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Tough Mudder: The Challenge

“As a Tough Mudder I pledge that I understand that the Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. I pledge that I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time. I do not whine – kids whine. I help my fellow mudders complete the course. I pledge that I overcome all fears.”

Tough Mudder is self-proclaimed as one of the toughest events on the planet. It is a mix of marathon, endurance sport, and obstacle course combined, which results in a 10-12 mile event featuring challenges unlike any other. The obstacle courses, designed by British Special Forces, are meant to challenge competitors’ strength, stamina, agility, determination, and teamwork.

I was invited to participate as part of a Tough Mudder team, but before committing I took the helpful online evaluation to determine whether I would survive. Along with the usual fitness questions,  I was amused to see “Which do you spend the most time doing? Working out, Having sex, Drinking, or I’m an equal opportunity employer and enjoy all three in copious amounts” and “Which ‘stache do you prefer? Hulk Hogan, Tom Sellek, Charlie Chaplin, or Salvador Dali”. I ended up being placed somewhere in the middle, roughly between athlete and wimp, and after doing some investigation into the obstacles I decided it would probably be better if I saved this challenge for next year (or whenever I get in tip top shape – it might take a while). Instead, I attended Tough Mudder as a spectator and media member, taking the opportunity to not only follow my friends on the course but write about the awesome event. (A big thank you to Ashley Fallick, who was my media contact and made it happen!)

From Facebook I gathered there were quite a large number of friends participating in Tough Mudder. Young and old, students and business professionals, single and unmarrieds versus parents – all age groups seemed to be covered. And, when I  arrived at the event, my perception of the huge diversity in contestants was really reinforced. Young men laughed and shaved their hair into mohawks and mullets while serious-minded parents stood nearby, stretching and hydrating before their heat, children on hand.

While everyone was getting checked in and prepared for the start of the race, I wandered the course and spoke with volunteers who had completed Tough Mudder in the past. I quickly learned that the three most painful events are widely known to be Arctic Enema, Electric Eel, and Electroshock Therapy, with Everest as a close runner up. Naturally, I realized I had to make it to those highlights because they would be the most entertaining to watch!

During Arctic Enema, Tough Mudders are forced to get fully submerged as they cross a dumpster filled with truckloads of ice and water. Those who hesitate often psych themselves out when they see the ice floating in the water; the most successful contestants don’t even blink before they jump right in. And when they emerge gasping, with either fiery determination or shivers from near hypothermia, the Tough Mudders are in a state of physical shock which they must overcome quickly as they move on to the next challenge. The facial expressions and range of reactions when I watched the Mudders go through Arctic Enema was completely entertaining.

The Electric Eel is similar in shock value; yet in this case, participants are literally shocked by electricity. Tough Mudders have to slither on a watery and muddy surface under electric wiring. If any part of their bodies touches a dangling wire, they are shocked – and that electric current is transmitted through their bodies and through the water to affect contenders nearby. Josh Clay, the General Manager of the Diable Grande Golf & Country Club who was kind enough to cart me along the course with him, joked that the Electric Eel should be renamed “Oh! (Insert expletive here!)” because as we watched the Tough Mudders complete the obstacle, all you could hear was the loud snap whenever someone was shocked, and their consequent exclamations of pain and dismay.

That and the other electrifying obstacle course on the Tough Mudder obstacle list, Electroshock Therapy, are among the most entertaining obstacles for spectators. Electroshock Therapy also shocks contenders when they are forced to bite the bullet and run through electric wiring to the finish line. Often, participants are so surprised by the electric shocks and so unable to control their muscle spasms that they collapse into the bales of hay throughout the course.

Everest is one of the most challenging obstacles simply because it is second to last. After traversing 10-12 miles under the hot sun and completing many obstacles over several hours, contenders are hard set to rally the energy and coordination needed to run up a half-pipe ramp, grab the hands of fellow competitors, and be hauled onto the landing. This challenge is difficult because it is all about endurance, persistence, teamwork and timing.

Here is Jason Wilde, of Team Wedgie, grinning widely after missing fellow Mudders’ arms and brutally slamming into the side of Everest. Wilde proved to be a Tough Mudder despite the blood and was able to stick it out, get to the top of Everest and run through Electroshock Therapy to complete the day. He then went on to the emergency room where he received 7 stitches and a souvenir scar.

That grin says it all. It’s important to remember that Tough Mudder is not just about the challenge itself, but the fun of the challenge. Competitors dress up as nerds, ballerinas – I even saw a man in an evening gown. And, upon completion of the challenge, participants are greeted at the finish line with beers, t-shirts and sweatbands, and live music. You can even choose to get a Tough Mudder tattoo and make the moment a part of your life forever.

Tough Mudder is all about leaving lasting impressions, not just with the competitors but with the community as a whole. It is a supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project and has raised to date about 3 million dollars for military personnel returning from battle. There were also stations along the path on the way back to the parking lot where participants could dump their soggy sneakers for a great cause: Green Sneakers. Not only is the Tough Mudder a memorable challenge and a great time, but it advocates some awesome causes! If you want to participate in this great event and think you are tough enough, consider signing up for the World’s Toughest Mudder Challenge 2012. As the Tough Mudder 2012 Finale, it is a 24 hour event – with monetary prizes! There are certain restrictions on how you can become a participant, so if interested, check out the website. Or, if you want to wait a year to train before signing up, Tough Mudder is scheduled to be back in NorCal in July and September of next year in the Lake Tahoe area.

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