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.

John Tackett

John Tackett is a project manager for a large telecommunications company – the one with the death star like logo. When not sitting in front of a computer monitor, John can be found running or cycling the streets of Atlanta and getting muddy in the hills of North Georgia. John, aka Fireball, is a member of the Georgia Obstacle Racers and Mud Runners (GORMR), The Grey Berets and the Dirty Old Men OCR teams as well as a GORUCK GRT. If you see him at events, ask him for a shot of Fireball, he is usually carrying a bottle (or 2.)

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