The power of a best friend is not to be underestimated…

You may know that I ran the Spartan NW race last month and if you saw my knees after the race you undoubtedly heard descriptions of the race and my experience. If you didn’t get to see my raw, bloody knees or hear about the race, let me explain the Spartan.  First of all running is not the central theme.  Obstacles that make you hurt are the central theme. The race was (I think) 4 miles and the obstacles ranged from fun/scary to strength testing, to plain torture.  There was the GIANT slip-n-slide made from Visqueen placed on the steep side of a mountain that ended in a PIT of mud; the concrete block hooked to a piece of chain that you had to drag uphill and downhill; the countless walls that needed to be scaled – ranging in height from 6 feet to 12 feet; there were also the classic standards like monkey bars, rope climbing, a climbing wall, and spear chucking.  My least favorite, but what I was surprisingly good at was the UPHILL football field long mud-crawl which was covered in barbed wire to ensure racers were on their bellies!  If a racer couldn’t successfully complete an obstacle on the first attempt they had to do 30 Burpees in order to continue.   If you know what a Burpee is you’re already groaning because you know how they feel.  If you don’t know I’ll try to explain – stand with your feet together, now bend down, place your hands on the ground and jump your feet back so that you are in a push up. Now jump your feet back up toward your hands and then jump up to standing.  Repeat 29 more times.  If you read this and you think this is no biggie, actually go and do this 30 times before you read on.

The most difficult part of the WHOLE race (including the wall of fire I had to jump through) was actually pretty simple and really close to the end.  It started with a chest-deep mud pit racers jumped into and waded across. On the far side was this plywood structure – imagine a steep, inverted V about 10 feet tall with ropes hanging over the edge.  The idea was to grab a rope and use both your arms and legs to pull yourself up and over… however the ENTIRE obstacle (including the ropes) were COVERED in liquid dishwashing soap. The ropes, the wood, me, everything was coated in soap and super slippery…  I was behind Kim as we approached it and I watched her go up and over.  It honestly didn’t look that hard. Optimistically, I grabbed the rope and was immediately slipping and sliding all over the ramp!  I finally got pretty close to the top and my feet slipped out from underneath me so I slid back down toward the mud pit.  Fortunately I was able to stop mid-slide and worked my way up to the top again – I did NOT want to have to do 30 Burpees (I’d already done Burpees at three events). At this point Kim came back around and she (along with the two race officials) are cheering me on! “GO TRACI! You can DO this!!!” I started working my way back up and was almost to the top when my arms started to give out. Dammit. The guy in charge of the event told Kim to go to the other side and pull me over, so she did – she scampered up the other side, reached over and grabbed my arm to pull me up but I was COVERED in soap and mud so we both kept slipping.  Finally, I looked up at Kim and I said “Just let me go! I’ll be okay! Just LET ME GO!!! I’ll do the Burpees!” She looked into my eyes and said “NO! Do NOT give up! I will NOT let you go! You are NOT going down there! You are not doing more Burpees!”  Well of course the melodrama of our dialogue hit us and we start laughing, but we are still holding on. At this point three fellow (unknown) Spartan racers came up behind me, recognized my struggle and literally push/pulled me over the top.   On the other side one of them said “No one should have to do more Burpees this close to the end.”

I got over that obstacle because of Kim’s stubborn belief that I could conquer it and her unyielding help when I was ready to give up (okay ya, the brute strength of my three fellow races also helped).  Friends, best friends, believe in us a lot more than we often believe in ourselves. They see things in us that we can’t or won’t see.  They buoy us up when we can longer stay afloat. They push us along when we want to stop. They keep us hanging on until more help arrives. They are both a life raft, saving us when we need to be saved; and a light house, directing us away from dangerous terrain.  They do everything in their power to keep us from having to do extra Burpees.

The power of best friends is not be underestimated.  I am not really religious, but I am spiritual and I thank god every day (lately) for the strength I get from my three best friends and the guidance they give me.  I think my girlfriends are a gift from God, and come to think of it maybe they are… perhaps God realized right away that women are a lot of work and he could lighten his load a little if he made women “demi-angels” to one another…   I know mine have earned their wings these past few months and without them I don’t know where I’d be right now. 

Life is a lot like a Spartan Race.  It isn’t about running as fast as possible from one obstacle to the next just to be done.  Life is an obstacle course and the things we face run the gamut from fun/scary to testing our strength to pure torture.  In the Spartan I had one of my best friends by my side the whole way and I’m not sure how I would have done if she wasn’t there.  Even when we got to the end and were faced with jumping over a wall of fire (literally), I froze a little bit but Kim just looked at me and said “Let’s just go. Don’t think about it, just GO!”  

Life is a lot like a Spartan Race and if you’re lucky you’ll face life’s obstacles with best friends by your side.  Best friends who believe in you; and push you; and look into your eyes and stubbornly demand that you keep going.  If you’re lucky, you’ll have best friends who will jump through life’s fires with you. 

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