Safety Standards Heading to Obstacle Course Racing?

Terrain-Race-Chicago-Cargo-After

“I know I signed a waiver, but this is still safe, right?”

I expect I am not the only person who has gone to a race, seen an obstacle and wondered how safe it really is. Was it something that looked like it had been assembled hastily, or was it something sturdy that is cleverly designed to look like it is less stable than it really is? The whole point of the sport is to get people outside of their comfort zones, but no one wants a race to end with a trip to the emergency room – not the racers, not the race directors, and certainly not the organizations that are trying to build the sport up.

Another question I find myself asking at races is “How can this obstacle possibly be insurable?” Unfortunately, as a lawyer I tend to see far too much of the world through the lenses of liability and litigation. As the sport of OCR has grown from practically nothing to a major industry in less than a decade, more participants and more dollars being spent has meant that more lawyers have gotten involved, often with the effect of making things less fun for everyone. Sorry about that.

Nevertheless, it is in the best interest of everyone involved to keep the risks of OCR in check, and to make sure that the sport challenges us, and even sometimes scares us, but that it doesn’t hurt us (at least not too much). This is why races are coming together around the idea of implementing safety standards.

For most organized events, there are industry standards about what preparations must take place to make sure the event is safe enough for everyone to enjoy and to make sure that in the event something goes wrong, the problems can be addressed quickly. Some of these precautions we take for granted: the lifeguard at the swimming pool. Others we may not even notice: your garden variety 5K will have lots of safety measures in place, even though most racers will never be aware of, say, the medical staff hanging back ready to react if someone gets hurt.

Sometimes these safety measures are put in place because local laws require them – the health code that mandates testing the water quality of a swimming pool, or a building code that requires enough fire exits for a concert venue. For other events, it can be an insurance company that mandates how much safety planning has to occur before a policy gets issued (those medics at the 5K). The regulations and insurance policies have all been developed over decades of trial and error, and people in those industries know what to expect. The organizer of the local triathlon will know that the insurance carrier requires so many water safety staff per 100 racers or medical personnel with radios every so many miles on the run course.

OCR is brand new, and therefore decades behind in developing standards that race organizers and the companies that insure their events can rely on. To make up for lost time, a number of the largest race companies approached ASTM International to put together safety guidelines. ASTM is a non-profit that brings an industry’s constituents together to agree to safety standards. These standards turn into guidelines that insurance companies and government agencies can then turn to when issuing policies, granting permits and drafting regulations, though ASTM itself goes to great lengths to make sure that they play no part in that role, in order to maintain their independence. For more on how ASTM is involved in recreational safety, you might watch this helpful cartoon.

How do the standards come to be? Interested parties are invited to draft standards. The drafts are circulated to the committee of people who have volunteered to assemble the standards, and ASTM facilitates the process. The committee then asks for comments. Based on those comments, they tweak the rules, lather, rinse, and repeat until a consensus is reached. ASTM then publishes the rules, putting them out in the world for the industry to rely on. The drafters meet twice a year, and at least very five years the rules are reviewed to make sure they work in the way the drafters hoped. Any unintended consequences get ironed out, and any previously unforeseen needs are addressed.

What does it mean for race organizers? Once the standards are agreed to, insurance companies can require that races comply with the standards in order to have policies issued. This may sound intimidating, but practically speaking it can benefit both sides. Insurance companies want to avoid risk. When they can minimize risk by requiring the insured races to implement features that will minimize potential harm, they can charge the races less for those policies.

Tough Mudder Block Ness

How deep is that water?

