CHECK OUT THE GOBG TEAM AT THE MIDATLANTIC TOUGH MUDDER FROM APRIL 2013. THANKS TO JOHN G FOR PUTTING THIS CLIP TOGETHER FOR US!
Life is not a sprint; it is a long and grueling marathon. There are peaks and valleys along the way – peaks that allow for gazing down on the glories abound and the replenishing of mental strength, valleys that inflict pain with each step and challenge the mind as much as the body.
In January 2013, a group of family and friends agreed that we wanted the challenge of competing in the Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder 2013. I had wanted to do one for a while and decided that we would run in memory of Nathan. I knew that this would be the type of event that Nate enjoyed – mud and obstacles. Each team member purchased a Go Out. Be Great. t-shirt with the NCB Foundation logo on the back and Be Great For Nate 2013 on the front.
April came quickly and as I talked with members of the team I could tell that the anticipation was growing. On Saturday, April 20th we put on our GOBG shirts and headed to the event. Even before leaving the hotel I saw the looks of other participants as they saw the shirts. I knew that the shirts alone were prodding people – Who is Nathan Chris Baker? What is this – Be Great For Nate? I knew that this event was already a success. Not only would others learn about Nate but Tough Mudder events have raised over 5 million dollars for the Wounded Warrior Project and I could not think of a better cause.
When we got to the event you could feel the excitement. I was amped up seeing the 10 other guys wearing shirts in honor of Nate. Prior to beginning the Mudder each member climbs a 6 foot wall and is gathered with other participants into somewhat of a starting gate. Once in the starting gate the announcer begins to work the crowd up and get people ready for the event. At some point in the pep talk the announcer entered into the crowd with the microphone. He walked the crowd and spotted a GOBG team member and read aloud over the microphone the front of the shirt – Be Great For Nate. He walked towards our group and asked “Who is Nate?” I choked out the following: “Nate is my son. He drowned is September 2012.” At that moment I saw the looks of the other 100 + people in the crowd – sympathy, encouragement, the pain that they carried for the loss of the person that they were running for. The announcer came over and gave me a huge bear hug and announced “Be Great For Nate.” The others in the crowd cheered. It was powerful. 10 other men who I admire greatly were there to experience this moment and I felt the power of each one of them with me. I knew that they also felt the pain and pride that I was feeling. I thought to myself – how can I begin a 10-12 mile event with a lump in my throat and fighting back tears?
As we approached the final obstacle we lined up to run through the finish line and there was another announcer with a microphone. We came to the obstacle and he stopped us and asked – “Who is Nate?” One of the team members told him and he began chanting “Be Great For Nate. Be Great For Nate. Be Great For Nate.” We ran through the last obstacle and through the finish line while others around us cheered “Be Great For Nate.” I ended the race as I had begun – emotional at the thought of my son that I miss every moment of every day. I was physically and emotionally spent but proud that we all completed the race and we did it as a team.
I knew that this event would be physically challenging but I never expected the emotional toll that it would take on me. After everyone dried off and warmed up we all gathered at a local restaurant and celebrated the completion of the event. I sat for several moments at the end of the table and struggled to keep my emotions from getting the better of me. I looked down the table at the great family and friends that had joined us and was again reminded of how fortunate we are to have so many great people in our lives.
For me this race meant a lot of things: honoring Nathan, physical challenges, a time with family, time to replenish friendships of the past and introduce friends who will no doubt have a bond with people they previously did not know. We accomplished all of these things during the Mudder but the single greatest thing that I took from this day is knowing that for every valley in life – there is a peak. I know that my body can tolerate whatever my mind can endure.
Since Nathan’s death each day challenges me. Regardless of the exterior – I often fight off the emotions that are brought on at the thought of him. Some days the valleys of life take an emotional toll on me, other days I am able to take in the view from the peaks which allows me to build a reserve of mental toughness. This morning I met with a friend and we talked about life and death. He gave me a great analogy of life and a race: We begin life much like a race – with plenty of energy and vigor to tackle anything. As we progress in the race of life we encounter obstacles and hurdles (physically & emotionally) that test the toughness of each runner. At the finish line of the race of life we are greeted by a celebration of what we have accomplished.
We all complete the race of life……..some reach the finish line before others. I only wish we could finish as a team.
