A Character Test In the Mud


I needed a challenge. I needed to see what I could achieve outside of work if I put 100% of my mind and body to it. I found both in the Tough Mudder. The 12 mile, 25 obstacle course did not disappoint.  I expected the course to be physically demanding. I didn’t expect the course to reveal the importance of character.  The course confirmed performance principles that up that point I had only read about. Here is what the course showed me:

  • The key to confidence is preparation – I decided two things when I signed up. I decided I was not going to be one of the 20% who quit the course. I also decided to make whatever preparations I needed to ensure my success. I found the right training regimen and over the course of the next twelve weeks I did the pullups, three mile runs, hill sprints, pushups, sit-ups and the squats. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t painless. Running 400 meters with 25 pounds on your back is certainly not a natural act but it is a necessary one. When I finished the training two days before the race, I did not recognize the man in the mirror staring back at me. I knew he was ready.
  • Failure does not come from falling down it comes from not getting up – By mile six I had overcome 10 obstacles and managed to, according to my doctor three months later, tear my rotator cuff. At the time, my brain was pleading, screaming at me to just stop. As I laid there on the ground to catch my breath, I looked up at a beautiful cloudless sky and remembered something I heard when I was a kid: “Keep moving forward”. After a couple of minutes I embraced the pain that the adrenaline couldn’t cure. I popped my shoulder back in place. I got up and kept moving.
  • Action cures fear, inaction feeds fear – I stood in line waiting for my turn to attack several obstacles. Waiting to leap off a plank 12 feet above a pit of icy water was especially grueling. My fear of heights was not going to do me any favors. I couldn’t sit there trying to think, I had to move. So I did. I ran. I jumped, I landed in the water.  I looked back. I didn’t know how I did it. I didn’t care. Even though I had 3 miles to go, I knew I was going to make it.
  • The power of a common purpose – I pushed, prodded, pulled, dragged, shoved and otherwise screamed at complete strangers to get them over the obstacles that they just could not overcome by themselves, and they did the same for me. We were all walking the same path and all had the same goal in mind – FINISH. I know I may never see those people again but I also know that I will never forget them.
  • Trust yourself and those around you – The way over, under or through the obstacles on the course was not entirely clear. When I started my way up the 15-foot skateboard ramp, I didn’t know how or if I was going to make it. I did not make it the first time. The second time, with the help of three people holding my legs and one painful, 180 degree upside down sit up, I found myself atop the obstacle surrounded by fast friends.

The course challenged me, scarred me, battered me. It did not defeat me.  I stood on the finish line covered in mud, sweat and blood, holding onto a brand new “Finisher” headband. I knew I would never be the same man again.  I would be better.

Scott Severns is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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