It’s not easy to make an explanation of insurance policies entertaining, but I’ll try with some made-up examples: if a race has water crossings on the course, that makes it more expensive to insure, because when you put people near water, there is a risk they will drown. The standards might say that, if the water is no deeper than three feet and the crossing is less than twenty feet, at least one safety monitor must be present to make sure the racers do not trip and accidentally drown (you can drown in as little as six inches of water! Lawyers worry about this!). However, if a water crossing is more than three feet deep, then the organizers need to have, say, two safety monitors at the crossing, one equipped with some kind of buoyancy life-saving device. This means getting more staff and more equipment and paying a higher premium for the riskier crossing on the course. At the same time, the race that has the shallower water crossing will pay a smaller premium, because the standards show that the crossing is less risky. The standards give the insurance companies something to work with, a technique to determine which races are bigger risks and which are smaller risks. This benefits the race organizers because, without the standards, the insurance companies would have simply categorized both races as equally risky, and they would have charged higher rates accordingly.

How do races try to work with their insurance carriers? They approach ASTM. Here’s a statement the Big Three issued:

“Spartan Race, Tough Mudder, and Warrior Dash are currently working together with other interested stakeholders in ASTM International, a globally recognized standards developer, to help formulate obstacle course racing industry standards. As industry leaders, we recognize the need to harmonize standards and provide guidelines to existing and new event producers to ensure that the industry continues to make participant safety a top priority. We invite and encourage other OCR producers, operators and safety leaders to help with this process. Anyone interested can contact ASTM International F24 Staff Manager Katerina Koperna at kkoperna@astm.org.”

When I learned that the main drivers behind the move to implement standards were the big three races, I was worried that they would draft the standards in such a way as to make it difficult for other operators to enter the market. While the big races have been great for getting OCR into the mainstream, the early days of the industry showed that the companies behind them were willing to play a little dirty (poaching race venues, etc.), and I thought the standards could discriminate against the mom-and-pop races, as well as new races that help keep innovation alive. ASTM is aware of this risk, and they told me: “having a standards development process in place is helpful to entrepreneurs and small businesses that want a seat at the table.  Our process is open to them, and anyone can submit what are called ‘negative’ votes that must be addressed before the standard is published.” The standards can help these smaller races, not only by making insurance easier to come by, but also in providing guidance in how to create a safe obstacle course. As new races popped up all over the country, the wheel got reinvented over and over again as course designers tried to figure out how to build safe course, not always successfully. If a new course designer can rely on published standards, he can build an obstacle he knows is safe. Trial and error isn’t always the best way to design an obstacle, especially when error can lead to a trip to the hospital. Finally, if a small operator doesn’t have the ability to design and build a course that meets with basic safety standards, maybe that operator shouldn’t be in the business of organizing obstacle course races.

muddy-red-deer

Defying certain death on the monkey bars

What does this mean for racers? For starters, it means safer obstacles. We all want to feel like we cheated death by pulling ourselves across the monkey bars. We don’t want to go to the hospital after an A-frame collapses . It can also mean lower race fees, if lower insurance costs get passed along to the racers. It can mean that new races aren’t as much of a gamble, as their organizers can rely on the standards as guidelines for safe obstacle construction. I worry that it might lead to some cookie-cutter standardization of obstacles, but that is something that can happen even in the absence of published standards.

The process of drafting the standards is long. What does it mean for the sport today? It means that you should get involved. Anyone can send the committee suggestions: ASTM values openness as part of the process, and the more people who get involved, the better the end product will be. An ASTM spokesman told me about the father of a hockey player who was concerned about his hockey-playing son’s safety and got involved in drafting the new standards for neck guards. People who work first hand with any product are going to understand the pros and cons even better, and this is why I would suggest that racers get involved. Elite racers, who are hoping to make a living on these courses, have even more reason to get involved, not just to offer their personal expertise, but to have an influence on making their workplace – the obstacles – a safe place.

No one wants to remove all the risk from OCR, and these standards will not prevent the cuts and scrapes that show up as pictures on social media every Monday. The standards will not prevent some more serious injuries either. While the races keep very quiet about this data, anecdotal evidence suggests that the biggest cause of race injuries is when racers take bad landings off 8- and 12-foot walls. Racers get so involved in how they are going to get to the top of the wall that they ignore the importance of a soft landing, and twisted ankles are one of the main reasons racers need medical attention. Risk and the perception of overcoming risk are at the heart of the sport – otherwise we would all be running 10Ks every weekend, right? Keeping that risk at an acceptable level, by implementing industry standards, is a good thing for us all.

