There are many reasons to run a Tough Mudder, whether it’s reaching a fitness goal, taking advantage of a fun weekend with friends and family, raising money for charity, or simply getting outside of your comfort zone. Whatever your reason is, I can personally say I had one of the coolest experiences of my life on a Tough Mudder course recently. Here’s why:
I expected to run the course solo, but when I arrived, I saw a Facebook friend there, Eric Zucaro, who invited me to join him and his friends Zachary Wisnowski and Billy Richards, both of which had completed races the day before, in conquering the course. I accepted, but after dropping my bag off, I got separated from this crew. Not to worry though, about a mile into the event I caught up with the obstacle enthusiasts. They were literally walking the course since Zucaro had a fractured ankle and Wisnowski and Richards were carrying weighted backpacks (or “rucks” as you obstacle lovers like to call them). I personally had (and still have) a knee injury so walking with these guys was a great way to take in the awesome scenery, have fun conversation and prevent further injury. Here’s why I truly feel like I got the complete Tough Mudder experience that day.
In the months of April and May, Richards had completed a 70k(43.5 miles) two 50-mile races, a 50K-race(31 miles) two 100K-races (62.2 miles) a 31-mile obstacle course race, followed by the Long Island Marathon the next day. A former Marine and Army Infantry member, Richards’ purpose for this race was two-fold: push his limits and raise awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans
“I have done 11 Tough Mudders and this time, I wanted to complete a Tough Mudder the day after doing a 100K (62.2 mile) race,” says Richards, a Personal Trainer at the Gold's Gym in Islip, NY. “I like Tough Mudder because it is more of a challenge, there's no winners or losers. You can just go from obstacle to obstacle and have a fun day because you can do your best or if you want, you could just go out and be a kid again with some friends .It's almost like it's a "have it your way" type event.”
Richards was carrying a 45-pound weighted backpack on his back and the American Flag in his hands throughout the course.
“I started carrying the pack as a tribute to the military on 4th of July of 2014, and the following year on 4th of July, I started carrying the flag through all events,” says Richards. “I would later on that year join the Airborne Triathlete Team out of Long Island, running to raise awareness towards PTSD. This helps remind people that our veterans and servicemembers are still out there, and perhaps a call from a loved one, or a friend that happened to see the flag might help boost their morale.”
What made Tough Mudder different than other obstacle events I’ve completed is the idea that you’re there to help others. It’s hard for competitive people like myself to “let go” before an obstacle course event and just do it for the experience and not the time. Knowing that the people I was with were more physically conditioned than me, they were not as concerned for their finish time. Participating at the Tough Mudder, you win by helping others. As I walked the course with my new friends, I heard people shouting “Billy” and encouraging him. I was in tow with a Tough Mudder celebrity. Throughout the course, we all helped fellow Mudders and received help too.
The course had some unique obstacles: Rain Man was not friendly towards contact lenses since it spurted mud into your face as you climbed underneath a cage and King of Swingers guaranteed a drop and swim into a pool of water. King of Swingers is particularly challenging because after swinging forward while holding onto a bar, you have to jump out with hands and ring a bell. That bell is placed pretty far away from the where the trajectory of the swinging bar stops. Instead of dislodging the bar with both hands, I tried to reach out and ring the bell with one hand, and didn’t complete the obstacle. My penalty? Learning for next time. Everest 2.0, and Pyramid Scheme make teamwork a necessity since it’s virtually physically impossible to complete these obstacles alone. Upper body strength is a must for all of Tough Mudder’s obstacles and pulling others over walls and mud mounds makes your arms sore too, like after doing a few sets of pullups. The Legionnaire-exclusive Frequent Flyer’s Club is quite the thrill: jump out as far as you can and touch a nunchuck before landing on an inflatable cushion at least one story below.
No two Tough Mudder courses look alike - some placed atop ski mountains, others in the middle of desert landscapes, others across sprawling farmland. This particular 10 mile Tough Mudder course allowed me to soak in and appreciate lush greenery served up by Mother Nature between practicing my obstacle skills and meeting new people on the course. I arrived thinking I was alone, but I left having shared a unique experience with some inspirational and seriously hardcore folks.
After only meeting Richards once, I’ve already created his Mudder nickname: The Mud Terminator. Except, this Mud Terminator can let loose and just have fun.
For those of you who are participating in upcoming Tough Mudders, make the most of your experience by making new friends and pushing each other to do your best. At the end of the day, the real prize doesn't come from being the first across the finish line, but by conquering something new together as a team.
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