Off-road runners know about mud. After rain, a squelchy footpath through woods or across a field that gradually clogs up the treads on your shoes until you feel you’re running with foot weights. Then there’s MUD: a whipped-up quagmire of slippery sludge and ankle-deep pools from edge to edge along a stretch of track with no hedgerow to clamber along, no parallel path to take.
You can turn back, retrace your steps and find another route. Or you can try and pick your way through the best of the worst, aiming for the firmest looking areas. But, let’s be honest, the chance of getting through it without a soggy sock and shoe-full is unlikely.
There was no chance of turning around while running through Hurst Wood in Kent with Meopham & Malling Ladies Joggers a couple of winters ago. A few of the group had tackled a really long muddy stretch without too much collateral damage and were waiting for the rest of us at the end of the track. I was attempting to pick my way across some likely patches of weight-bearing mud until I slipped into a puddle and sank to my shins in muck.
And that’s when I invoked Fuck It! Mud for the first time. ‘Fuck it!’ I yelled and bolted along the track regardless of where my feet fell, kicking up water, mud (possibly some small amphibians!) leaves and sticks, until I reached the end to be greeted by cheers and laughter.
I’ve invoked Fuck It! Mud many times since then. Sometimes for running: half-marathon training when achieving my first 10 miler seemed an impossibility; after I sprained both ankles last year, didn’t allow them enough time to heal, and had to start building miles and time from zero over a period of six months. Then at other times for life’s trials and hitches: the complications of a house sale, the anxiety of presenting a university paper I could have easily cancelled. Each time I said ‘Fuck it!’ and pushed ahead, towards and through the difficulties, unpleasantness and doubts, with an eye on arriving at my destination. And I reached each one, even if I did collect some metaphorical mud in my shoes on the way.
You are welcome to invoke Fuck It! Mud yourself. But remember it can only be invoked for facing a challenge head-on, for pushing towards and through all obstacles in your way to reach the other side. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes you surprise yourself. But at the end you are always your own champion.