Tough Mudder 2010: The Ultimate Hike

Tough Mudder 2010: The Ultimate Hike
Tough Mudder 2011 (After the Event)

The Tough Mudder is a one-day endurance event that is meant to test our physical, mental and emotional capabilities.  It encompasses the aspects of even the most difficult of hike an outdoor enthusiast would unearth in a state or national park.  With Earth (mud), fire, wind, water and especially heart, my encounter in New Jersey with this “obstacle course” contained all of the elements found in one of my favorite childhood cartoons…Captain Planet.  This is a very fitting comparison considering Trails of Freedom is dedicated to preserving the most unique wilderness experiences.

The obstacle courses developed by Tough Mudder, LLC, a young company founded in November 2009, caught my attention as a way of pushing my mind and body to its limits.  To be able to take part in an event that promised mud from head to toe, while running nearly half a marathon, should prove to be a rite of passage that ought to be remembered forever.  My teammates and our companions drove to New Jersey late on a Friday night.   All of us in search of a life changing event…

The very next day at Englishtown, New Jersey, my teammates and I walked toward the registration tent where our race bibs and waivers awaited us.  The event, with 4500 participants, was already underway as runners could be seen passing us from the other side of the chain link fence.  Their bodies were covered with mud and faces saturated with a dread unlike I had ever seen before.  If ever there was a time that  the fight or flight response was prominent, it was at that moment…but we had trained too much and come too far to turn back now.

We began our leg of the event at 1220 in the afternoon.  While trudging through this run dubbed “the toughest one day endurance race on the planet”, one obstacle stood out as particularly fearsome to me.  Entitled “Walk the Plank”, this 15 foot high ramp looming over a channel of frigid water near the beginning of the 12 mile trek served as a reminder of my fear of jumping from heights into water.  Inching up to the edge of the high platform, I watched as my teammate in front of me swam away from the splash zone below.  Strapped to my head, a helmet camera was capturing every moment of what would be my greatest achievement in the run aside from crossing the finish line at the end.  With my heart pounding, nerves tingling and all the yells and cheers around me fading into the distance…I stepped forward.  My insides tried to force their way towards my head as gravity pulled my weight toward the Earth.  In a blink of an eye, I am immersed in a lung crushing cold water.  I struggled to catch my bearings as the shock of the cold water disoriented my senses.  After a brief struggle my head breaks the surface.  Too stunned to enjoy my victory, I tread for a couple seconds.  Something seemed out of place, however, as I furiously kicked beneath me to keep myself afloat.  I reached for the helmet cam to adjust the straps on my head and found only my hat.  The force of the splash had managed to rip the camera from my head, sending it to a muddy, watery grave below…

That was only a mere glimpse into the tribulations that the Tough Mudder offered.  To attempt an explanation of the entire run would only serve to dull the sharpness of emotions felt during the event. What I can tell you is that by the time the fires were put out (literally) and the smoke had cleared, I had gained such a new found respect for the outdoors and the challenges and rewards it can bring us.  Somewhere between the pain, suffering and elation, a new addiction had formed; an addiction that is absorbed through the air on my face and mud on my skin.  It is a puzzling phenomenon that can only be understood by people who sacrificed their bodies in that same mud and rock.  To my Tough Mudder brothers and sisters, see you at the next one.

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