After being paralyzed from a gun shot wound at the age of three, Connie Belt has not let her injury hold her back. Last month, she completed the 15K (formerly Classic) course and crawled herself across the finish line at Tough Mudder Chicago along with help from her Oscar Mike team. Connie’s story shows she is a truly inspirational Mudder. It is proof that with the right mindset, anybody can overcome the obstacles in their way.
Why I Mudder
I had never thought about doing anything other than Spartan races. But since my friend James had assisted me on another OCR and a Marathon I thought, “why not!” Not being able to walk, swim or do monkey bars, I was like “How?!” But as soon as I knew I had a team to help me I didn’t worry anymore, I knew we’d figure it out as we go.
My rule from my first OCR has been NEVER skip an obstacle, I MUST start it until I am finished. Even if it meant dropping off. It’s not about the finish as much as it is about facing your fears and doing it anyway. I took on every obstacle armed with will power, grit and an awesome team. The armpit deep mud and the river crossing were a bit scary for me. But I made it.
When it came to the Cage Crawl, I wanted to break my own rule and skip this obstacle. My team stopped on the bank while I cried, because I was fearing my life would end in that cage and crying because I was mad at wanting to let that fear break my own rule. I could do this somehow. So I slowly lowered myself into the water and under the cage with my entire team there for me. I cried through the entire obstacle, stopped a few times to scream, and then kept going. Getting pulled up the other bank to reflect back over the water was amazing. I was alive.
Every obstacle had its own challenge, but getting through them all was the best feeling ever. Tough Mudder was an incredible life changing experience that I will never forget. The mud, the obstacles, the challenges, and most of all – the people – fans, helpers and my team Oscar Mike’s! Thank you Tough Mudder for allowing me on your course.
Share why you Mudder here.
Connie’s Inspiring Mud Run Story
In one second your life can change forever. It can be the best day of your life.
Saturday – December 3, 1966 – 5:18 PM – 2019 Main St Kansas City Mo – the hotel that Elizabeth and her two daughters 5 and 3 years old called home were in the hotel lobby when Wiley, the husband of Elizabeth and the father of the two little girls walked in. From his pocket he pulled his 9mm pistol. Four shots were fired. Elizabeth, a mother spending time with her two girls shot in the head and the stomach, James a man working as the hotel desk clerk shot in the head, a 3 year old girl with her entire life ahead of her shot in the chest and Ann the 5 year old girl hid and saw it all happen. 2 dead, 1 critically wounded.
I am that three year old.
“I might as well get you too” are words that go with the visual and gun shot sound memories that will be with me forever.
That was the best day of my life
Life. It has many roadblocks to try and knock you down. Even at three I had two choices – live or die. Keep going or sit still. Let life just be or make something out of your life.
Raising a para toddler, it’s just no easy road. Watching me learn to pop a wheelie in my little wheelchair. Letting me fall and bump my head. OR watching me pulling my body along the ground on carpet, concrete, gravel, dirt and yes even down concrete steps. The bruises I had – you can only imagine. My mom would look me over at the end of the day and doctor my wounds just to see me get up the next day and do it again. This was my mom letting me be a toddler.
Life was full of things to do – the normal family things – horseback riding, camping, road trips, amusement parks, and yes chores. When it came time to start school, my mom taught me kindergarten and first grade at home but soon realised that it would be best to get me in a school with “normal” kids. Our church school allowed me to attend and I loved it. I was just one of all the grade school kids. Oh wait – nobody wanted to arm wrestle me. High school and college were no different.
I am married and have given birth to three kids. My 4 year old climbs to the top of the monkey bars to get away from me – NO PROBLEM. You should have seen the look on his face when right behind him – there I was. My 5 year old walks out of a gas station store with some string cheese without paying for it. The proper thing to do is have that child return it right. My kids were normal. And they saw me as a normal mom.
