The icy breeze of a chilly winter’s morning, 12 degrees Celsius tops, would be enough to send most of us back indoors for a lazy day at home. A bunch of brave adventurers determined to raise funds for orphans worldwide were undeterred however.
On Saturday 20 February 2016, nearly 40 men and women descended on a remote farm in rural Surrey for a fundraising challenge that would push them to their limits and beyond. To brave not just the cutting February wind, but freezing water, fearsome obstacles and muddy ground. The uninitiated would ask what on earth possessed these heroic explorers to sign up for such a challenge, at this time of year, but not so the participants themselves.
“It was all about helping out the orphans and doing something for those most in need,” explained Tarikul Islam from Luton. “We all are fortunate to have parents, so not having one is not something that we would like anyone to go through — especially small children in less able countries.”
Four teams – two groups of men and two groups of women – had signed up to take part in the ambitious Muslim Hands challenge, Crawl of Duty. They would complete a 5 km obstacle course run, following part of the course of the famous Nuts Challenge.
Tarikul went on: “An obstacle course like this was something we thought would be appealing to others to sponsor us for as they would know we were doing something tough and hence they would feel more inspired to help out.”
Tarikul’s team, the Luton Massive, consisted of five very close friends actively engaged in charity work. Members of the group had previously completed the Mount Snowdon Challenge with Muslim Hands in 2014, run marathons and taken part in several winter walks. They were set to compete against ten other men, including members of staff from Muslim Hands itself.
Running with female instructors separately, meanwhile, twelve strong Team Mix It Up from Birmingham would challenge the seven member Team 313 from east London. The former from Mix It Up Ladies Fitness Studio in Birmingham are already seasoned challengers, having previously taken part in Islamic Relief’s Superhero Run and their Ben Nevis Challenge in 2015. They had tenacious competition, however: under the supervision of personal fitness trainers from 313 Fitness Studio in Manor Park, the latter were determined to conquer the course to raise as much money as possible for this worthy cause.
So it was that they set off on a great adventure, skirting around the edge of a ploughed field, not quite sure what was in store for them, beyond the river banks and forest ahead of them. Soon they would encounter mounds of mud and rubble to climb over, and ditches filled knee deep with freezing water to wade through. They would crawl through a tunnel on hands and knees, causing scrapes and bruises. Then more ditches and more banks to clamber back up again would follow, each one slightly more difficult than the last. They would clamber through a tangle of cables and pipes designed to trip them up and tie them in knots, then skip over old tyres set out across the ground.
A few moments of reprieve would follow as they jogged through the woodland, climbing over fallen trees here and there, but soon they would be scrambling down a river bank and into the ankle deep water, to follow the river along its course. Next they would climb up another steep bank again, grabbing hold of rope netting, working together as a team to help each other out. Over the top and down into the river again. In and out, up and down, wading and climbing and running. Climbing over a platform. Climbing over a wall of tyres. Nearly drowning when the river bed gave way to a hidden trench around a bend.
Teamwork was the key on this obstacle course. Some of the obstacles were impossible to overcome alone. At every point all the members of every team worked together, helping each other up through difficult situations. Great communication and understanding of each other’s needs helped them complete the challenge together. Far from giving up, the participants found themselves getting more energetic as the event went on.
At one point they had to pull themselves through a tunnel, set vertically up a bank. This challenge took all the energy out of the participants and only “Alhamdulilah” was an adequate rejoinder there. A massive climbing net followed, rising as high as nearby trees. Going up was not necessarily the problem though, but getting down the other side: they had to slide down poles back to ground level. Some of them would conquer their fear of heights here.
Next obstacle: a rope swing across a muddy pond. Each participant grabbed hold of the rope and tried to swing right over to the other side. Most failed miserably and sloshed down into the cold brown water almost immediately; everyone was convinced that the rope was actually too short and they’d been set up to fail. But the challenge waits for no one. Moments later they’re crawling on their fronts through sloppy wet mud, under a mesh of barbed wire.
Another water filled ditch followed. Then a balancing bar over another one. Then a mound of earth and yet another ditch, waist deep. Then another wall of tyres to clamber over; another excuse to work together as a team. Then down into a series of tunnels, then up over a vast pile of tyres, then under a bar, then over the next one, then through a tyre, then over a fence; enough to cause anyone to give up. It was exhausting and tough.
But even all of that probably could not prepare them for possibly the worst obstacle of the course: to jump off a large platform into a deep, long, cold pond, shoulder deep, which they had to wade or swim across to the other side. They were soaking wet and the only consolation was that the water washed off the thick mud from their clothes. It’s a surprise they didn’t get hypothermia. But they’re on the home straight now: they’re heading for the finish line and victory.
“The experience was epic,” exclaimed Nadiya from Team 313, “Going through freezing cold water, the level of which varied from knee high to almost drowning, and so many obstacles: falling and slipping in mud, screaming like buffoons, conquering my fear of heights… What more can I ask for in return of helping create a brighter future for orphans, inshaAllah?”
The course took under an hour to complete, with a medal and certificate awarded at the end. Altogether, those participating raised over £7000 for Muslim Hands’ orphans worldwide appeal, which is an extraordinary achievement. But then these were extraordinary people, mashallah!
“Crawl of Duty was amazing,” said Ayesha from Team Mix It Up: “Massive shout out to the ladies that took part!! We smashed it and everybody completed it all… Covered in bruises today but feel fantastic.”
Other participants described Crawl of Duty as the best event they had been to. “Enjoyed every moment of it and would do it again and again,” said one participant.
“We are so lucky that we did this,” said another, “I would very much recommend it to others! It’s all for a good cause and you have fun. It’s win win!! Felt muddy, exhausted and tired yet still I had the best time ever, especially as I was with my close mates!”
Those of us who missed out, fearing that February would be just too cold to take on such a challenge, can only be a little envious not to have been there now. We missed an epic adventure, some brilliant teamwork and the opportunity to do immense good on behalf of others. Next time we will be brave! Next time, inshallah!