Campbell column: Battling our way through the muck

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2011

I’m one of those people. You know, the ones who say “yes” to things before they really think them through.
That’s what happened when fellow Post reporter Shavonne Potts asked if I’d be interested in partnering up with her for the Down and Dirty Adventure Run in Landis. The race was four and a half miles and included obstacles such as rock walls, chest-deep creeks and walking along downed trees.
At the time, it never occurred to me that I’m not a runner and I never have been.
In high school I tried to make myself a runner by joining the track team my freshman year, but the only race that I was ever decent at was the mile run. And if Coach Reid ever asked me to do the 2-mile run, I’d immediately burst into tears.
I probably sound like a wimp, but the thought of running 2 miles was horrifying. I was always last and it felt endless.
I moved on to tennis my sophomore year and found it to be much more my speed. Yeah, I had to run quite a bit, but nothing like long-distance track.
These days I hardly ever run, unless I’m being chased by a chicken (I’m afraid of birds, which is probably a column for another day). I’m more of a yoga, bodyflow, walking on the treadmill kind of girl. And Shavonne, well she doesn’t lace up her running shoes very often either; her workouts consist of dance moves during Zumba class.
We practiced a few times before the actual run, but never made it all the way through the trail.
When it ended up raining the three days leading up to the race, we really started to worry because we knew it would make the terrain of the course far more treacherous.
And when it was pouring on race day, we started to get downright terrified.
But neither one of us wanted to back down, so we got up Saturday morning and headed to Landis.
By the time we arrived, the rain had subsided and our nerves started to calm. As we were stretching before the race, we talked about our strategy, which basically consisted of completing the race without breaking any bones.
We knew we had no chance of placing; our goal was simply survival.
When it was almost time for the race to begin, we lined up at the start with the rest of the teams and started realizing how ill-prepared we actually were. As we looked around, we noticed some of the racers had colorful tape wrapped around their shoes. I thought it must be a fashion trend of some sort, but Shavonne knew better. When she asked one of the runners, they said it was to keep their shoes from coming off in the mud.
Ugh, somehow we didn’t think of that.
We decided to move to the back of the starting line to avoid being trampled when all the real runners took off, then the bottom fell out again. As the rain beat down on us, we looked up to see a team wearing T-shirts with the phrase “what were we thinking” printed across the back.
We were starting to wonder the same thing, but it was too late now. No turning back.
Before the race started, one of the organizers made a few announcements.
She told us all there would be tape along the course. Of course, I was already starting to hallucinate, so I thought she said there would be “cake” along the course. Let me just say that if this was a cake run instead of a mud run, I’m pretty sure I would annihilate the competition. I have a notorious sweet tooth.
Before we knew it, the race was starting. We decided we would jog for a while so that it would at least look like we might be able to keep up with the rest of the runners.
After about 25 yards, we were both huffing and puffing, so we started walking.
When we looked up, the only thing we saw was a team of four donning bright yellow shirts. Later we learned their names were Ashleigh, Melissa, Patrick and Ernest.
Instead of leaving us behind to fend for ourselves, the team, dubbed “Half Speed” decided to lend a hand.
When we got to steep hills, they would help pull us up as our feet slipped. When we reached chest-deep waters, they would reach out a hand to guide us through and make sure we didn’t get stuck in the mud. When we got to the part of the course where we had to crawl on our stomach through water under low ropes, they went first to show us we could do it too.
About halfway through the race, a team of four women called the “Runaway Brides” started helping as well.
They gave us a boost over the massive tire that blocked our way and cheered us on as we neared the end of the course.
By the end of the race three teams became one 10-person team.
We all crossed the finish line together after two hours and 21 minutes on the trail. The fastest team time was about 45 minutes, so needless to say hardly anyone was left at the park when we finally made it out. We were last, but no one seemed to care. We were all basking in the fact that we made it.
I can say for certain that Shavonne and I might still be in the woods right now if it hadn’t been for the physical and emotional support of those two teams. They never felt like strangers, they were friends from the get-go. I’m still shocked by their willingness to help us rather than sprint ahead.
Although my body ached for days after the race, I wouldn’t trade the experience. It was thrilling in a way I’ve never felt. And once you got used to being completely covered in mud and scrapes, it was extremely fun.
I did something I never imagined I’d do.
There were times when I felt terrified — when we had to rappel down a monstrous hill, for instance — but I knew I couldn’t let my team down so I put my fear aside.
The next time I feel daunted by something, perhaps I’ll remember this experience. Maybe I’m far braver than I ever gave myself credit for.
Sarah Campbell covers education for the Post. Reach her at 704-797-7683 or