stood in a line of complete strangers to take an outdoor fully clothed shower. There was mud that covered us all from head to toe, and looked at my daughter and said, “This is living.” I meant those words. This is was so outside of my normal box. I’m not saying everyone needs to run some 5K on steroids to live, but I am saying step outside of your box. Refuse to live life through the motions.
The Ninja Mud Run was life changing. As crazy as it was, I am glad we did it. My daughter already wants to do it again next year. I’m not sure I’ll be joining, but I’ll defiantly go to cheer them on.
God has awesome plans for your life. Engage in the living! Get excited!
***As a side note when I finally stopped that day my knee swelled up pretty nasty. I did make it to greet at church yesterday while walking on a cane. But the good news is I am on the mend. Jesus is my healer.