Tacoma Mud Run Fire Jump

Will fire jumps still be OK? Get involved and find out.

 

Here’s ASTM’s press release on the subject:
Proposed ASTM International Standard Will Support Land-Based Obstacle Courses

ASTM International’s committee on amusement rides and devices, and its subcommittee on adventure attractions are developing a standard that will provide guidelines for building and operating obstacle racing courses. Anyone interested in helping develop this standard is welcome to join and get involved.

The obstacle course racing community has grown significantly in recent years. Designers, owners, builders, and operators could benefit from this proposed standard, currently known as the work item: “New Practice for Design, Construction, Operation, Inspection, Safety, and Maintenance of Land-Based Pedestrian Obstacle Courses” (WK54714).

The scope of this proposed standard also includes removing obvious hazardous conditions by logically applying existing standards and model codes.  Also according to its scope, this standard will not address attractions such as ropes courses or zip lines, nor will it purport to address all of the safety concerns associated with the standard’s use. (It will be the responsibility of the user of the standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices prior to use.)

This animated video shows other examples of ASTM International standards that help support safety of recreational activities.

ASTM Committee F24 on Amusement Rides and Devices Next Meeting: October 11-14, 2017, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA

Media Inquiries: Dan Bergels, tel +1.610.832.9602; dbergels@astm.org

ASTM Staff Contact: Katerina Koperna, tel. +1.610.832.9728; kkoperna@astm.org

Release #10282

March 22, 2017

The Ultimate Beastmaster

Ok boys and girls.. What do you get when you cross American Ninja Warriors with the Olympics? You get The Ultimate Beastmaster, a new show available only on Netflix. Premiering on February 24th, this show came across my radar so I decided to see what it was all about and share my findings with you all. One of the first things I noticed was that Sylvester Stallone is the executive producer of the show. Hmm, why does this not give me confidence?

Basically we have contestants from 6 countries, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico. South Korea and The United States. But wait, there’s more.. the show has 6, count’em 6, county-specific versions, each with their own hosts. So not only do we as the US audience have the US hosts, Terry Crews and Charissa Thompson, but we snippets of the host from the other 5 countries, Anderson Silva and Rafinha Bastos (Brazil); Seo Kyung Suk and Park Kyeong Rim (South Korea); Ines Sainz and Luis Ernesto Franco (Mexico); Hans Sarpei and Luke Mockridge (Germany); and Sayaka Akimoto and Yuji Kondo (Japan.)

There are 4 levels of the course within the “Beast.” And yes, the course from the outside looks like a giant chinese mechanized dragon. The contestants move thorough the levels by finishing among the top at each level. Level 1 starts with 12 contestants (2 per country) and the top 8 finishers move onto Level 2. The top 5 contestants from level 2 move onto level 3, also known as the Energy Pyramid. And the top 2 contestants from that level move onto the final level 4, known as the The Power Source. With all scores wiped out at this level, the person that scores the most points during this level wins the title of Beastmaster.

The Beastmaster’s from each episode meet in the season finale in the hopes of becoming “The Ultimate Beastmaster.”

The athletes come from various sports; triathletes, rock climbers, gymnast, military, an NFL player, parkour athletes, who I would think would excel on this type of course, crossfit instructors, Olympic swimmer Ed Moses from the 2000 Summer Olympics where he won a gold and silver medal (and at the age of 35, one of the oldest contestants on the show), and yes, even an Obstacle Course Racer, Shaun Provost, seen in episode 1.

The first thing I DID NOT like about the show is the fact they they released all 10 episodes at one time. Really Netflix, while that may be good for shows such as Daredevil and Luke Cage, it does not seem like a smart move to give viewers the ability to skip all 9 episodes and get right to the season finale.

I have never been a fan of the American Ninja Warrior shows, finding them a bit too cheesy for me. But the Ultimate Beastmaster is cheesier than the Hickory Farms kiosk at the mall during Christmas. The host do nothing for the show other than to act as glorified national cheerleaders. And having 6 different hosts teams (yes, we see all 6 of the county host teams at various times throughout the show) just added to it. And to have the water colored red and called “beast blood.” Seriously!

