Mud, sweat, but no tears: Women race to celebrate the life of a vic­tim of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY EL­IZ­A­BETH KOH el­iz­a­beth.koh@wash­post.com

Amy Wil­liams al­ways wanted to fly. An emer­gency room nurse in Pottsville, Pa., Wil­liams had be­gun tak­ing classes to be­come a flight nurse and help peo­ple in cri­sis.

“She was so car­ing,” said her sis­ter Jackie Lewis. “She was so full of life.”

But on a Fe­bru­ary morn­ing in 2009, Wil­liams’s abu­sive hus­band shot her four times in the chest be­fore turn­ing the gun on him­self. Wil­liams, cling­ing to life, called 911 and tried to per­form CPR on her hus­band. She died in surgery later that af­ter­noon.

In Wil­liams’s mem­ory, Lewis and eight other women raced as a team Satur­day morn­ing at Mud­derella, an off­shoot of the Tough Mud­der en­durance event meant to en­cour­age fe­male en­durance and team­work.

The Clarks­burg, Md., event, spon­sored by the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion Fu­tures With­out Vi­o­lence, urged more than 3,000 par­tic­i­pants to raise aware­ness of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and “own their strong” through a five-mile, 10-ob­sta­cle course char­ac­ter­ized by grime and grit.

“Right now, the media is re­ally dom­i­nated by neg­a­tive head­lines about do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, par­tic­u­larly in pro­fes­sional sports,” said Lau­ren Brisbo, a spokes­woman for Fu­tures With­out Vi­o­lence.

Nani Cuadrado, the cap­tain of Lewis’s Mud­derella team, dis­cov­ered Mud­derella’s part­ner­ship with the do­mes­tic vi­o­lence or­ga­ni­za­tion and pitched the com­pe­ti­tion in Fe­bru­ary on a Face­book page ded­i­cated to Wil­liams’s life.

“We’d been want­ing to dosome­thing to honor Amy for a long time,” said Cuadrado, who worked with Wil­liams as a physi­cian as­sis­tant. “Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence touches ev­ery­one. No one is re­ally im­mune. It’s the great equal­izer.”

Lewis, whois rais­ing her sis­ter’s two sons, signed up. The six years af­ter her sis­ter’s death, she said, had been dif­fi­cult to han­dle emo­tion­ally.

“I’m hop­ing it might help me turn things around,” she said be­fore the race.

The nine women on the team be­gan pre­par­ing: train­ing ev­ery two weeks be­fore the event and rais­ing money. They held a box­ing event en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to “box bags, not women” and called on friends and fam­ily to do­nate what would even­tu­ally to­tal more than $1,700 for the race.

On Satur­day, team mem­bers donned pur­ple shirts em­bla­zoned with their team name: Amy’s An­gels. Their logo— a woman flex­ing her bi­ceps atop a cloud— matched tem­po­rary wing tat­toos on their shoul­der blades and pur­ple pol­ish on their nails.

As the clock ticked to­ward their 9:30 a.m. start time, they ap­plied more tem­po­rary tat­toos and face paint: Mar­shawn Weaver, 31, ap­plied two tem­po­rary tat­toos on her cheek­bones that said “strong.” Lewis joined in with a tat­too read­ing “Power to the She.”

Once the race started, Lewis was all smiles, walk­ing and jog­ging through bumpy paths of flat­tened grass and wad­ing through pools of mud. For two hours, the team crawled un­der wires through a muddy field and scaled wooden walls with ropes slung over the sides, past en­cour­ag­ing signs such as “Girl­friend! Yaasss!” and “You. Are. Amaz­ing.”

Team­mates also scooped up cool­ing mud from the sides of the path and smeared it on one another’s necks and faces and slapped one another’s shoul­ders, leav­ing brown hand­prints be­hind.

At one point, Weaver whooped joy­fully and raced past Cuadrado, star­tling her.

“That’s some­thing Amy would have done,” Cuadrado said, as she slowed to cross a ditch in the road. “There’s a lot of sad­ness in the ER, but Amy’s en­thu­si­asm was in­fec­tious.”

Wil­liams was also em­pa­thetic; Cuadrado re­called a group of aban­doned chil­dren who were brought in dur­ing a shift: “Amy took them back, washed their hair, cleaned them and treated them like her own.”

Do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, she added, can af­flict any­one re­gard­less of their sta­tus or per­son­al­ity. “She was pro­fes­sional, she was beau­ti­ful, she had an es­cape plan for her and her sons, and she was still taken from us,” Cuadrado said about Wil­liams.

Near the end of the course, Amy’s An­gels hit the mud­di­est ob­sta­cle of all: three trenches of sticky, shin-deep mud called Ain’t No Moun­tain High Enough. As they walked to­ward it, the women started singing the lyrics to the clas­sic song: “Ain’t no moun­tain high enough, ain’t no val­ley low enough . . . ”

They laughed and gig­gled as they waded through the mud, car­ried by a wave of eu­pho­ria. Clothes that had been only spat­tered were quickly caked, and one team­mate lost her shoes in the third trench. As Lewis strug­gled to exit the last pit, team­mate Katie Hursh reached out: “Do you need help?”

Lewis shook her head no. She could do it on her own.

Inch by inch, she clam­bered out of the mud. At the top, she cheered, throw­ing her head back into the sun.

PHOTOS BY BRIT­TANY GREE­SON/THE WASHINGTON POST

TOP: Team­mates from Amy’s An­gels celebrate on an ob­sta­cle dur­ing theMud­derella run in­Mary­land. ABOVE: Mar­shawn Weaver, one of Amy’s An­gels, with a tat­too that says “strong.”

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