I did it on my own, but I wasn’t alone. I completed the challenge to prove I could. I did it to inspire others.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Long Island debut of Bonefrog, the world’s only obstacle course race owned and operated by the United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land Teams. Each obstacle is modeled after what the SEALs actually trained on. Once the article hit the press, the team behind Bonefrog invited me to participate in the race itself to get first-hand experience.
I figured three miles and 20 obstacles would be challenging, yet easy enough to entice a few takers. Days rolled into weeks and not a single person felt adequately prepared to attempt the race with me. I had no choice. I would do it on my own.
Walking through the crowd at Long Island Sports Park in Calverton felt a lot like walking through a CrossFit gym, but with trained Navy SEALs scattered throughout. And there I was — no bulging muscles, no tattoos, no group to cross the finish line with as motivation. What was I thinking doing this alone?
“You’re here. You’re proving you don’t need anyone else to accomplish your goals,” I told myself. “Now, get to the sign-up table and cross that finish line.”
I grabbed my race number for the sprint, signing in for the easier course when the women behind the table looked at me with questioning eyes before saying: “You’ve been invited to do the race and you’re doing the easiest option? You’re in shape. Come on, go for the challenge. A girl like you can finish it in no time.”
To be clear, that option is nearly eight miles and closer to 40 obstacles, more than double what I intended on completing. In no way, shape, or form was I prepared to do this. So of course I signed up for it.
I made friends with a group from the United States Coast Guard and one of their girlfriends, who were doing the three-mile race, and invited me to join them. I’m so thankful they did. Together, we ran, crawled, carried, swam, jumped, climbed, and waited with each other. I was instantly welcomed into their circle and within an hour felt the bond created through a unified sense of accomplishment.
Watching them cross the finish line, I thought I’d be alone now for sure, until three men coming up before me invited me to finish the course with them. This “no person left behind” mentality was inspiring.
It grew progressively tougher, as we were challenged with pushups, burpees, or jumping jacks as penalties when we fell behind, but also moving, reading the names of fallen soldiers while doing individual dips or pull-ups before signing the name of someone we knew who’d served. I scribbled on the wooden panel the names of my grandfathers, who’d served in World War II.
One of my group members suffered a minor leg injury, but even when just one person had to pay the price for falling short, his friends would complete the penalty challenges alongside him.
Despite my exhaustion, hands ripped, I approached the final obstacle with strength. I hung 24 feet in the air and reached for the ladder handle bars above me, refusing to fall onto the net, before crossing the finish line. There, I was welcomed by my first group, who waited until I made it back to them.
I may have arrived alone, but I never really was alone. I left with a new perspective, a deeper sense of camaraderie, and a better understanding of my own capabilities. I broke both mental and physical barriers I’d put up, and have a medal to prove it. The reward was in the challenge.