SOLDIER HOLLOW — She fell to the ground with a thud that caused her to involuntarily grunt, and she was unable to get back to her feet for several minutes.
It wasn't the mud or the steep terrain that kept her writhing on the ground; it was my daughter's laughter.
It was the kind of laughter that causes anyone within earshot to giggle in response.
It was the kind of laughter that comes from deep inside your gut, that forces your mouth to drop open and threatens to force you to drool, snort or wet your pants.
It isn't often that I surrender like that anymore.
I used to do it all the time when I was young. Laughter came easily and often. In fact, my family still refers to me as a "fun pig" because, well, I am a bit greedy about having as much fun as possible each day of my life.
But something happens to us on the way to being adults.
We become more cautious with when and where we let ourselves sink into unfettered, unabashed, unapologetic joy.
It's a fact. I have discussed this regrettable reality with many friends, and we've actually had to make plans to squeeze a little fun into our busy schedules. Responsibility and "acting our age" seem to suck the silly right out of our souls.
Which is why we need experiences like the Dirty Dash, a 5K (or 10K in September) through mud and obstacles at Soldier Hollow (which has to be the most beautiful course for a race in the state).
I showed up for the Dirty Dash with my 18-year-old daughter, her boyfriend and my 13-year-old daughter.
First, let's clear up a misnomer: There is no "dashing" in the Dirty Dash. Unless you count the speed with which my youngest made her way through the free(zing) showers afterward.
Second, you can run, but only between obstacles. This is an endurance race that tests a participant's patience more than a person's cardiovascular fitness level with some lines at some obstacles, not much water on the course and lots of silly behavior that may get you dirty, wet, etc.
Third, the Dirty Dash is much more about the party than it is about the run. I think there was a clock somewhere and we were issued race bibs (which my youngest lost somewhere in a muddy bog near the reservoir), but this is not a race.
Fourth, even if you come alone, don't be alone. Talk to the woman who falls into you and laugh with the man who helps you over the muddy fence. And take a moment to thank the gentlemen who help your child climb the rope obstacle because you're too busy enjoying your own new friends.
The real challenge of the Dirty Dash is to let yourself go, to surrender to the silly. Put your responsible, stressed-out adult self on the shelf and break out your childhood imagination. You know that Halloween costume you never had the chance to wear? Bust it out.
Dress up, act out and, above all, laugh until it hurts.
In the last few months, I have come to believe this is as important as maintaining good physical health. Laughing and having fun is critical to living. It's so important it was mentioned in the Bible.
“A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (Proverbs 17:22, New King James Version).
Laughing relieves stress, connects us with what matters and reminds us that life is to be cherished, loved and appreciated. It's hard to laugh like a child and feel ungrateful or angry.
I resisted my initial urge to encourage my daughter to stand up and keep moving, and instead I just joined her in the joy. The laughter made us less coordinated and slower, but it also gave us a moment we've shared for weeks, hopefully for many years.