Looking at me, you probably wouldn’t guess I’m a mudder. I suppose I’m not the type most would imagine carrying sandbags through mud pits or low crawling through muck-filled trenches. There’s not many people who would look at this five foot tall blonde girl wearing 99.99% pink and think “yup, this looks like a girl who loves mud.” But don’t let appearances deceive you— I’m tough.
A not-so-clean past
At age 14, I was placed into foster care through the children and youth services system. I’ve seen, experienced, and endured more than most in my days, but I’ve never given up. I’ve succeeded where most others would have failed. Foster kids rarely make it out of the system without being in juvenile detention, getting pregnant underage, or battling drug and/or alcohol addictions. Those that do escape these fates rarely finish high school, and an even smaller percentage enroll in higher education. And of those? Well, the percentage of former foster kids who actually earn a college degree is… pretty darn miniscule.
But I did— with a full scholarship, no less. No doubt, I’ve seen my share of hardships, and I’ve always had the strength to overcome them. But did I see myself as strong? Not really. I was just me, plain old Melissa. I was just doing what I had to do to keep going. That’s all. It wasn’t until I became a mudder that I realized how strong, inside and outside, I truly am.
Wiping away the dirt
After I registered for my very first mud run, I had this “oh shit fit” where I questioned what on earth I was doing. Doing a mud run was something I never expected myself to do, and it certainly wasn’t something anyone else expected me to do either. I was always the nerdy kid with my nose in a book, and I absolutely abhorred the idea of getting dirty. So where the idea to sign up for a mud run came from— that’s anybody’s guess! But something deep, deep inside me urged me to do it. The mud was calling me.
The morning of my very first mudder, I had a profound moment of clarity. Standing at the starting line in the freezing bitter cold of the early morning’s grey light, I was still overcome with those feelings of fear, anxiety, and self doubt. How was I going to get through this on my own? Could I handle all of the obstacles— literal obstacles— I was facing? Was I insane for even thinking I could do something like this to begin with? With all of these emotions churning around inside the pit of my stomach, I realized something.
Becoming Muddy Melissa
My entire life has been an obstacle course, and there has always been something standing in my way, trying to stop me. I have never— not for one solitary second— let it. So those twelve foot walls? That twenty foot rope climb? Barbed wire, fire, and electricity? Bring it. Because I’ve been through hell and back already, and, even when I’ve had every reason to give up, I never have. I’ve kept pushing forward. I’ve kept living, kept smiling, kept loving. I didn’t need that mud run to prove I was strong, but it was in that moment that I realized I’ve always been strong.
I left that mud run with cuts, bruises, mud-caked clothes, and a second place finish— but a smile on my face no less. I had the best time of my life, and I’ve been hooked on mud runs ever since (so much so that now I’m known affectionately as ‘Muddy Melissa’). Being a mudder is an intrinsic part of who I am, and, even though some people can’t understand why I’d want to hurl myself over walls or crawl through mud or complete ridiculous obstacles, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Not for anything.
Because strong is sexy. Bruises are beautiful. And tough? Well… that’s me.
Note: original article was published on Running Junkies.