It was Nietzsche who said ‘if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.’ As I stood teetering over the edge of disaster, overlooking a circular slide that would plunge me into ice cold water, I was certainly consumed by some kind of abyss…
I spend most days confused, frightened and disorientated so it didn’t feel like a huge leap to compete in the 2017 Yorkshire Tough Mudder in the heart of Skipton. I knew I was in trouble when I nearly got stuck on the first obstacle as I struggled to crawl through a tunnel. In my defence it did hurt my elbows a bit.
There was worse to come however. Our group was a determined bunch made up of terrified first timers, terrified seasoned veterans and two people who could have happily gone round and done another lap without a hint of blind panic. Dan and Matt were the linchpin of our team and there were many times that I found myself in motion through the air only to be grabbed by Dan or captured by Matt’s loving grasp. I imagine them to be the type of men who can cut bread into slices or chop wood or do any of those other things that I am incapable of.
There are plenty of obstacles dotted around the 10.5 mile course but everyone knows the big ones. Everyone knows the obstacles that are spoken of in hushed tones as penises retreat into bodies and a film of cold sweat breaks out. Everest is a huge half pipe that requires you to sprint up and then leap to the top to climb over. Thanks to some sterling group work we all made it eventually. The biggest cheer of the whole day was earned by Helen who gloriously made it to the top on the 4th attempt much to the delight of everyone. It is moments such as these that make the Tough Mudder so worthwhile and memorable. Happily, there were more to come.
Funky Monkey insists that the competitor travails monkey bars before switching to a trapeze and finally a swinging descending tube. If that sounds impossible, that’s because it kind of is. I made it to the highest point above the water before I came crashing down, along with my pride, dignity and self esteem. Dave, one of the fitter members of our party, almost made it across before being let down by the people standing on the opposite platform who left him dangling, before the inevitable cruel splash into the unforgiving water below. And then up stepped Young Tom. He took down those monkey bars like I eat a cake. Efficient, loving, and in one go. He reached the other side and emerged new born. For that one moment, he was a God amongst men. Later, he injured himself jumping over a small ditch but lets focus on the positives.
The rest of the day passed by in a blur of light jogging, muddy water and food cravings. We were never dry, we were never clean but most of all we never stopped smiling. The group dynamic is so important and I am certain that I would still be quivering at the top of the Hero Wall, drowning in my own tears, if not for the gargantuan effort of every single person on our team.
The final obstacle was the one I feared the most. Electro Shock Therapy is a muddy field with electrical wires hanging from a wooden beam like insidious spiders. I decided to make a run for it, only for both my trainers to be sucked off into the mud. I turned round to retrieve them and was confronted by Steve looking at me as if I had gone completely mad and, not unreasonably, urging me to turn round and make for the finish line. Somehow, unlike Steve and Baz, I made it through Electro Shock Therapy unscathed and unshocked.
And then it was all over. I was given a warm cider and a headband and sent on my way and no drink has ever tasted so sweet. Just like that, a group of people I had mostly never met before became friends for life. So to Phil, Owen and Tom, to Steve, Frankie, Baz and Bryony, to all the Dave’s, Lou and Helen, to Matt, Dan and anyone else I have forgotten (and there will be someone), I say thank you, and when are we doing it again?