Everyone on my team bears the same exhausted look on their face. Our bodies look like something out of Man vs. Wild. We are all cut, soaked, covered in mud, in pain, yet still excited. We only have one more obstacle in front of us before we can cross the finish line: the electrical wires.
This is what I did on Saturday, April 9 in Allentown, Pa., at the Bear Creek Ski resort. Billed “probably the toughest event on the planet,” I participated in what’s called the “Tough Mudder.”
Similar to the Warrior Dash, the Mudder is longer and harder. This is made clear by signs throughout the course that say “If you did the Warrior Dash, you’d be done … but you didn’t.”
Created by British Special Forces and with the proceeds going toward the Wounded Warrior Project, the Tough Mudder is a 10-plus mile course with 20 military obstacles peppered throughout.
The story begins about five months ago when my brother found the event and decided to put together a team. I knew I was in for something crazy when I saw the course and signed up. I was immediately greeted with a waiver that said on the bottom:
“Remember, the goal is not to win, but finish.”
A new training regime was vital. Lifting weights and running at 6 a.m. is hard; it’s even worse when it’s the first of two daily workouts. Also, include swimming, running hills, protein shakes and an incredibly strict diet.
Soon, I was in the best shape I had been in in years. Everyone on my team was constantly texting each other with new workout and health tips.
The day comes, we are ready. The event begins with the national anthem, then the Tough Mudder pledge. In the pledge, we vow to finish, not to whine, and to help all fellow Mudders, not just those on our team.
Our adrenaline is firing, we start by running up the tallest ski slope on the mountain. The obstacles follow, each more difficult than the next.
There are climbing ropes, walls, crawling through tubes full of rocky mud and running miles and miles of trails that are covered in rocks. On a wacky turn, my foot catches a rock and I roll my ankle. It hurts, but I am only three miles into the course.
My team helps me up, gets me moving again, and I run on it. That is only one of the many instances in which we helped each other, not including the numerous times we worked out someone’s crap or pushed them over an obstacle that was too high.
We do the same for others we see; we all stop, help them up, and get them moving. Some, we even help to the next obstacle.
Eventually, we get to the high dive. I am afraid of heights. My girlfriend climbs up the rope, and says she will jump with me. We count, we jump, we hit the water.
The freezing water is amazing; it takes the breath out of your lungs.
When I surface, my adrenaline is firing and I scream, louder than I ever have in my life.
Seven miles later, we get to the end. The electrical wires are right in front of us. We all run through, then gather our prizes: a headband, T-shirt, bananas, protein bars, and a Dos Equis beer.
A man with a microphone tells everyone who crosses that they are now warriors. No, the warriors are the ones around us, some with visible wounds from actual combat. We are just trying to help them as best we can.
That night, we pig out on Five Guys Burgers and Fries, chocolate and beer. We can’t stop talking about the race, complimenting each other and talking about everything that happened in the last five months.
What I will remember most is the teamwork. We were able to do it together, including all the training tips that went into it for months before. We are already looking forward to next years’ race, there is even discussion of maybe doing two.