It’s a cold, damp and gray day in November on the infield of Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey. A horde of icy, dirty, mud-caked individuals are finishing up the last obstacle of some medieval times inspired gauntlet. It is a series of live wires. Just the kind of thing you want to run through after hours of trudging through freezing water and mud thicker than molasses. Among those at the finish line with relieved faces are Saudy Tejada and Paola Ronquillo Floyd, athletes from the TriLatino triathlon club. They wear teeth-chattering smiles barely visible through their darkened faces and a look that says, “Did I just do that?” That something cannot be described as a race, but rather an exercise in survival. Welcome to Tough Mudder.
What The Hell Is This?
Tough Mudder is a hardcore 10 to 12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. Competitors traipse through more than 20 obstacles like the Turds’ Nest, a cargo net suspended 15 feet above whatever (barbed wire, rivers, etc.) that will test your upper body strength and core fitness, the Fire Walker which challenges your feet and courage as you literally run through a field of fire and Twinkle Toes a walk across a balance beam over a pit of frigid water that will reward your balance or punish your limited dexterity. Tough Mudder isn’t a race, so it’s not timed but the average Tough Mudder will complete the course in about three hours. If this sounds slightly left of center, it’s because it is. It’s the latest fitness craze for those seeking adventure that is the brainchild of Will Dean, a former counter-terrorism agent for the British government.
While getting his MBA at Harvard University, Dean founded this competition along with fellow compatriot, Guy Livingstone in response to
“the unimaginative and repetitive marathons, triathlons, mud runs and other adventures.”
The first event was held May 2, 2010 at the Bear Creek Ski Resort near Allentown, PA. They had hoped to attract at least 500 competitors. They received 4,500 participants for that first event and raised over $200,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project, an organization that provides programs and services to severely injured military service members. Two additional events were added in 2010. In 2011, Mudder grew to 14 events across the U.S. The company will host 35 events this year. Each season culminates with the World’s Toughest Mudder event designed to find the toughest man, woman and four-man team.