I've been in the midst of my lifestyle change for nearly three years. During that time, I've been trying new methods of staying active and proving that I could do new, unfamiliar activities. Indoor rock climbing. One-hundred-and-six-degree Bikram yoga. And most notably, 5K and obstacle runs. I've always been fat, and even after losing more than 100 pounds, I still am. But I've really grown to love running, even if I don't have the most speed, most stamina nor best form. After running an obstacle mud race in March, my buddy and running mate suggested we do Tough Mudder, a 10-12-mile mud, dirt, water, ice, electric shock and ice bath filled obstacle course that requires not only physical strength and endurance, but also mental grit. It took a week, but I agreed to run!
Months of running, gym time, rock climbing and yoga led us River Ranch, Fla. It was finally Saturday Nov. 2, the day we'd been waiting for since March. The team had assembled, we'd obtained our running bibs, our faces were painted, the pre-race instructions were given and we were off! Trent, Kyle, John and Ally ran ahead while Gabe, Leanna and I brought up the rear. Throughout 12 grueling miles, we ran, jogged, walked, trudged, dealt with rain, sloshed through mud and muddy water, crawled through water while being electrically shocked, climbed over walls, ran up a half pipe, fully submerged ourselves in a container full of ice, and one of us even did most of it all while barefoot. It wasn't a pretty run on my part. I was the slowest person on the team and the last to cross the finish line, but goddamn it, I finished that mudder fudder!
Finishing Tough Mudder was important. The ends are almost always important. But it was the means by which I finished that make me most proud of myself and, more importantly, most grateful to have run with my teammates and thousands of runners I didn't even know. Before running, every participant took a pledge that stated that we understood Tough Mudder wasn't a race but a challenge, would make teamwork and camaraderie our top priorities and were to help our fellow Mudders complete the course. Just like with the other aspects of Tough Mudder, I definitely was not underwhelmed with the execution of that pledge.
Whenever I was tired and walked instead of ran, complete strangers, having seen “Randy Love” on the back of my shirt, would address me as such and encourage me to pick up the pace. My upper body strength is decent but I'm still approximately 270 pounds, so I would not have been able to climb the walls or make it up the half pipe had it not been for my teammates and the random runners who TOLD me I was going to climb said walls and then helped me over the obstacles. When I was nearly finished with an obstacle and needed a mental or physical push or pull, Gabe, Leanna and whomever else was nearby grabbed my hands and got me through. During mile 10, after climbing through an inclined muddy pipe, and 90 percent of my get up and go got up and left, I can't even count how many strangers yelled something like, “COME ON, RANDY LOVE! YOU GOT THIS!”
Approximately four hours and 15 minutes after we began running, Gabe, Leanna and I ran across the finish line the same way we ran across the start line: together! Our white shirts tainted grayish brown, we hugged it out with me knowing without a doubt I would not have finished without them. I'm physically fit to an extent, yet I'm still 50 pounds over weight. And no matter how much I enjoy running, even I have my limits. I wish I could say thank you to those girls in that team with the black and orange shirts who, every time they passed me, yelled “IT'S RANDY LOVE!” I want to buy a drink for the team who let me have some of their vodka and Red Bull. I want to be Facebook friends with the group from Jacksonville who walked the mile with us in the chest-deep muddy water. I wish I could give a coat and some hummus to George, the man with “Mediterranean blood,” who we had to coax into jumping in the ice bath. I want to thank Gabe and the Mudder volunteers who pulled me up Everest. I want to wish well the man who hurt his knee and had to pull while in the 11th of 12 miles.
It's now Sunday evening. I'm home, typing while laying in my bed and watching TV. My legs and feet are sore beyond belief. My right elbow hurts a bit when I bend it, and I'm constantly finding bruises, cuts and scrapes on multiple parts of my body. Tough Mudder was one of the most grueling experience I've ever had, one that's left hobbling when I walk. I should want to spend weeks in bed watching TV. Fuck all of that noise. I can't wait to heal so that I can get back to my workouts. Because when – I said when, not if – I compete in my next Mudder, I want to finish earlier, contribute more and not have to be the one who needs lifting out of or over an obstacle. Tough Mudder, I'm coming for that ass in 2014!