Go Out. Be Great. -Justin
“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” - Steve Prefontaine Early last summer, as I trained for what now seems like an elementary school “fun run”, this quote would have held true. For every sport or event that I have prepared for, my motives have always been selfish. Self-satisfaction; sense of achievement; personal success; personal fitness and appearance. These are the normal and expected reasons for one to find the inner drive to continue training. It wasn’t until I began training for the Tough Mudder that I had a real purpose – Nate. Running provides a person with a lot of time to reflect. There wasn’t a time that I trained where I didn’t think about Nate. It would stir emotions of grief, anger, joy when reflecting on memories, and sometimes even guilt. But the opportunity to honor Nate with other family members and friends would push my drive every night. I would change the quote to read “…I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to honoring Nate.” We were running the first mile of the course when Justin and I were discussing how much Nate would have enjoyed watching us at the Mudder. I told Justin that there is no way he would have stayed home with the other kids because he would have insisted on coming to watch. Justin’s response, “You wouldn’t be able to keep him out of the mud”. One of Tough Mudder’s taglines is “You cannot complete a Tough Mudder course alone”. No matter how many members we had on our team last Saturday, there was at least one more with us. ~ Chris, Nate’s Uncle
This past weekend was an experience to say the least. It was a challenge. It was cold. It was windy. It was wet. It was muddy. It was mentally draining and physically grueling at times. Let me tell you, it was worth every cold, windy, wet, muddy minute! Our team had one common goal for the Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder. We were going to tackle the Mudder for Nate Baker, and tackle it we did. Our team showed NO quit, and ALL heart. We overcame nervousness, anxiety, fear, pain. We overcame the bumps, bruises, cuts and scrapes, and accomplished something GREAT. Justin Baker has been a lifelong friend to me. He has been my absolute best friend since High School. Anybody who knew us growing up, would tell you no different. We were inseparable. We were high school teammates. We were college roommates. There is nothing in this world I wouldn’t do for Justin and his family. What Justin and Katie have been through since September 2nd, 2012, I can only describe as my worst nightmare. Any parents worst nightmare. To see what THEY have overcome, is truly inspiring. It is courageous. It is admirable. I know it is an on-going battle and will be for a very long time, quite possibly forever. We will be there for them. We all will be there for them. Believe me when I tell you that Nate was with me during the Mudder. No question. I am not a very religious person, but I felt Nate with me on that cold Saturday. Whenever I felt like I was too tired, or too cold, the thought of Nate helped me keep me going. No doubt about it. I was not going to let Nate down. I was not going to let Justin and Katie down. I was determined. I can say with confidence that Eric, Brian, Mike, Adam, John, Jason, Chris, Greg, Billy, and of course Justin felt the same way. I am proud to have accomplished this with these guys. They are warriors. When the going got tough, the tough got MUDDY! From the Berlin Walls, to the Pirates Booty, to the Arctic Enema from HELL, all the way to the end, where I face-planted in the Electroshock Therapy obstacle, it was an experience I would gladly take on again, especially with these guys! So, to all my fellow mudders, I congratulate you. I congratulate Justin and Katie. We were absolutely GREAT for NATE! ~ Doug, Nate’s Uncle
Several people will be writing about our Tough Mudder (TM) experience as a contribution to this blog post. I wanted to discuss it from the perspective of preparing for the Tough Mudder. Like most of the rest of our team, I had no idea what to expect of the Tough Mudder and NO IDEA what to do to prepare for it. I read the recommendations on the Tough Mudder website, read blog posts, and watched YouTube videos. I searched high and low. What I ultimately decided was to run, and run a lot. Sure there was weight training, plyometrics, and other cardio activities. But what there was a lot of, was running. Before preparing for the TM I had never run more than 3 miles, and even that was a recent occurrence. I slowly built up my runs to break in my body and my new shoes (the shoes were an easier break in). I ran with other TM team members when we could coordinate schedules but often I ran by myself. As the weeks passed I was able to work up to a 10 mile run the Saturday before the Mudder. TEN MILES! That is further than I drive to work every day. That is outside the delivery radius of my favorite Chinese Restaurant! Who runs that far? I do now, I guess. It didn’t come easy, though. There were times where I could have stopped, walked back to my car, went home and drank a beer or six. But I couldn’t do that. I had to push on. Not because I paid money to do the Mudder. That would have been easy to justify my way out of worrying about. No, it was because we were doing it for Nate. We were running in his honor and for the Nathan Chris Baker Foundation. We were doing it for our sense of accomplishment, sure. But largely, that collection of individuals (Justin, Jason, Chris, Billy, Mike, Doug, Eric, Greg, Adam, John, and me), were all doing it for a reason much bigger than bragging rights or personal accomplishment. We were doing it for