Being a Ridiculous Hero

If given the chance, wouldn't most people want to be a hero? To be recognized, admired, and respected for an act of incredible bravery? Well, here's a muddy account of my Tough Mudder experience when I (ridiculously) sacrificed myself to help a stranger conquer one of the obstacles. I'll call him 'Big Guy' for reference.

It was just last weekend that I went to “probably the toughest event on the planet” Tough Mudder. I left with super sore hamstrings, forearms, and abs — basically all the muscles I never touch at the gym. Though truthfully, everyone who's actually done it knows it's not as difficult as it looks in the dramatic trailer videos a la Mission Impossible. Daunting, yes. Extreme Athleticism, no. So, my account of this experience has nothing to do with me bragging about how I can run a 10-mile obstacle race. It's about me bragging that I can run a 20-mile obstacle race! Just kidding, I can do no such thing.

Anyway, back to the story. The 5th or 6th obstacle in the course at about 2 miles in your run is named Everest, after the infamous mountain. It is a 15-foot tall quarter-pipe in which you must get a running start to climb over. The obstacle courses before felt like just warm-up in comparison to the anticipation of arriving here. Finally, it appeared like teamwork was no longer optional — in the form of a helping hand at the top. As people jumped for the ledge, they reached out to grab the hands of those who had already succeeded. What a helluva sight to see. Like some Game of Thrones climbing-The-Wall type of shit. Every 5 seconds someone would attempt the climb and oftentimes slide back down.

what it kind of looked like

Now, this is where Big Guy comes into the story. He's a big fella (and by big, I mean chunky) who happens to be standing next to me. His friends at the top are calling for him in encouragement, but he's unmoving in the line. I'm guessing maybe 5, no 10 minutes he's been waiting? I can't blame him, it's incredibly exciting to observe everyone else try first. Of course, being the hero of the day, I offer my assistance — "Son, wouldn't you like for me to neatly carry you and fly us to the top with my Superman abilities?" "You? Superman?", he would look at me with a raised eyebrow and a hefty frown.

I joke, but what actually happened was pretty entertaining. At some point, everyone is simultaneously waiting at the start line, and that forms an empty runway. Big Guy knows his time has come and he runs out.

We all watch him as he strides straight ahead without any hesitation in his steps to the massive cheering of the surrounding crowd. He jumps and catches 2 large guys at the top, one with each hand! Two other guys on both sides each add a helping hand and suddenly a 5th guy rushes over and yells out "Give me your leg!". What should have been the final leg to get Big Fella over the top of the wall, simply was not enough. For what seemed like an eternity, but was really probably just 10 seconds, the guy was just hanging in the air with the 5 guys desperately shouting and grunting at him. And then he started to slip a little.

It was at this moment that I was triggered to do something. I felt it in my bones, telling me it is my time to shine, baby. I got a rush of excitement in me and next thing you know, I'm running straight for him. My sights are dead-focused on Big Fella's jiggling buttocks. I think to myself, "He probably felt time slow down this much 30 seconds ago when everyone's eyes were watching him". I catch a good grip with my feet at the bottom of the pipe and jump up at him -- landing a light but firm push with both of my hands on his lower back. He doesn't budge, so I push a little harder which makes me fall with an equal and opposite force. I break my fall instinctively on my side as I slide down and get up fine with a minor bruise on my hip. I run back to the start line greeted by a cheering crowd, and I turn my head back as I was not able to ascertain what happened in the heat of the moment. At the top, the 5 guys looked as alive as any person could be. Poor Big Guy looks ready to collapse at any moment. I celebrate my 5 seconds of glory -- all is well. My friends tell me I've inspired everyone in the crowd. The positive energy in the air is palpable.

Afterward, I'm left wondering about why I did what I just did. After much thought, I've concluded I probably just fantasized one too many times about heroically rescuing my family or a romantic interest as a wee lad. And although this was more comical than heroic of a moment, all I know is that I can be more prepared for moments like this in my own life. The spirit of the Ridiculous Hero is one who isn't really all that heroic. For most of the opportunities to be heroic in his life, he actually sits back. But a time will come when he knows in his gut he can't hold himself back this time – so he won't.