My Life Has Purpose
Living in a wheelchair to me is totally normal. To hang around others in wheelchairs was not even thought of. In fact, when my mom would sign me up for camps for the handicap to socialise me with “my own kind”, I hung out with the camp counsellors that were “normal” like me. Oh wait. Their legs worked. A small difference there! I have never thought myself to be different. Everyone, no matter who you are, has struggles in life. Make those struggles into challenges and then work hard to either overcome the challenges or accept that you may need to adapt, do not give up.
At three years old my challenge was to lead a full life with only the use of my arms. To me there is no other option. I can’t walk – but I can still throw a pretty hard punch. Not being able to walk was the visible challenge I live with every day. But it doesn’t stop me from doing what I want to do. Visible challenges are not the only challenges people have. As that three year old hearing the gun shots on Dec 3 are moulded in my mind as a war zone. And to this day when I hear fireworks or gunshots go off my mind freaks out. I am afraid and start to cry if they go on more than 5 minutes.
I got started in the running scene when my first two kids were in grade school and I wanted them to run the Kids Grand Prix races. We would start off together but like they should – eventually took off on their own. We kept this up for a few years. Then Missy my oldest daughter got me back into the running bug with the Runners for Boston race. It was a cold wet, rain, sleet and snow evening. I wanted to drop out like so many did – but that day brought out the die-hard in me. I can push through this short lived pain for those who are still in pain.
Racing, boot camps and weights became my therapy! Over the years I have competed in 38 Lincoln Track Club events including three Lincoln Half Marathons and 4 Lincoln Marathons. In addition I have raced in 3 Good Life Halfsy’s, the State Fair Half Marathon and have tandem skydived twice. Last year I added 3 Spartan Races which included the Spartan Para Championship Race. When I am not racing you will find me training at Good Life Fitness 6 days a week either in boot camp class or with a personal trainer. And then just to be sure I train enough – one more workout at home.
Last year when I started doing Spartan Races I was honoured to be helped by a couple of different groups of people. The Operation Enduring Warrior and Oscar Mike’s. They taught me that I belong in many types of groups. One of those groups included paras and amputees. And that I can compete as a group where people work together as a team to accomplish goals.
Another goal I had last year was to race a marathon outside of Nebraska. So I thought Missouri isn’t too far away and it’s my home state. Seems perfect. Since Kansas City is the closest city in Missouri to have a marathon I thought why not. So I signed up for the Kansas City Marathon without looking at the race map. It’s a big city. What are the odds the route will be anywhere near 2019 Main St? Missy, my daughter looked it up and gave me a horrible look and told me I don’t want to look. 2019 Main St was a couple of blocks away from the start line and the finish was just one freaking block away. Literally straight up over the bridge and there it was – the spot that changed my life forever.
What do I do now?
I already paid for the entry fee. I can’t do this race. BUT – that’s not me either. I will make this my race and my day. Nothing can stop me. I have to face this fear. So I did. At the official finish line I paused long enough to get my medal and gather my family and friends before going up over that bridge to the next finish line 2019 Main St. The hotel is long gone and a new one is built on it’s spot but it didn’t change the memories from coming into my head. I just sat there and listened to my inside – it was calm, like I had come full circle and look – I am alive.
I had faced my fear of that city I hated so much. For the first time in my life I was able to enjoy doing some time the next day in downtown Kansas City and found out it has some very beautiful buildings. My view of Kansas City had completely changed.
I am alive today to share with you that no matter how big or how small your challenge is, make the adjustment you need to continue on with life. Learn from it and grow stronger with each challenge. If you are not strong enough to attack the challenge on your own – ask for help. You are not in this journey called life alone.
My life was only accomplished because I had a team of people that helped me at different stages in life. My family, my teachers, my friends, the running community, the fitness community and all the people with OEW, Oscar Mike’s and The Para Spartan Group.
Getting shot – was the best day of my life.
When your life changes in a second how are you going to deal with it? I challenge you to look at your life straight in the eye and say: “Bring it on! I am strong! This is the best day of my life!”
Choose the Tough Mudder adventure for you.