On the 28th of July 2018, I participated in the Lady K Urban Obstacle Course Race – an 8 km semi-trail team event with around 15 obstacles, all needing different strengths and talents. I was in between Half Marathon training cycles and wanted to try something adventurous, fun and completely outside my comfort zone.
My team consisted of trail blazer Tapiwa who has conquered amazing trails in the Drakensburg Mountains, the Western Cape and more recently a 40 km mountain trail in Lesotho, 3222m above sea level. We had our gym warrior and yoga enthusiast Elisa who has several Half Marathons under her belt and is now training for her first marathon. We had Ditiro who is THE “Jack of all Sporting Trades” and then me – the self-titled Team Manager with the ability to keep team spirits high and laugh when things get tough.
We were committed to having fun and getting through the Finish Line relatively unscathed. Although initially nervous we ended up having an absolutely amazing time.
Here are SEVEN incredible life lessons I took from the whole experience.
1 – Show Up And Fake It. We were terrified. Two members of the team who shall remain unnamed had the “runs” when they woke up. Not once, but twice. We were scared. But all four of us turned up sporting our camouflage gear as agreed. We had jokingly said that if all else failed, at least we would look the part! Although we felt extremely nervous, to others, we probably looked confident, self-assured and ready. While we were thinking, “Whose idea was this anyway?” they were probably thinking, “That team has got this!” 🙂 This reminds me of a time I commended a woman on a great speech. She confessed that she had been so nervous. No one in that room would have guessed that. She looked the part. She acted the part. A lot of things in life will scare us and it is often easier to stay at home. But we didn’t. We turned up. We lined up. And when the gun sounded, we took off.
2 – Teamwork Makes the Dream Work. The rules were simple and clear. You start together, you finish together. It would seem that some competitors didn’t get the memo. At one of the first obstacles, one guy shouted at his team, “What’s the point in me getting here first if you guys are just going to lag behind?” As the race progressed more and more teams fell part. There were so many obstacles that required us to help each other – a 2-metre climb up a wooden board; a concrete wall climb; as well as a boulder climb. As a team, we knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and played to these accordingly, each person taking a role in hoisting or pulling each other up. On the thick monkey bars, we helped carry each other across until we were all done. We succeeded time and time again because we were a team. In a world increasingly defined by chasing individual glory it was amazing to be reminded what greatness is possible when you work together.
3 – Positive Words Are Powerful. As we overcame each obstacle, we hi-fived each other and in between each challenge we kept each other pumped and motivated, “Guys, we’ve got this!”; “We are amazing!” “Wow, this is so much fun!” It was great also hearing the race volunteers cheer for us, “Keep going guys”; “This is nothing”. When I had to do a challenge for the team (involving a kid’s puzzle) the others cheered me on non-stop, “Go mummy! This is easy for you!” We need to do more of this as we go about our daily lives.
4 – Channel Your Inner Superhero. I was not the girl who climbed trees and got dirty as a kid. No, far from it! I was very content reading a book in my little nook and playing with my doll house. So there were some obstacles that were simple enough but required me to dig deep. I had to adopt an alter ego of sorts as I jumped over a steep culvert, crawled under barbed wire and then through and over a ditch multiple times. Sometimes that’s what you need to do to get through difficult tasks that seem daunting or that take you out of your comfort zone. Find and channel your inner superhero.
5 – Take a Deep Breath and Jump. As the non-swimmer in the team, I knew I would not be doing the dreaded base-jump into the pool. Ditiro has done it before and was keen to do it again. Elisa and Tapiwa were undecided until we got to the jump. But what I loved is that although they were nervous, they both wanted to take a chance and do it. They didn’t have any real strategy. But when they got to the top and their turn came, they took a deep breath and jumped. What was even more impressive was a lady who went a few turns before them… she had to be rescued by the lifeguard BUT she did it for the team. She took a deep breath and jumped. How many times in life do we overthink things? How many times do we hesitate? Sometimes you just need to DO it.
6 – You are Stronger than You Think. As the race progressed, I was becoming increasingly exhausted. It wasn’t so much the running as it was psyching myself up for each obstacle. The sheer fear beforehand and then the adrenaline rush after. Towards the end there was a series of cement blocks we had to cross. Up down. Up down. When I looked at the long stretch of blocks I thought, “There is no way I have the strength for this”. But I did. I landed hard on a few of them and earned myself a few bruises. But I got through them.
7 – Failure is Okay. Just Get Up Again. So I hate water. I always have. I am also not the most agile of people. So when we got to the “Rope Swing”, my heart sank. Sitting out the challenge would cost the team too much in terms of time penalties so I forced myself to do it. I nervously climbed the poles and grabbed a hold of the rope.
The team officials were great. They could smell my fear and tried to break the task into simple terms – “Hold the rope close to the body. Then swing and grab the net on the other side. Clamber over and you are done. Simple.” Hhmm. I watched as Ditiro and Elisa successfully got to the other side.
I hesitated for a long time, holding very nervously onto the rope. But then I had to go for it as by now I was holding up the line. Letting out a heroic scream, I jumped…
And then SPLAT. Into the water I went. On my tailbone. I was completely shocked. Race officials turned around trying to stifle laughter. But then I too laughed.
Soaked and soapy, somewhat embarrassed, I got up and started up the netting. Luckily, Tapiwa was still at the top so she made her way across to me, tried to calm me down, as I was now terrified and shaking like a leaf. With her support, we made our way down.
I had failed to do the rope swing correctly. But I WON the moment I got up again, and clambered over that netting. The lesson here – we are not always going to do things perfectly, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to finish the race. Failure is only failure if we don’t fight our way back again.
Thank you to the Lady Khama Charitable Trust Team for another incredible event. Thank you to my Team for reminding me of the Japanese Proverb – “A single arrow is easily broken, but not ten in a bundle.”