Last weekend I drove to Carolina (at this time in my life, Carolina can either mean UNC or NC – I’ll leave the fun part of figuring out which I’m talking about to you!) to support some friends during the Tough Mudder just outside of Charlotte. Truthfully, I was there to support Bonnie. She has supported me in ways that are much more substantial and meaningful – the least I could do was frantically run around an open field in an effort to beat them to the next obstacle all for the sake of (sometimes comical) photography. I had ZERO interest in running it with her but still wanted to be supportive. So I grabbed my camera and my tennis shoes and headed South.
The entire trip was not mud covered – I am such a sucker for open spaces and hay bales. It speaks to my southern roots.
What I am about to say is not meant to be hurtful. Simply honest with the intent to point out how proud I am of Bonnie. I would have never guessed Bonnie to be the type to sign-up for a Tough Mudder. While I have heard that Mike – her husband – can be very persuasive in convincing you the worst task is sheer delight, I am truly in awe of his abilities after seeing Bonnie sign up for this event at his suggestion. This is completely outside of her comfort zone, or at least I assumed so. Heck, this type of mud run is out of most of our comfort zones! You get dirty, have to go over obstacles that sometimes look like they were crafted by Jigsaw, have to trust other people to get you over walls and then trust yourself to not topple over the top to your death. (Ok ok ok. Not your “death” but at the very least some bruises and a damaged ego.) But the part that makes me most proud is that she did the race regardless of the fact that her confidence and her pride would be tested. There were some outright athletes in their group of mud runners. Some of the group had done several Tough Mudders and one in the group has completed two (that I know of) Toughest Mudders. While every single person in that group is pretty awesome and supportive, it is still intimidating to run a race with them when running races isn’t really your thing. Not only did she run the race and complete almost every single obstacle (a dude broke his leg beside her trying to complete one obstacle – cut the girl some slack for not being gungho about doing that one), she smiled and laughed and had a decently good time. And I loved watching her husband help her every step of the way. He never left her and I often saw him extend a hand toward her. I love experiencing the love my friends share with their spouses. They were just running the race and trying to survive. But I was able to observe those small moments of care and partnership. (I’m such a mush.)
These little love birds had just celebrated their one year anniversary when they ran the Tough Mudder. What a sweet (and unique) way to celebrate!
I actually really enjoyed being a spectator! I learned a few things, as I tend to do from time to time.
- Wear comfortable shoes and pants – we were literally walking around an open field between obstacles. They have paved routes but there is usually a more direct path that cuts through some bushes and weeds. The shoes provide comfort and the pants allow you to off-road without sacrificing your flesh. You are going to do a TON of walking. Those more direct routes start to look really appealing after a while.
- Drink some darn water while you are out there. I didn’t want to be bogged down with a backpack so I only had my camera with me. Later that evening, I suffered a raging headache that was likely due to dehydration. If nothing else, tape a bottle to your hand like you would tape a 40 to your hand in college (I would like to clarify that I never did this but I certainly saw it done) and keep hydrated.
- Take so many pictures! Most of your pictures will be of people touching other people’s butts as they try to push them over some type of obstacle. That’s okay.
Between sexy hair flips, giant monkeys, and decorative running gear, there is little else to want for.
- A thoughtful spectator brings some snacks in case their runners get hungry. I didn’t do that…but now I know that I can!
- The runners are going to be absolutely disgusting when they finish. Help them get clean by digging through the bag of clean clothes for them, handing them towels after they hose off, etc. You may be the only clean set of hands in the bunch. That means you need to be the one touching stuff.
- Talk to other spectators! There was a mother and her three children there to support their husband/father who had lost over 100 pounds and was doing the run to celebrate. One family was running the race to help raise money for a family member that had cancer. One group of women were there to support their sister (who was in her 50s!) as she ran her first mud run after a difficult divorce. There are some pretty cool stories out there of why people choose to do this. Ask around.
A pretty good looking crew, including Jess’s invisible running partner.
- Wear sunscreen. There was approximately zero shade in that big open field.
- You may want to consider some light training, as well. You seriously walk around a ton. I passed one group of spectators that asked me with such sadness “How much farther?” that I lied and said “Just over that hill.” The end was not over the hill. It was probably a mile away. I apologize for giving you false hope, but I wasn’t prepared to see a grown man cry on the spectator trail.
- The runners are all jacked up on endorphins and adrenaline. You won’t be so expect to be insanely tired afterward while everyone else looks like they are ready to run three more.
Here are some of the pictures of the event! I will apologize in advance that so many of these are of butts. We’ve already discussed why that is.
Cheers to everyone that ran the Tough Mudder! I thoroughly enjoyed being your spectator and cheerleader for the day