Another thing that irked me was that during some of the shows, some of the contestants who started later in the flow of  the 1st level knew they had enough points to advance so they purposely failed an obstacle. While this may seem like a strategy for keeping healthy for the other levels, I felt like as an audience member I was being cheated in some way. I mean just imagine if an Olympic runner started to walk during a race because he know that the other contestants had fallen down and gotten hurt and he/she they did not have to push themselves.

But there were some things I did like; the design of the obstacles themselves; challenging at first and getting progressively harder at each level. And a contestant could get “Point Thrusters” along the course, each worth 10 additional point, so this could add to their point lead which came in handy if they failed the last obstacle on each level. One of my fav obstacles in the show was the “Mag Wall.” Basically a climbing wall, but some of the holds are attached magnetically and subject to “falling” off the wall, thus dropping the contestant or making it harder for the contestant to complete the wall. Another fav of mine is the “Prism Strike” on level 3. Here the competitors must hold onto the rope handle as it swings through a curved track. And if they are good enough, they can snag some points at the Point Thruster along the track.

Was the show worth watching all 10 episodes? NO! I felt that I wasted the first 9 hours I spent watching the show leading up to the final. You really do not form a relationship with any of the contestants while watching the show. And despite my earlier comment about Netflix making all 10 episodes available at once, if you are interested in the show, watch episode 10; you see all the obstacles and only have to endure it for 60 minutes.

If you are a Netflix member, you can watch the show here.

All images courtesy of Netflix.

Norm Koch Leaves Spartan Race

Norm Koch Spartan Race

Norm Koch has been a familiar face at Spartan Race since 2012. Many of us encountered him at the first ever Spartan Ultra Beast in Killington, VT. in September of that year. Back then, he was one of the only full time race directors at Spartan. He was known to design courses that tested athletes in ways that surpassed their limits. He is a visionary in the realm of obstacle course design and execution.

Participants developed a love, hate relationship with his particular style of torture.  In turn they birthed the battle cry , “EFF NORM!” This infamous cry became the racers mantra and echoed through courses (and Facebook) around the country.

His Spartan journey began as an early participant (and finisher) of the now defunct Death Races. He soon began working for Joe, and grew shortly thereafter into an iconic race director. He informed me yesterday that he is leaving Spartan Race.

These are his words:

So its finally happening, I will not be representing Spartan moving forward. My opinions and ideas are mine and mine alone. Muhahahah

I would like to thank most of the Spartan Staff for the opportunity to work with everyone on the team. We have had some good times. I will miss the build crews and a few of the office people. The best has been meeting all the volunteers and competitors. It’s been so cool to find so many like-minded people.

I do love seeing everyone at races no matter what the race series is. I am looking forward to being more supportive of OCR community.

• I would say I’m leaving Spartan, not OCR.

• My ideas and Spartan have changed, I feel an inability to make the changes that I wanted to due to the size of the company

• Everyone knows I’m proud of being part of Spartan since the early days and help shaped its growth over the years.

• I love Spartan and it will always be a part of me, literally my calf tattoo is representative of my Death Race participation – The good old days.

• This is not me leaving the sport moreover me looking to do something new.

• I would love to do something like designing courses for existing series and working with their brands to offer signature courses,

Starting a new series where I have complete creative control over the process is my goal. Any investors feel free to hit me up…. hahahaha.

Tough Mudder Introduces New Prizes And “The Holy Grail”

This morning, Tough Mudder announced some details around their competitive series, including new info about Tougher Mudder series, some updates around World’s Toughest Mudder, and they introduced “The Holy Grail”.

