Tough It Out with Tough Mudders

Repeat after me:

“We understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. We put teamwork and camaraderie before our course time. We do not whine. We help our fellow mudders complete the course. We overcome all fears.”

That is the Tough Mudder Pledge, an oath that applies both on and off the track for those who are willing to dedicate themselves to the team-oriented 12-mile obstacle course.

Since the first Tough Mudder challenge, more than two million people worldwide have participated.

Founded in 2010 by a Harvard Business School graduate, Tough Mudder tests physical strength and mental grit. Unlike other challenges, it is not timed and does not award rankings to competitors. Instead, the main focus of this obstacle course is camaraderie; it is a teamwork-centric course, focusing mainly on values that encourage others to persevere and cross the finish line.

But reaching the end of the course is a difficult feat. Upon arriving at each new hurdle, challengers are greeted by signs with an evocative message: “Remember You Signed a Death Waiver.”

Along the 12-mile path, participants wade through a mile of waist-deep mud, run through dangling electrical wires, and leap over open fires. Tough Mudder prides itself on creating obstacles that contenders won’t find anywhere else. To help prepare for the arduous events that transpire throughout the course, Tough Mudder provides suggested high-intensity exercises for those in training.

Rob Chase, an engineer living in Colorado, has completed one Tough Mudder challenge and is currently in the midst of training for his second. He tells BTR that the endurance practice leading up to the event has not only prepared him for the obstacles, but also instilled values in him that have carried him through his everyday life.

“Tough Mudder is a linear system; the more you put into it, the more you get out of it,” says Chase. “It has helped me recognize other opportunities where a little more hard work and perseverance can pay dividends.”

For those who feel intimidated by the Tough Mudder, there is a milder option full of all the mud but half the distance. If six or twelve miles don’t seem strenuous enough, challengers can compete in the World’s Toughest Mudder, a grueling 24-hour obstacle.

The most dedicated participants continue to train and compete in Tough Mudder free of charge. More than 5000 competitors have permanently branded themselves with the Tough Mudder logo as a testament to their commitment and tenacity. Those who proudly don their ink receive complimentary entry into the next event. With each accomplished obstacle, contenders add another date to their tattoo.

Sean Thomsen currently has twelve dates eternally imprinted on his leg and he intends to add to his collection with each cross of the finish line.

“I got my first tattoo as a way to memorialize the events,” says Thomsen.”I keep getting them to be able to chronicle each experience I share with others on the course.”

Like Chase, Thomsen has acquired principles that have remained with him long after he washes the mud off of his clothes. He tells BTR that he has developed an understanding for his personal limits as well as a sense of empathy for others.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and others from Tough Mudder. Seeing that everyone has their own story, their own perspective, and their own triumphs is a truly heartwarming experience,” Thomsen shares.

And as is the main objective of Tough Mudder, Thomsen continues to support others and establish a sense of camaraderie in his personal relationships.

“Daily I am reminded that there are no compromises when it comes to bettering your best and maintaining your integrity. If I maintain that through everyday issues, I can hopefully inspire other people to do the same.”

To find an event near you, head to Tough Mudder’s website.

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr user The 621st Contingency Response Wing.

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