I competed in my first Savage Race (Dallas) in 2015, and it was my second OCR event ever. Along with some new experiences and lessons learned, the Savage Race affirmed a truth I had taken for granted in my previous race: YOU CANNOT DO IT ALONE!
Savage Race Dallas is still one of my favorite races. We’re talking 5 ¼ miles with 25 obstacles, which is slightly more than the average number of obstacles in most races this size. That in itself comes with a set of pros and cons.
Pro: Less distance between each obstacle equals less running.
Con: More obstacles equals a much more exhausted upper body and core by the time you finish.
The Dallas course contains the quintessential climbing over walls of various heights, crawling under barbwire, carrying heavy objects, etc. It also has a couple of unique obstacles that are deceptively simple in appearance, yet provide a metaphorical kick in the teeth. One obstacle requires participants to jump into a pit full of ice-water. It seems simple enough and is somewhat welcomed after running a few miles. However, it’s never merely a quick wade and climb out; we have to submerge deep enough to traverse under a wall. Before meeting this obstacle, I never knew how forcefully freezing water could knock the wind out of me even while trying to hold my breath! But the real challenges still lie ahead and would require me to lean on my fellow runners.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to lift him up. -Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Obstacle course races embrace a spirit of cooperation that is more metaphysical than physical. After all, climbing across monkey bars over a mud pit does not necessitate a partner or assistance. Still, there is a spirit of encouragement that flows from the support group of friends and strangers. Everyone on the course seems eager to motivate, encourage, and provide the occasional boost over an 8-foot wall. Not only do I welcome this support on the race field (both giving and receiving it), I find it a remarkable reflection of our own spiritual walk. Believers need the support and guidance we get from being around each other (Matthew 18:20).
On the course, you are covered in mud while crawling under barbwire after miles of unimaginable physical beat downs. It can be hard to mentally justify going on. Life presents us with the same problem; we crawl away from our mistakes, wearing the scrapes and bruises of disappointment and heartache. Your head starts to dream up reasons, or excuses really, to give up. But then, a few simple words of encouragement from another person (or racer) and suddenly our minds are back in the game (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
I was fortunate to have a friend with me throughout that race and several since. There was the simple motivation of helping me push myself harder and celebrating with me when we completed each obstacle.
This teamwork has served me best in the face of my biggest fear; heights. Or more distinctly, falling. Unlike the first race I competed in, the Savage has two obstacles that require runners to climb to the top of 16′ and then 43′ platforms and then jump off. Climbing up and down in my previous race was easier as I could control the descent and look up instead of down. Not this time! Luckily, my race partner was there to provide the spark I needed in my head to complete these obstacles; although I’m not going to lie, I was terrified! Still, there is just something amazing about how we can draw strength and energy from God’s spirit in others.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. -Genesis 1:27
That is an important point. When the best in others brings out the best in us, it is not in the absence of God. On the contrary, man’s best qualities were created in man as an extension of the Creator. He wants a relationship with us, but He also wants us to have community with one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). Further, the way we treat others is a direct reflection on Him (Matthew 25:40, John 21:17, John 13:35).
Yes, there are those super athletes who are used to and prefer competing alone. However, normal guys like me thrive on the support of others both on the race course and in life. Could I complete these races completely alone? Maybe, but I don’t want to find out. My favorite victories are those I get to share with others. When I think about it closer, I don’t even think super athletes can complete it alone. Even they run to the cheers of the crowd and with the love of the Lord (Isaiah 41:10).