Nate. Countless times while working out or running, often during the solemn runs by myself, I would think of him and why we were doing this. That could not have been more evident than when we were preparing to start the race, our team standing in a crowd of other mudders, and the Tough Mudder emcee said “Be Great for Nate. Who’s Nate?” When Justin responded to him, the emcee then shared it with the whole crowd and instructed everyone to “Be Great for Nate.” Standing there among dozens of strangers, sadly many of whom were running for someone they lost, we were all one. We were running for Nate, running for late friends, fallen soldiers, fallen officers, cancer casualties, cancer survivors, etc. Running a few miles, even 10 miles, doesn’t seem so tough now. Especially when given the motivation and reason to Go Out and Be Great. Be Great For Nate. ~ Brian, Nate’s Uncle
It was truly an honor to join this group of guys in the attempt to complete the Tough Mudder. I couldn’t think of a better way to remember Nate’s free spirit than a mud run full of obstacles. It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done physically, but quitting never crossed my mind, every time I looked up and saw the shirt of one of my teammates, I knew I was going to finish, no matter what. The strength to carry on was something I thought I knew the meaning of, I have always competed in sports growing up and have run in marathons where physical endurance has been key, but only recently have I realized what true strength and endurance are in seeing how Justin and Katie have pushed on in these last 8 months. True strength resides in the soul and stems from love. I know Justin and Katie will continue to show their strength in the future because of their love for Nate. This Tough Mudder was more than a show of endurance like my other races have been, it was an emotional journey for me and our strength came from our love for Nate. I look forward to making this an annual event and completing other events in the memory of Nate. Go Out. Be Great. ~Mike, Nate’s Uncle
Nate Baker is a Tough Mudder! That’s how I remember him. At the ball field playing in the gravel, rolling down the hill and jumping off the bleachers. That little man had that fire in his eyes, he was afraid of nothing and full of adventure. Nate was, and forever will be the epitome of the Tough Mudder spirit. I am honored to have run the 2013 Mid-Atlantic Tough Mudder with Nate’s father and family, the team did great! Go Out. Be Great. ~ Adam, Friend of Family
When Justin first asked me about doing the Tough Mudder in Nate’s memory, I was 100% in. This was motivation to get in better shape and I will continue to get in better shape because of it. I was glad to be a part of this team and it was a Great experience. I have never gone through so much emotion from moment to moment, feeling sad then pumped up. When the MC asked Justin, after looking at his shirt, “Who is Nate”? It put things in perspective for me and the main reason we were there. When the MC said your participating for your son while he’s looking down on us today and he said to the crowd, ” these are the types of people you are racing with, people who have overcome difficult times in their lives”. I knew The Go Out. Be Great. team knew what our mission was, to make Nate proud and show how much he is loved! We did just that, we got through the tough mudder as a resilient team. We persevered through the cold, the terrain and the obstacles- much like Justin and Katie have persevered during an extremely difficult time. I am so proud to call them my friends and will strive to be as Great as they are in living their lives! Thank you for asking me to participate, it meant a lot especially with friends dedicating our success to someone who couldn’t be there physically, but he was our strength to finish! It was a nice reunion with life long friends and it was Great meeting new friends! ~ Greg, Friend of Family
Be Great for Nate. Hooah! The energy was incredible and it continued to grow as we crossed the first wall of the day and into the starting pit. Numbers were painted across my forehead. My compression shirt felt tight and my shoes were triple knotted. I was pumped and I felt powerful. I was anxious to find out if months of training had me prepared. As we stood among the others in our wave, the adrenaline just kept building. The starting announcer began reinforcing the reason that everyone was taking part in the pending mud, miles and obstacles. Dedication! Commitment! Strength! Courage! Perseverance! Pride! With each statement there was a resonating “hooah” from the crowd. Amped, I was jumping up and down like a fighter who had just entered the octagon. And as he walked through the crowds he caught sight of the writing on our team shirts. And as he asked who Nate was, I turned to my left. There was Justin who proudly identified Nate and bravely choked out the words that explained why our team was there. The announcer began to yell, “Be great for Nate!” And the many replied, “Hooah!” Over and over again. And the power I was feeling was elevated by the pride I had of being part of such an event. For being part of our team. All of us there out of respect and honor for a life cut short. There to be part of something bigger than myself. Bigger than just an event. An opportunity to support a grieving family. Through mud, miles and obstacles, through the pain of crossing walls and withstanding shocks, possibly, in some way, lessening the pain and hurt, if only for the day. This feeling continued through the event. An event that required strength, determination and camaraderie. That required greatness. As we approached the finish, there was the same announcer. Again he saw our shirts. The words on our shirts now covered in mud. Mud that was like badges of courage. And pride. With powerful words he affirmed what we were feeling. This day was for Nate. Be Great for Nate! Hooah! Be Great for Nate! Hooah! Be Great for Nate! Hooah. ~ Bill, Friend of Family
