Crossing the Finish Line

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Ariel Yong Spartan Race “I can’t believe I actually paid money to do this.”

I was dragging a concrete block attached to a chain up a hill. It was July 26, and I was at the Wicomico Motorsports Park in Maryland. Instead of riding a dirt bike, however, I was army crawling under barbed wire and jumping over fire.

It was my first Spartan Race.

At the prompting of my friend, a Michigan State-alum, my fiancé and I signed up for the Washington, D.C., Spartan Sprint Race this past summer. Like other races I’ve run in the past, I searched online for a map of the course and other details that might give me some clues on what to expect. But the only information I could find was that the race was going to involve a lot of mud.

“A lot” is an understatement.

It wasn’t until we arrived at the park that we saw exactly what we’d gotten ourselves into. And let me just say, our work was cut out for us. The 4.3 mile race was organized like a four-leafed clover, complete with 18 different obstacles. We’d run about one mile through the woods where the paths were intentionally flooded and made extra slippery due to the mud. There were many downhill parts, which would normally be helpful in shaving off seconds from your final race time, except for the fact that the mud made it impossible to move quickly without slipping and falling down.

We ran through the woods and circled back to where we started, forming the first of many “leaves” of the clover. In the center, we found obstacles I could never have dreamed of. There was an eight-foot wall to climb over (with no rope…); a tire to drag; and javelins to throw, just to name a few.

Although the obstacles themselves were eye-opening, something amazing happened when my fiancé, friend and I came to the mud hill obstacle. Big piles of mud ran parallel to each other and were separated by muddy pools of water that went up to my waist. Somehow, with no rope, we were supposed to get up these piles that were extremely dense and slippery.

“Here, stand on my shoulder!” a guy shouted at me. I turned to the side and looked at him. He was laying on his stomach against the mud hill, encouraging me to put my dirty shoe inches away from his face on his shoulder. I did as I was instructed, and once I put all my weight on him, another stranger grabbed my hand and pulled me over the top of the hill.

This wasn’t the first or last time someone would offer to help me during the race. People were so willing to sacrifice their body and their final race time to help a stranger. As the race went on, I found that I didn’t even care about my final time as I lay in the mud to grab a girl’s hand before she fell farther down the mud hill. It was the most amazing thing I had ever experienced during a race. There was this sense of camaraderie, like everyone couldn’t believe they paid money to crawl through mud but at least we were all doing it together.

In just a few weeks, on Sunday, September 21, we have the opportunity to run or walk at the National Capital 5K Run/WALK for Hydrocephalus in beautiful Washington, D.C., to raise awareness for hydrocephalus. I’ve been told the course does not include an excessive amount of mud nor will it require runners to carry heavy objects up a hill. However, I encourage everyone to remember what I learned in my Spartan Race. We shouldn’t be worried about personal records or being the first to cross the finish line. We are all running and walking for a common goal, an amazing one at that – and we’re all going to do it together.

If you live in the Washington, D.C. area, look for me on September 21! I’ll be running with Team Mighty Mermaids & Manatees. To all the other walkers and runners around the country participating in Hydrocephalus Association WALKS to raise awareness and much needed funds to support the mission of HA and their research initiative, we are all be together in spirit!

MudWall IMG_1220a IMG_1208a

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