Tough mudder is all about the stories

Tough Mudder in Wisconsin
Jennifer Rice photo
Participants in the most recent Tough Mudder, held in Wisconsin last weekend, make their way through the last obstacle of the race, the Electroshock Therapy. Some dangling wires carry a 10,000-volt shock, which drops you to the ground.

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor

MERRIMAC, WIS — It’s difficult to know where to start when trying to sum up a Tough Mudder experience. On the surface, it’s a 10-mile running race on a ski hill with 25 obstacles. It’s designed by British Special Forces with the tag line: Probably the toughest event on the planet.
This race is so much more than that. It’s a day like none other. When you finish the race, you think you’ve got no energy to make it through the rest of the day, but that’s when you’re second wind kicks in.
High from achieving your goal of finishing, you can’t wait to unwind at the post-party with a banana, a Clif Bar and a beer, or two or three. The post-party is when find out who your fellow Mudders really are, where they’re from and why they came.
Race spectators, which mingle and blend in with the runners, all want to know the same thing. “What it’s like to run through the final obstacle — the Electroshock Therapy?
It’s intimidating as hell, I explain, but I was lucky enough not to get a taste of a 10,000-volt electrical wire. My fiancée was not so lucky. He took one on the thigh. This obstacle is a shoddy built, wooden structure with hundreds of dangling electrical wires, like wet spaghetti noodles, some carrying a 10,000-volt charge.
Tough Mudder crew member, Dan, said he volunteered not once; not twice; not three times, but FOUR times to run through the Electroshock Therapy with wary runners who didn’t want to go it alone.
“And I got hit four times,” he said, raising his right hand, displaying four fingers, as if a visual would drive home the point a little better.
“And I face-plated in the mud four times,” he said again, along with the four-finger visual. “You know what that does to my contacts?” he asked.
Messes them up pretty good, I answer. Up until this point, I thought his blood shot eyes were due to excessive drinking. I was half right. “Oh, their red from that, too. But mostly from the mud,” Dan said.
A trip to the medic tent for a saline rinse did little to reduce the redness. “It’s all good,” he said. “A lot worse things happened today than my eyes.”
Really, like what? That’s when fellow crew member Cindy, a nurse when she’s not pumping water at aid stations for runners, chimed in. “A guy broke his femur on the quarter pipe,” she said. I noticed she made a point to use the word ‘femur’ and not ‘leg.’
“It takes a tremendous amount of force to break a femur. It’s the strongest bone in your body, did you know that?” she asked me. Not off hand, no, I didn’t. “He’s going to need surgery,” she said, very matter-of-factly.
The quarter pipe is an obstacle Tough Mudders refer to as Everest. With help from fellow Mudders who sit at the top, you sprint as hard as you can, throw your arms towards the top, and hope two people grab your arms to pull you up and over. If you can’t make it up, you tumble/slide/roll to the bottom and try again.
“The Flight for Life flew onto the course to airlift him off,” Cindy said. Shortly after finishing the race, I had seen the helicopter. Every body had seen the bright, red helicopter with the white medical cross on it.
“It takes a tremendous amount of force to break a femur,” Cindy repeated again. That’s when it dawned on me that the idea of Tough Mudder is not really to win, but to finish; have a story to tell and to make sure the story wasn’t about you.

Jennifer Rice’s e-mail address is

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2 thoughts on “Tough mudder is all about the stories

  1. I did the one recently near Dallas Apr 1st. It’s lots of fun. I got shocked a few times, including one to my shoulder. I tried the quarter pipe, running fast towards. I did not make it as I tumbled down hitting my head on the pipe. I tried again, but was more cautious, since after hitting my head on the pipe, I did not want to seriously injure myself.

    Quarter pipe is hard, as I can not see myself getting over.

    Tough mudder is fun. I recommend it, but you have to be in shape, so train hard (i.e, running upperbody strength stuff).

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