We all have challenges in our lives and we all face obstacles that jump in our way.
For me personally, I was born with congenital Coloboma which resulted in low vision and an abnormal appearance to my right eye. I persevered through countless barriers and feelings of inadequacy. I learned that the feeling of overcoming a challenge can give you a euphoric high. I’ve discovered that we should pick our battles and focus on winning. We don’t have to fight them all at once; one at a time will get you closer to winning the war. On this particular day, my battle was The Barbarian Challenge, a grueling physical test of body and mind against obstacles at every turn.
As I opened my eyes on the morning of the “battle” I felt a tinge of intimidation or second thoughts.
I am, after all a fifty-one year old grandmother who is not in top physical shape. I consider myself average for my age and I have only been training for this obstacle course for two months. This will be my first experience with any type of athletic competition. My goal was to finish with pride, not to beat any timeframe.
I ate a bagel and a banana about an hour before we started (I googled it beforehand to see what we should eat.) As my daughter and I watched some of the other participants come across the finish line from an earlier heat, they were covered in mud and looking pretty exhausted. I wondered if I could do this, I had succeeded in losing forty pounds during the past year and this was a pact my daughter and I had made to keep us on track for her upcoming wedding. As our ten o clock start time approached we were branded with our wristbands, time chips around our ankles and numbers written on our arms. It was an atmosphere filled with camaraderie and anticipation. We signed the waiver forms releasing the sponsors of any liability if we got hurt.
Two hundred runners were corralled into a gated area as the minutes counted down to race time. As we mingled and talked to others in our horde I met a few other first timers, I was beginning to get some of my confidence back. We took the barbarian oath and listened to some final instructions before heading out into the 4.3 mile course through the hills of Gadsden, Alabama.
Our first challenge was crawling over stacked junk cars, this was a piece of cake, by now my adrenalin was kicking in… until one of the other runners I had spoken with earlier had landed wrong jumping off one of the cars (I heard the bone crack) and several of us called the medics over to help her.
We soon came upon our next challenge which was a huge mud hole with loose wires hanging down. The wires would shock you if you touched them. I reluctantly got on my stomach and started moving under the wires, before long I felt one hit me with a force hard enough to knock me further into the mud. I could hear others yelling each time they got zapped, this was insane! Shanna and I both were shocked twice each and when we finally crawled out of the mud pit we just looked at each other with that expression of “what have we gotten ourselves into? We kept going.
Running through rivers, carrying ten pound bags of sand through tires, climbing a rope and going up six different hills for nearly a hundred yards at an 80% incline is enough to make you test your endurance and mindset. I encouraged and helped my daughter scale a fifteen foot wall obstacle while she pushed me to get up each hill. (They seemed more like mountains to me.) We each had our moments of doubt and fear of not finishing. The sheer determination of each person in this race was inspiring, each running for their own personal reasons testing their level of commitment. I was in awe of complete strangers helping others that were in trouble, they would jeopardize their own race time to stop and lend a hand or encourage them to continue.
I was never so happy to see the finish line… two hours and seventeen minutes in ninety-seven degree heat, my calves were cramping and I was struggling to find enough energy to cross the finish line. As the barbarians quote often: “FEAR IS NOT AN OPTION” My daughter and I finished that race and the feeling of accomplishment was undeniable!
This is what life is all about, facing your fears and overcoming each obstacle.
Every minute, every hour of every day we must push through and triumph. Maybe an obstacle course such as this is not your cup of tea but I know there are challenges in your life that you will have to face head on. Pick your battle, is it a career change, getting healthier, following your deepest desire? Whatever it may be, just go for it and along the way encourage others lending a hand where it may be needed.
Remember; pick your battles and GO FOR IT!
About the Author: Sherry Cook currently works for Mobile Arc, a non profit organization that supports individuals with developmental disabilities. She is wrapping up her memoirs and hopes to be in publishing soon. Her desire to tell her story has been nudging its way to the surface for many years. Having undergone personal challenges, living with monocular and low vision, while struggling to “fit in” with society’s version of what is normal. She understands all to well the difficulties life has to offer. Accepting yourself and learning how to overcome is her main platform for her energetic and touching motivational presentations. Her hobbies include painting with acrylics and working on home projects. Sherry can be reached at email@example.com or sherrylcook.wordpress.com