Here are some highlights from the press release and the new Tough Mudder competitive series homepage:

  • First woman individual to get 100 miles at WTM earns $50,000.
  • First male individual to get 110 miles at WTM earns $50,000.
  • Most cumulative miles earns $10,000 for top male and female at end of Toughest series.
  • $5,000 bonus at Toughest for first male and female to reach 50 miles at each event.
  • The Holy Grail – An actual grail plus additional swag for completing a Tougher, Toughest, and World’s Toughest within the calendar year of 2017.

We have a call with TMHQ on Thursday to get additional details so stay tuned.

TOUGH MUDDER TO DEBUT “TOUGHER MUDDER” COMPETITVE EVENT SERIES

CBS Sports Network and CBS Sports to Televise Toughest Mudder and World’s Toughest Mudder Events

Active Lifestyle Brand to Offer More Than $350,000 in Prize Money in 2017

NEW YORK, NY (March 7, 2017) – Tough Mudder Inc., will debut its newest competitive event series, Tougher Mudder, at events worldwide beginning in New Orleans on March 18th. The next evolution of the company’s event series, Tougher Mudder is a competitive start wave that will be held at every Tough Mudder Weekend in 2017, and the top three male and female winners will be awarded prize money. Tough Mudder, the leading active lifestyle brand, will be offering more than $350,000 in prize money across its suite of competitive event series in 2017.

At World’s Toughest Mudder 2017, the culminating event of the Tough Mudder event season, $170,000 will be awarded during the grueling 24-hour endurance competition, which is being held at Lake Las Vegas on Nov. 11-12. The Toughest Mudder series, six global, eight-hour, overnight competitive races, will bestow more than $100,000 in prize money during its inaugural season.

Tough Mudder, Inc. is also launching Tough Mudder 5K in Nashville on August 12 to meet the growing demand of metropolitan people who are attracted to mud runs, as well as to serve as an entry point to obstacle challenges. The 3.1-mile event will provide an accessible yet rewarding challenge for city dwellers and will feature more than 10 signature Tough Mudder obstacles, excluding the more extreme elements, like ice and electricity found in the 10-12 mile event.

For the first time ever, CBS Sports Network will televise six regional qualifying events, with programming beginning in June. Tough Mudder will bring all the action to viewers across broadcast, cable and digital platforms, including CBSSports.com and the CBS Sports app. CBS Sports Network’s coverage will bring viewers behind-the-scenes providing a first-hand experience as participants train and compete on the road to being crowned World’s Toughest Mudder. World’s Toughest Mudder culminates with a broadcast on CBS in December.

“Tough Mudder is thrilled to debut three new event series in 2017 – Tougher Mudder, Toughest Mudder and Tough Mudder 5K,” said Will Dean, CEO and Co-founder of Tough Mudder, Inc. “We remain dedicated to innovation and the development of new products and entry points that enable millions of people around the world to be part of Mudder Nation, furthering our position as a global leader in the active lifestyle and endurance sports categories.”

The competitive event series prizing is as follows:
• World’s Toughest Mudder – Competitors are eligible for more than $170,000 in total prize money. Individuals can win bonus prizes of $50,000 by being the first female who completes 100 miles or male who completes 110 miles during the 24-hour race.

• Toughest Mudder – With over $100,000 up for grabs in 2017, more than $17,000 will go to the top five male and female finishers, including bonus prizing of $5,000 for the first male and female to reach 50 miles at each event.

An additional $10,000 will be bestowed to the top male and female finishers with the most miles at the end of the Toughest Mudder events season, Participants will be ranked, and the qualifying ranking, a minimum of 25 miles completed at Toughest Mudder, enables individuals to qualify for the “Contender Category” at World’s Toughest Mudder and be eligible for additional prizing.

