The first 10,000-volt shock of electricity floored me as I hurdled over the body of a fallen comrade.
As I attempted to get my feet under me, I was again slammed face-first into the mud as my back came into contact with another heavily charged wire.
“This poor guy is getting punished,” the announcer said loudly through the speakers.
Numb from aftershock, I barely heard the words as I received another debilitating zap to the base of my spinal column.
The remainder of my way through the final obstacle, aptly named electroshock therapy, was a blur of white-hot pain. I sprawled, stumbled and staggered my way through a forest of electrically charged wires, finally arriving at the free beer waiting for me at the finish line.
Tough Mudder, a mud run event where participants go through up to 25 obstacle courses designed to test participants both physically and mentally, is the brainchild of former British counter-terrorism agent Will Dean.
Bored with the repetitive nature of marathons, triathlons and other endurance activities, he idealized a large track frequented with obstacle courses to keep things interesting.
Dean’s organization builds these courses 10-12 miles long, purposefully including hills and man-made disruptions.
The entire body is subjected to a host of tribulations: hill climbs over unsure footing, crawling under and through muddy barbed wire, distance running and mandatory calisthenics, among others.
“I started running and working out,” Kevin Daniels, 50, a former professional surfer said. “But as much training as I did, it wasn’t enough.”
Daniels has two fractures in his L5 vertebra, bad knees and underwent an emergency root canal the day after completing the course.
The self-employed creative advertiser demonstrated the mental fortitude required by the event.
At one point, he carried my 6 foot, 175 pound frame fireman-style on his broken back through the required distance during the Warrior Carry obstacle.
Tough Mudder is a sponsor of the Wounded Warrior Project, raising $500,000 in charity within its inaugural year of 2010.
Currently, the event has generated over $6.2 million toward assisting those afflicted by the tragedies of war.
The event can cost anywhere from $89 to $185 depending on the date of registration.
Despite the heavy cost, the appeal of supporting, and often running alongside, our American soldiers often outweighs the financial burdens for those signing up.
Amputees and those with prosthetic limbs are allowed to compete as well.
Teams have even been seen using a human-chain system to lower a fully wheelchair bound teammate down an exceptionally steep decline.
“You don’t just race and go home, you stay for a full experience,” said Kristin Daniels, the regional western marketing director for Heineken USA. “I think it’s worth the investment, even for poor college kids.”
After the event, everyone was ecstatic, wearing their newly garnered bright orange headbands—the only clean clothing in sight—and swapping tales of their experience.
While the underlying nature of this event is nothing to joke about, the owners and operators did have a bit of fun coming up with the names of some of the hurdles within the course.
The Arctic Enema requires participants to submerge themselves in a combination of ice-water and antifreeze, swimming under and through log barriers.
Lugging a wooden pallet weighed down by sandbags sounds like stereotypically manly work, but the Drag Queen obstacle is a misnomer in that regard.
Personally, I was a big fan of weighted running; carrying logs while traversing terrain was somewhat familiar during Hold Your Wood.
Despite a mere three years of operation under its belt, over 1 million people have contributed to the Wounded Warrior Project through this event.
Tough Mudder has also gone international, and is now hosting events in Korea, the United Kingdom and Australia.
While the demands of this journey left me bloody, bruised and breathless, I will absolutely return to race again. And yes, you do sign a death waiver beforehand.