Three Countries, Four Insanely Inspiring Stories about the Triumph of the Human Spirit

By Matt Alesevich | December 9, 2014


Tough Mudder's 10-12 mile military-style obstacle course is about much more than overcoming on-course obstacles-- it's a chance for people around the world to test their fitness while bonding with friends and fellow Mudders and overcoming physical, mental and personal obstacles along the way. 

Faced with conditions ranging from broken bones to broken hearts, countless 2014 Mudders and their teams stepped up to the Tough Mudder start line with a mission to turn their scars into stars, and in the end, found that beyond the finish line awaited a new beginning.

So to honor the everyday men and women who, in true Mudder spirit, overcame seemingly-insurmountable obstacles both on course and off to become 2014 Tough Mudder finishers, we’ll be recognizing 57 motivational Mudders throughout the month of December--one from each Tough Mudder event this year.

Moving down the event schedule from Scotland, Virginia, Whistler and Midlands-UK, let’s meet the motivating 2014 Mudders of Montreal, Upstate New York, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Berlin, Germany.

Gordon Denison - Tough Mudder Montreal Finisher

Sixteen years ago, I had end stage renal failure. Simply put, my kidneys were no longer working properly, and I was hooked up to a machine for 10 to 12 hours a day. In 1998, I got a kidney transplant, and since then, I’ve been an active organ donor advocate. I’ve competed in the Canadian and World Transplant Olympics and medaled in the 100, 200, 400 and 800-meter events. I also ran with the 2010 Olympic torch. I was hooked on Tough Mudder after seeing one event video. I use pictures and my experience from Tough Mudder to show other transplants that we can overcome the obstacles our conditions have presented us with and still live life to the fullest. When I run these events, I think about my donor, who allowed me to carry on living. He passed away, but he is the most important member of my team.

Dan Kosick - Tough Mudder Upstate NY Finisher

At 15, immediately following my sophomore football season, I had an unusual pain in my ankle that got diagnosed as a cancerous tumor. My best bet was to have my right leg amputated and go through precautionary chemotherapy. I wanted nothing more than to be a “normal” teenager again. I learned how to walk and eventually run. I rejoined my high school swim team. I became our starting varsity lacrosse goalie. I got into alpine ski racing and, at 18, I became a member of the U.S. Disabled Alpine Ski Team.

I want to grow old knowing that my family didn’t see me as a person who couldn’t but as a man who always could.

I competed in the 1998 Japan and 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Paralympics and have represented my country all over the world, becoming one of the top five disabled male ski racers in my class. Today, I am 37 years old. I’m a school social worker and continue to coach high school lacrosse. A good friend knew how I liked to be challenged and introduced me to Tough Mudder. Being a Tough Mudder allows me to push my personal limits and show my daughters what their dad, a cancer survivor and amputee, can do. I want to grow old knowing that my family didn’t see me as a person who couldn’t but as a man who always could.

Jennifer Friederich - Tough Mudder Minneapolis/St. Paul Finisher

In the summer of 2011, I was diagnosed as pre-diabetic, having more and more issues with my kidneys and fighting depression. On top of that, I weighed 231 pounds, was very inactive, and got out of breath quickly. After my diagnosis, I was done being tired and overweight. I just wanted to be active. In June of 2011, I started walking the 1.5 miles to work each morning. On January 1, 2012, I did my first 5k. Then I started doing 10ks and longer distances, covering 15 races in all in 2012. In 2013, I was 100 pounds lighter, so I wanted to go bigger. I signed up for the Tough Mudder on my 33rd birthday. I was scared beyond belief, but with the help of my teammates, I made it through. I came back in 2014 for my 34th birthday, and I conquered many of my fears. I love helping others complete obstacles that they didn't think they could and being there for those around me. If I can give someone a lift: here are my hands, shoulders and legs. If you need help pulling yourself over a wall: grab ahold-- I will help.

Arne Funke - Tough Mudder Berlin, Germany Finisher

In 2011, I weighed 120 kg (265 pounds), smoked and was asthmatic. I never walked more than 70 meters. Then something inside of me switched. I hiked 1,000km on the Camino de Santiago trail in Spain, lost 16kg (35 pounds) and was hooked. I knew I wanted to change who I was, so I started running on a regular basis. I gave up smoking in November 2012 and started training almost every day, losing another 35 kg (77 pounds) along the way.

Never get discouraged and let other people tell you what you can't do.

By 2013 I was participating in 5ks and other running events on a regular basis. Then came Tough Mudder Berlin. The atmosphere was fantastic and everyone was helping each other through the course. I learned that you can do anything you set your mind to. Never get discouraged and let other people tell you what you can't do. I’m now in the best shape of my life, and I’m planning on doing over 30 runs in 2015. [German to English translation by David Gordon.]

Having previously featured the inspiring Mudders of Scotland, Virginia, Whistler and Midlands-UK, our month of inspiration continues tomorrow, as we highlight the motivating Mudders of UK-Yorkshire, Rhein-Main (Germany), Portland and Pittsburgh/Ohio Valley. To share the story of your own Mudder journey, visit the official Mudders of 2014 page.