• Tougher Mudder – $1,700 in prize money will be awarded at each event for top male and female finishers, totaling nearly $70,000 for the year.
The new competitive event series and enhanced prizing expands Tough Mudder, Inc.’s global footprint as an industry leader. It demonstrates the company’s commitment towards innovation with its newest offering for the fast-growing active lifestyle and endurance sports communities, encouraging team-building and facilitating World’s Toughest Mudder training.
World’s Toughest Mudder 2016 set industry records, drawing 3.6 million views with more than 3.5 million minutes of coverage consumed across Tough Mudder digital platforms by fans in more than 200 countries tuning in. Tough Mudder’s proprietary live stream drew nearly 1 million views and more than 439,000 unique viewers on Tough Mudder digital platforms including mobile devices, computers, and OTT devices, and Tough Mudder’s Facebook Live steam garnered more than 2.6 Million views with an organic reach of 14.2 Million

For more information on Tough Mudder and to see the 2017 schedule of events, visit toughmudder.com. Join the conversation on social by following Tough Mudder on Twitter at @ToughMudder, on Instagram @Tough_Mudder, on Facebook at facebook.com/toughmudder on Snapchat at Tough.Mudder and on YouTube at YouTube.com/ToughMudder.
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About Tough Mudder, Inc.:
Founded in 2010 with the launch of the Tough Mudder Full event series of 10-12 mile obstacle courses, Tough Mudder Inc. has since grown to become a leading active lifestyle company and leader in sports video content creation and distribution. The brand includes: Mini Mudder, a 1-mile obstacle course designed for kids ages 7-12; Tough Mudder 5K, an accessible yet rewarding challenge packing signature Tough Mudder obstacles into a 3.1-mile course; Tough Mudder Half, an obstacle course challenge bringing the thrills of Tough Mudder to a 5-mile course; Tough Mudder, a competitive start wave that takes place during all Tough Mudder Weekends; Toughest Mudder, an eight-hour, overnight competition series; and World’s Toughest Mudder, a gruelling 24-hour endurance competition. The brand also encompasses an extremely vibrant engaging social and digital community and serves as a destination for fitness, nutrition and wellness content delivered across multiple platforms. The Tough Mudder family of brands and online community is united by a commitment to promoting courage, personal accomplishment and teamwork through unconventional, life-changing experiences. With more than 2.5 million participants globally to date, Tough Mudder Inc. will host more than 130 events worldwide in 2017 in nearly a dozen countries, including Asia, Australia and more through its partnerships with IMG, Seroja and Sports Media and Entertainment 360 (SME360). More than 20 of the world’s leading brands are sponsorship and content distribution partners, including Merrell, Jeep, Kingstone Press, Vega, Olympus, For Goodness Shakes, Bosch, Snapchat, Live Stream, Sky Sports, ESPN Media Distribution, The CW and CBS Sports. To join the conversation, follow Tough Mudder on Facebook at facebook.com/toughmudder, on Twitter @ToughMudder, and on Instagram @Tough_Mudder.

Media Contacts:

Angela Alfano
(703) 447-5629
Angela.Alfano@ToughMudder.com

Jodi Kovacs
(732) 597-2094
Jodi.Kovacs@ToughMudder.com

Ethan Metelenis
(917) 882-9038
Ethan.Metelenis@ToughMudder.com

Robert Zimmerman
(917) 543-1046

Rob@zimstrategies.com

 

 

CW Presents: “Tough Mudder – The Challenge Within”

Spartan Race has done TV specials as has Battlefrog Race series so what makes this show about Tough Mudder different? It is not about elite racers but instead focuses on 3 average participants, each overcoming their own personal obstacles. And that right there was enough for me to look forward to the show. I have battled many things in the past 12 years so seeing these 3 participants as they struggle with their lives allowed me to bond with each of them.

Now if you have been watching the TM shorts on the CWSeed, you already know their stories but lets do a review:

  1. We have Bobby and his brothers Brandt and Jimmy who hail from NJ. Bobby suffers from MS and we learn how as brothers they have always been there for each other and how this is so important in their Tough Mudder experiences. Click here to learn more about Bobby.
  2. We have Mirna from Georgia. A health scare is what prompted her to start running and doing OCR’s. blog called Fat Girl Running. Here she provides inspiration and motivation to many people who felt that their size was a hindrance to them running and doing OCR’s. Click here to learn more about Mirna.
  3. And finally we have Denise, a veteran from NH who is struggling with injuries she received during the first Gulf war. She hopes that the upcoming Tough Mudder will bring a bit closer to overcoming her anxiety. Click here to learn more about Denise.

