[This is my column in the May 22 issue of The Commercial Review.]
I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life.
Partaking in the Mad Run on Saturday in Fort Recovery on a badly sprained ankle is one of them.
I woke up Saturday morning much earlier than I should have to make sure I was prepared for the torture I was going to put myself through.
After I hobbled out of bed, I haphazardly taped my ankle to give it more support than just the brace I had been using on my other bad ankle for the last four years.
I was registered for the 8 a.m. wave, and I got to Ambassador Park about a half hour early to get checked in and mentally prepare myself.
Six months ago, it was planned for me to share the pre-race preparation with three of my coworkers, but a strategically planned vacation, an awards ceremony and “forgetfulness” left me to my lonesome.
But I didn’t need their help anyway.
I did some light stretching at the starting line, as much as I could given the pain I was experiencing in the lower half of my right leg.
When the gun sounded to begin my wave, it took one obstacle for me to immediately regret going through with my decision to run on a bad ankle.
About five minutes into the race, with a few obstacles out of the way and forgetting about the pain in my foot, I found myself alone.
It came as no surprise, though, because it was what I expected from the start.
It was about this time where I was able to spend some quality alone time, thinking about how far I was going to throw my former teammates under the proverbial bus.
It also gave me time to think about this column.
At some point while strolling along the course in the woods — I walked most of the time but jogged lightly when I had a flat surface — I climbed a hill and saw a sign marking the end of the course’s first mile.
It seemed like I had just run 10 miles, not one. Plus, my entire body was sore at this point, furthering my feeling I had traveled more than 5,280 feet.
If I would have had my teammates with me, we could have motivated ourselves to make it through the race, offering words of encouragement and getting through the obstacles together.
Each step I took, I realized I didn’t need their motivation. Knowing I completed the race without them even in attendance was the only driving force I needed.
However, as the 8:15 wave started to catch up to me, every person who passed me gave me support and told me to keep going.
People I didn’t even know were more help than my so-called teammates.
With each obstacle along the course there were volunteers to make sure every thing went smoothly. Occasionally, I’d strike up small talk with one of them.
“How are you?” I asked.
“Not bad, you?” one responded.
“I’ve been better.”
But I carried on.
Then I got to the Wabash River.
What made competing with an injured ankle not so bad is being able to see where I was taking my next step, making sure I wouldn’t plant my foot on anything uneven or unstable to potentially make my injury worse.
The river, where contestants were forced to wade through waist high water — at least that’s where it reached on my 5-foot, 8-inch body — for about 30 yards.
The bottom of the river is a very uneven surface, so I took each step carefully while fighting the current to prevent further damage to my ankle.
When I exited the river, climbing the slick, muddy bank to get to the next level was harder than getting through the river itself.
So by putting one foot in front of the other, I continued.
There were only three obstacles I had to circumvent, but not without trying first. One, near the start, was a vertical wall of tires. It took one push of the wall to know for a fact it would not hold me, so I went around. The other was an incline wall with ropes to pull yourself up. I got about halfway, lost my footing and slid to the bottom. Around the side I went.
But I kept going.
With the checkered finish line in sight, I made the final turn with 50 more yards to go.
Then I saw the mud pit with barbed wire between said finish line and me.
No problem, right?
I got stuck on the first line of wire, and I immediately knew it was going to take longer than I would like.
So I crawled through the mud, sinking, sometimes 4 inches deep, with every stride.
As I got the word I was clear from the wire, I stood up, jogged the final stretch and leaped over the “dragon’s breath,” a smoking, former burning pile of wood.
Then I crossed the finish line, completing the most physically grueling activity I have ever done.
When I started, I had three goals: prevent further injury, cross the finish line and complete the course in under an hour.
The first two goals were complete, and as I looked at the screen showing the times, I got the result to my third goal — 59 minutes, 39 seconds.
And just like I knew I would, I did it without my teammates.