Imagine lying face down in a thick slimy mud pit that smells like cow manure as you struggle to drag your body inches at a time using only the strength in your arms. You keep your head down with your face practically in the muck to avoid the large logs that stretch across the pit inches from the surface. The mud fills in and forms around every contour of your body like thick gelatin trying to hold you in place. Your arms start to scream with fatigue long before reaching the other side. Now imagine that you have thirty three more grueling obstacles ahead of you that will test every ounce of will power, endurance and perseverance you can muster.
What I just described is but one of the obstacles in the course that makes up the United States Marine Corp (USMC) Ultimate Challenge Mud Run held bi-annually in Columbia, SC. In 2010 the event reached capacity with 3600 teams and over 14,000 participants making it the largest Mud Run in North America.
The Greater Columbia Marine Foundation is a non-profit organization which presents the event bi-annually to raise money to support Marines and their families from the Columbia area who have been wounded or killed while serving on active duty.
There are probably as many reasons as participants as to why a person would voluntarily put themselves through this type of challenge. For Jennifer Peay, it was about the thrill of saying yes. “Sometimes in life you need to take risks and just go for it” stated Jennifer who was a last minute fill-in on a four woman team from her church. The original team had a member drop out within days of the scheduled event. Jennifer went on to explain that “every day I wake up and think about things I would like to do or accomplish but often those dreams have a way of getting lost in daily activities and before I realize it a month or year has passed and the dream slips away. The mud run for me was an opportunity to say yes I am going to do this thing.”
So the day of the event came and the four woman team named the “Dirty Girls” made up of Becky Parker, Gina Carey, Lisa Sayle and Jennifer Peay started the challenge. They swam across deep muddy water ravines struggling to keep their heads and mouths above the disgusting water line, they climbed over and under hundreds of logs sometimes slipping and slamming hard into the log below, they scaled shear wooden walls, scrambled across ropes, slid down metal bars, climbed up cargo nets, crawled through tight metal tunnels, crawled under low camouflage netting, and dozens of other obstacles all designed to test the limits of physical endurance.
I expect there were times during the course where the members of the team heard that little internal voice that was asking why they were there and telling them that it was not necessary to suffer and complete the challenge. But each member knew they would be letting down the team if they were to quit. So they forged ahead helping each other along as they confronted every new challenge. And after 4.5 miles and 34 obstacles the team bruised, battered, and covered in mud triumphantly crossed the finish line.