In tonight’s show, we follow the 3 participants as they come face to face with some of the challenging obstacles in the Tough Mudder event held in Englishtown, NJ.

As with any Tough Mudder event, we see the the emcee, Sean Corvelle, as he motivates the crowd at the start line. There are only a couple of race emcee’s I know that do this well, and Sean is among the best. He introduces the 3 participants, Bobby, Mirna and Denise, and gives the crowd a brief overview of who they are, and why this race is so important to them.

So we begin at obstacle #1, Rain Man. Basically a trough full of water but covers with fencing so that only about 6-8 inches of space exist between the top of the water and the fencing. This can be claustrophobic for some racers and here Bobby gulps in some water and panics a bit but all make it through.

Next up, the Birth Canal. This obstacle is water in plastic troughs that leave just enough space between the bottom and the ground for a person to crawl through. In some cases not even that much room. Many racers, including Mirna, feel out of their comfort zone doing this obstacle.

We see Denise tackling the next obstacle, the Hero Carry. For her it is a throwback to her days in the military. We then come to one of the tougher obstacles for Tough Mudder, the Pyramid Scheme. It is a slanted wall that requires you to crawl, walk or slither your way over your teammates and other participants to get to the top. Mirna has some concern that her being a large person may be a hindrance on the obstacle. This obstacle also poses an issue for Denise who suffers from PTS and being in a large group can trigger her symptoms. She gets to the top but her fear of height kick in and she begins to panic. Mirna, who has completed the obstacle sees this and begins to offer words of support. Denise is able to make it down and thanks Mirna for her support. Hearing that Mirna is running it alone, she invites Mirna to join her team for the rest of the course.

Obstacle #6 is the Funky Monkey, a favorite of many Tough Mudder participants. This is not really a team obstacle as it requires the individual to cross a pool of water on what are essentially monkey bars. But add mud and water to the bars and they become even more challenging. During this obstacle, Bobby suffers a mild episode due to his MS and falls into the water. As he climbs out he is given words of support form his bothers as the head to obstacle #7, the Mud Mile.

The Mud mile, while not a mile in length, can seem like 40 miles to the participants. It consists of sections of ankle thick mud and pits full of water and mud that you have to climb out of and over into the next pit. It is here that we learn a bit more about Mirna as well. It was her concern over her health after a health scare that prompted her to start running. She started with 5k’s and then 10k’s and eventually got to running marathons, completing a number of them. She then transitioned over to doing Tough Mudders. This is a very familiar story for many OCR racers, such as myself. A desire to get your health under control has been the motivation for many. As Mirna completes the Mud Mile, she is united with her family who have come to cheer her on.

As we jump ahead on the course we get to Obstacle #12, The Arctic Enema. Best way to describe this obstacle is imagine you are jumping into a lake in the middle of winter, and there are is ice on the lake. Yup, your system takes a shock as the cold water and ice hits your body. The best ways to overcome this, as Denise states, is “Mind over Matter and don’t panic.”

Next up is the Balls to the Walls obstacle. Basically a wall climb using a rope. By now we see that Bobby is starting to feel the effects of his MS. Bobby who is supported by his brothers Brandt and Jimmy, have always been there for each other. We see Bobby struggle with a test with his physical therapist and how MS is affecting him now and how it will in the future. What transcends from this segment of the show is one of the basic foundations of Tough Mudder: Camaraderie.

We are getting to the end of the event as our 3 participants hit obstacle #17, King of the Swingers. For Denise, this is a major obstacle to overcome. Not only is she high up on a platform, but she must run out, catch the swinging bar and then try to ring the bell before falling into a pool of water. Her fear of heights is evident by the look on her face as the panic begins to set it. As mentioned earlier, Denise, as mentioned earlier, is a Iraqi war veteran who is suffering from PTS. One of the affects from PTS is her lack of comfort in large group situations. She also suffered injuries in a tank accident, one that she does not really remember except for recalling the sounds of the event. This, as we find out during the show, is a cause of her fear of heights.

