After being told by my doctor not to take part in Tough Mudder, I found myself standing in the pouring rain watching twelve of my colleagues warming up (in their matching Help for Heroes running vests) to tackle the gruelling ten-mile obstacle course in the Oxfordshire countryside. Although envious of them preparing, I was simultaneously wondering why I wasn’t sat on my sofa with a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea.
However, by the first obstacle, thoughts of home, the football on the telly, and even the rain had subsided. Obstacle number two, Arctic Enema, was an imposing early challenge. A slide into an ice-filled skip on a chilly May morning isn’t most people’s idea of fun. It was, however, a great moment for the spectator, seeing their grimaced faces and hearing their shrieks of discomfort as they plunged into the cold water. After a few minutes cheering on random participants, our H4H team came jogging downhill into view and towards Arctic Enema.
Most were in and out as fast as their bodies allowed, before jogging on the spot and grabbing their nether regions in an attempt to regain warmth, while dutifully waiting for their teammates. Except for one, who decided to get out on the side, rather than wade to the end. Everyone watching started shouting and applauding, willing him to push on and complete the obstacle. He gritted his teeth and pulled himself out of the water to a round of cheers. At this point I realised what I needed to do that day: cheer the guys on and keep them going despite their bodies telling them to stop. Having someone stood at the side supporting you always helps and makes you more determined to soldier on.
As we moved through the obstacles, I became increasingly impressed by everyone’s attitude to the challenge: when someone struggled there was always a friend to lend a hand or a boost up a wall. It didn’t matter if they were a teammate, a complete stranger or a cheering spectator; everyone empathised with how the runners were feeling.
This was epitomised at Everest, the penultimate obstacle, where one team member showed extreme resilience. A thunderstorm and a torrent of rain rendered an obstacle that many fail to complete an even more challenging prospect. Something, however, made him decide that he was not going to be beaten on this occasion. Multiple attempts, falls and near-misses did not dissuade him and he eventually reached the top. As a spectator, you found yourself feeling incredibly proud as he stood at the top, arms aloft, not only because he had achieved something he tried incredibly hard to do, but that instead of sitting at home watching the football, you might have helped in some small way.
The challenges the twelve guys overcame pales in comparison to the everyday struggles the beneficiaries of Help for Heroes have to cope with. Nonetheless, seeing the team running on behalf of the Charity – knowing what our ‘blokes’ have gone through and showing the same perseverance and fight – was extremely inspiring.
I came away feeling absolutely gutted that I had not been able to join my team and help them round the course on the day. More importantly, I was incredibly proud of what they had achieved, and based on their efforts I am inspired to tackle the challenge myself, hopefully with the help of some of the team, the moment I get the all-clear.