Last Saturday, Conquer the Gauntlet hosted a mud run on the outskirts of Tulsa. The course, stretching over 4 miles, consisted of 25 obstacles meant to test the physical limits of even the most experienced ‘conquerors’. If the program director is to be believed, our mental and emotional faculties were tested somewhere in there as well.
We had a mix of expectations coming into the race. There was an undertone of regret in our preparing to attend the event, heightened by the intimidating physiques of the other participants. Before we could receive our numbers, we signed a waiver informing us of the course’s “inherent danger” and that any lack of training prior to the event would only make the course harder. Entering the starting block required us to scale a wall that barely served as a warm-up for the countless others that would follow.
The first obstacle of the course was the “Great Wall of America” and more surprising than the lack of a Trump reference was the altruism of our fellow participants. When any one of us would falter in scaling the wall, a helping hand would extend, either to curl our entire body-weight or simply push it over.
Workers dotting the sidelines shouted encouragement to the participants and surveyed the rather flimsy-looking equipment. While the vast majority of obstacles survived the wear and tear of hundreds of athletes, one had a plank tear off while we were attempting it, and another was broken before we’d even arrived.
After having successfully completed the first few obstacles and not having fallen behind, we experienced a surge of confidence. We would not only complete the course, we’d take a few of its obstacles with us. By the end, we’d tried them all and conquered most, with each of us displaying different strengths. A few of us abandoned the balance beams immediately, while another made it look effortless. A mid-race spat unfolded after one member’s completion of a rope-climbing obstacle was questioned. All three of us admitted defeat on the ‘Pegatron,’ where racers moved laterally across a board by moving and removing two wooden pegs. Mind you, that one has a reported 2% success rate.
Having begun our race in the late morning, we were plagued by heat and occasionally, dehydration. Water coolers were scarce, a real problem for the first half. In fact, water itself was scarce, and mud with it. Having anticipated more mud, we were disappointed by the drought. The greatest relief came in the form of a cool muddy pool, which would become a recurring consequence for failing later obstacles.
Halfway through the race, we agreed to participate again next year. This wasn’t us excusing our current efforts, but instead looking ahead to how we could improve. A mud-run guide online advised first time ‘conquerors’ to take the course at their own pace. So did the other participants, the workers, and the women running a vegan foods booth. Despite following their advice, we’re each decorated with bruises and scrapes of unknown origin, sore but with no regrets.