As we get to Everest 2.0, obstacle #19, we can see that all of our participants are starting to feel the affects of the course. Bobby comments that he is seeing folks without diseases dropping like flies does not bode well for Bobby and his ability to complete this obstacle (and the course.) He makes an attempt but just cannot grasp the hands of his brothers who are waiting for him at the top. By the now the crowd is starting to chant his name, “Bobby! Bobby!, Bobby!” as he makes a second attempt to make it. He grabs the hands of both of his brothers but looses his grip on the left hand. His right hand is firmly gripped onto his brother hand as they slowly manage to pull him up and over the top of Everest 2.0.

And we finally reach the end of the course and the final obstacle, the dreaded Electroshock Therapy. This is probably the only obstacle that I fear when I run a Tough Mudder. We see others getting “zapped” as they attempt. With anywhere form 1,000 to 10,000 volts going through those wires, it is enough to make you question your sanity. Electroshock Therapy’s amperage is at about 10 amps, putting a shock from that obstacle on par with getting tased (about 14 amps). Not a pleasant feeling. But Bobby and his brothers, as well as Denise and Mirna all successfully complete the obstacle and event.

So as all 3 of them complete the event, I can recall my first Tough Mudder and the sense of accomplishment that came over me. I am sure that many of you reading this felt the same way. For me as a reviewer, the high point of the show was seeing Sean put the Tough Mudder headbands on their heads. Especially Bobby who has just completed his 10th Tough Mudder, while suffering from the affects of MS. We saw Denise overcame her inner demons to complete the event and Mirna has shown to use all that your shape does not define you or your abilities. Kudos to Bobby, Denise and Mirna for all you have overcome and for showing us that everyday people can be heroes on the course.

Tough Mudder Short #5: Finish Strong

As I mentioned in my previous review, there are a total of five shorts, 6-7 minutes long, available for viewing on the CW Seed website. These shorts are a buildup to the television airing of Tough Mudder: The Challenge Within on Valentines day. The final short previews the 3 participants the day before the Tough Mudder event in Englishtown, NJ.

A brief overview of our three participants; Mirna is from GA and despite being a large person, wants to show others that your size should not be a hindrance to your goals. Bobby is a 50 year old NJ man trying to battle MS with the support of his brothers. And our 3rd participant is Denise, a veteran from NH who suffers from PTSD from injuries she received in the first Gulf war who is uncomfortable around large groups of people.

We first see Mirna as she receives a call from Sean on her computer. Sean mentions that one of the cool things he loves about his job is to call and speak to those that inspire him, and Mirna is one of those people. Mirna’s goals are for her family to see her doing things that look impossible and to motivate them, as well as others. As we leave Mirna she is giving her son and hug and getting into her car.

Next we see Denise as she is out for an evening walk the night before the event talking to her husband, Patrick. She is discussing how this TM is going to be different than others she has done, especially the new obstacles. When asked by Patrick what she is looking to get out of it, she states that she wants to get out of her shell. To overcome her fear of people and that she does not feel normal around people.

And finally we see Bobby and his brothers. Bobby is getting things packed for the event, deciding on what headband to wear and the shirt his brother and him will each be wearing. As is tradition with him and his brothers, the night before they gather around and have a drink. We leave them as they make the toast and have that drink.

The final scenes of the short are at the start of the NJ event as they and other TM’ers are being inspired and motivated by the TM emcee, Sean Corvelle. There are brief glimpse of each of them, as well as the crowd as Sean get them pumped up for the days run. As the short ends, we see the participants beginning their run with the traditional Tough Mudder orange cloud of smoke.

The CW will air the TV broadcast of Tough Mudder: The Challenge Within, on February 14th at 8pm ET/7pm CT.  Check your local listings for the CW channel on your cable or satellite system and look for my recap of the show shortly thereafter.

As a reminder, you can watch the 5 shorts on the CW seed on Apple TV, Roku or your smartphone by using the CW Seed app.