If you saw me Saturday, chances are high you would think I was odd – my muddy legs and dirty face would leave some questioning thoughts on my hygienic practices.
I was a Campus Carnage competitor who had undergone too many obstacles to count and more mud than I have experienced in my short life. The experience was the opportunity of a lifetime for me – the perfect challenge I could ever give myself – and I completed it. To understand my gusto for this muddy 5k obstacle course, allow me to take you back to my childhood.
I grew up obsessed with the Discovery Kid's show "Endurance." In the show, teenagers aged 13-16 compete in numerous challenges of strength. I was determined to be a part of the show and even went so far as to record an audition tape in hopes of being picked.
Even now, I am equally interested in the long-running CBS hit show "Survivor." I was so enthralled I watched half of the entire season in as little as a month. These shows attract me with the raw humanity the participants experience. They rely on their basic instincts to guide them. I took a chance at a similar experience without hesitation.
Although I competed alone, other students participated with groups or their respective fraternity or sorority. A lot of the teams showed their determination with war paint and one spirited runner was dressed as superwoman. Upon seeing her, I began to question what I had gotten myself into.
As the race was about to start and the event's founder was yelling rules to us above our excited voices, a thought struck me.
This isn't unlike the same feeling I got when I first started at the University of Tennessee as a freshman – excitement, anticipation and a little foreboding.
The flashbacks to life on Rocky Top only increased. The multiple people I met at the beginning of the race quickly reminded me of all the new people I met at orientation. One woman came up to me and introduced herself by admitting she sought someone who didn't know anyone either.
As we took off toward the first major hill, I struggled. That hill signified plenty of my own first-year struggles, including living on campus.
One incline, in particular, tested me. Halfway up, a man was seated in the dirt attempting to catch his breath. Anyone who had offered me support through my college experience flashed in my mind. I offered him some encouraging words and he gave me a high-five in thanks.
Through the muddy waters and under trip wires we went. Military men and women shouted encouragement to do real crawls through the mud.
Toward the end of the course a blue tarp glistened in the sun. As I jogged closer, I found the source of its shine to be vegetable oil. Simple slide. No problem, I thought – negative.
The surprising burn I received prompted me to quickly turn on my back then flip over into a roll, pop up and sprint to an eight-foot high wall.
At the obstacle's end, we had to load a cement block in a circle then circle back around in a jog.
Throwing that weight down brought to mind plenty of the loads that had been lifted from my shoulders during college, from studying pressures to personal struggles I have overcome.
With the finish line in sight, I sprinted to it ready to finish with pride.
The Volunteer Vengeance course meant more than just the raw humanity I had expected of it before. It was a piece of my college experience that reflected inner struggles in a physical sense. Despite not winning the $1,000 prize or any reward, knowing that I demonstrated a determined will is enough.
I didn't get to shake Jeff Probst's hand, but I did display the grit of a "Survivor" contestant.
Now I'm on to the next finish line I will conquer: college graduation.
Rebecca Butcher is a junior in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.