There was a point, a little over 7 miles into my first Tough Mudder event here in Snowmass, that I started crying. No, I wasn’t crying because it was tough, or because I was freezing cold and couldn’t feel my feet. Yes, those things happened. But the thing that really pulled on my heartstrings and caused me to run while I was blabbering like a baby, was shaking the hand of another participant.
As we were climbing up the service road towards Sam’s Knob, we took a right onto a steep trail. At the bottom of the trail was a group of veterans, participating in the event. One had a prosthetic leg. One had no legs. He was sitting in a wheelchair with his companions, waiting for a break in the traffic to be hoisted up the hill by his friends. I wanted to hug him. I had to settle for a handshake, thanking him for his service. He looked right into my eyes with a huge grin on his face, and said “You’re welcome.”
I smiled back and continued up the hill. Then it just hit me. What that man did for our country. And the fact that he was there, smiling, participating in an event that many people with both legs would never attempt. I’m actually having a hard time writing this now, 24 hours later, without tearing up. Those men and women are true heroes, and I am lucky to have been able to participate in an event that allowed me to cross their path. That surge of emotion even gave me a little surge of energy, and I was able to slowly jog up that monster hill!
To be honest, I had been feeling a little sorry for myself. I’m almost 54 years old, and had not seen another person who looked even close to my age. I was sorely undertrained for the upper body strength part of the course, which most of the obstacles tested. I was running by myself, when all around me were teams of people helping each other over the obstacles. I had to rely on the kindness of strangers when I needed a boost, or a hand. I know, wah, wah, wah. But seeing that man, surrounded by others like him, who had given so much in exchange for the freedoms that I enjoy, squeezing joy out of every bit of life, made me realize I had it all wrong.
I am so very lucky. So lucky to have my health, lucky to live part-time in such an incredibly beautiful place, lucky to have a loving husband supporting me in every little crazy thing I decide to do, lucky to be able to push myself physically to places I never thought I could go, and lucky to meet so many awesome people during this event who gave me a lift or a push or an encouraging word to overcome an obstacle I couldn’t do by myself. I’m lucky I got to shake the hand of someone who sacrificed so that I could do the things I do. And I am truly thankful. From the bottom of my heart.