Go Out. Be Great. Four simple, but very powerful words that mean so much to a lot of people. It has been difficult over the past months knowing that some of our closest friends had to deal with so much, and not being able to do a single thing about it. You feel very helpless. I’ve known the Bakers for a number of years now. I’ve coached Drew in a number of sports with my son. I still think about Nate quite often, wishing that he was still here. I can tell you that Nate often was shy around me. As much as I tried to joke around with him, he would sit there silent, almost hiding from me. Then, one day, I figured out how to get through to him, I tickled him. So, from then on out, at every practice, I would come around, chase him down and tickle him. It was really starting to work, and he appeared to be coming around. I miss tickling that little guy. I witnessed how strong the family was, and really admired Justin and Katie. They demonstrated strength, courage, perseverance, and faith. It truly amazed me. I wear my wristband every day to work, and I look at those four simple words. It is so much more than going out and being great. When Justin told me he wanted to do a Tough Mudder, I was overjoyed. I had completed two events last year, and felt the camaraderie with these events, and found that the Tough Mudder to live up to being one of the toughest events on the planet. I felt very lucky to have the opportunity to be on his team. I was honored to share this event with him. Eleven folks in all decided to join this team to run in Nate’s honor. Nine of which had no idea what they had signed up for. As one of the two veterans’ on the team, I felt more pressure running this event. This pressure was more self-imposed than anything else. I wanted to help take care of this team, set the example, and help them through this journey that we were about to undergo. I wanted to do this for Justin, a guy I admire, and really look up to. I wanted to do this for Nate, to show him that our bunch could conquer this course together. I felt so privileged to be a part of this team. For Christmas, I received a brand new GoPro from my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I was super excited to document this journey (my previous two Mudders found us borrowing a GoPro, only to have it run out of memory, or battery power). Two weeks prior to this event, I went to check the camera, and make sure everything was working, and nothing. No power. No lights. Nothing. I emailed GoPro, while I was on travel for work, and received some troubleshoot instructions. So, I called my patient wife, and helped walk her through the procedure. Still nothing. The clock was ticking. It was now Sunday, 6 days before our event and I didn’t have a GoPro. Finally, the GoPro person sent me return instructions, letting me know it would take longer than a week to get the camera back. Not ready to give up, I overnighted the camera on Tuesday, and requested that GoPro overnight a new camera back to me, in hopes of getting one in time. Wednesday morning, I received an email from GoPro saying one was on the way and it arrived Thursday, two days before the event. It powered up great, but I then ran into my next problem. It only had 2 hours with of memory. The Mudder would last at least 3.5 hours. So, that night, I searched for a bigger memory card, and found a random Radio Shack that had a bigger card. I left work early on Friday, drove to the wrong store, then eventually found the right store, with this larger memory card. More memory, check. We left for WV, and drove through a monsoon to get there. On the way to dinner that night, Adam and I were talking and realized the next thing we needed to think about was a backup battery. The memory was plenty, but looking online, the battery was only going to last 3 hours. On the way to dinner, we saw Dick’s Sporting Goods, and had a thought. We called them, but they didn’t have any batteries. I then remember seeing a Best Buy nearby, and quickly checked online to see that they had a GoPro battery in stock. But, Best Buy closed in 20 minutes. Adam and I ordered our beers at dinner, jumped in my truck, drove to Best Buy, ran in, bought the battery and returned back before our beers even hit the table. I would have said that this was all luck, but I think I’ve convinced myself that Nate was looking down on us helping us. When you see the video that we took with the GoPro (5.5 hours in all), you will understand that it was meant to be that we documented our entire journey. We needed to Go Out. Be Great. I can’t describe the bond that I have with the other 10 teammates. I have the utmost respect for every single one of them. What a tough journey. I’d do it again in a heart beat. I know if my heart Nate was looking at us, cheering us on the entire way. I know Nate helped make sure I could get my GoPro back in time, and help me locate more memory, and an extra battery. I know Nate was with us at the beginning to the end of our Tough Mudder journey. I feel very lucky and thankful to have the Baker’s in my life. Well, I was only expecting to write a very short blog (I am not a blogger by any stretch of the imagination). I guess to wrap things up, I am reminded of those four simple words on my bracelet that remind me of Nathan Chris Baker every day, Go Out. Be Great. ~ John, Friend of Family