FIRST PERSONMud, Sweat and Happiness

Seth Nidever

Pain can be a wonderful thing.

Standing at the starting line of Volkslauf 2003, my worries about going back to school and how I was going to pay for it faded.

It was the kind of distraction that makes you forget about bigger problems because there is a more immediate one staring you in the face. Kind of like a soothing toothache.

True, many people think a toothache is just a toothache. The thought of running, staggering and climbing through six miles of mud and obstacles sends them running for the remote. These are the sane ones. They drink iced tea on the back patio, relax in jacuzzis, sit on the beach.


Scenes from Volkslauf 2003. See the pictures

People with a masochistic inner-child do the Volkslauf Mud Run. They enjoy getting scraped up crawling on all fours. They love the slipping, the sloshing, the feeling of crossing the finish line with little or nothing left.

They aren’t afraid to wear tights in public.

These are people with something to prove. That they can still get their body to do more or less do what they want it to. That they aren’t over the hill.

That means finishing respectably, a mysterious qualification that can mean anything from actually winning to crawling last across the finish line.

I had my own definition. Ten years ago, it would have been winning. On this day, it was about endurance. About saving your energy for the long haul. About not dying short of the finish line.

Ten years ago, I would have taken off like a shot and probably ended up seeing double at the finish.

This time. I was passed in my tights and running shoes by a happy-go-lucky high schooler wearing sodden cotton pants and water-logged army boots.

He probably wasn’t thinking, like I was, about the pleasure of scaled-down expectations. About the enjoyment of simply moving your body, which will stop moving soon enough. About the bond of knowing you aren’t alone in that feeling. About deliberately being a kid again. About the pleasure of not winning.

Others understood. As they half-swam, half-walked through the final water hole, grinning, they linked arms with teammates and crossed the finish line that way, together. Their pleasure could not be dampened by the fact that the winners had finished long before. Like me, they were savoring the struggle.

Hours after finishing, my school and work worries are back in focus. This time, however, I’m not as worried about the outcome.