After a particularly strenuous workout, it is typically two days before the pain hits me. It's a thing I can't explain, but the debilitating soreness that comes arrives the day after the day after. The day after Tough Mudder I was feeling OK. The day after the day after I felt like I had been hit by a truck. Just rising from bed in the morning required a re-evaluation of my entire existence to see if it was worth continuing.
Tough Mudder is one brand, maybe the premier, of obstacle course/race that have been growing in popularity in the fitness industry for quite some time now. They range from things like mud runs -- which are exactly what they sound like, runs through the mud for fun -- to races with a few playground style obstacles, to full on military style challenge courses like Tough Mudder or it's comparable, Spartan Race.
Tough Mudder is team oriented. You can do it yourself, but there are obstacles that you would have to be super-human to complete on your own. Still, it's OK to go alone, because part of the attraction of Tough Mudder is teamwork and a culture of assisting others. In fact, at the outset of the race you recite a vow to assist others, so even if you were to go alone, you wouldn't be alone. I was with a team.
From the outset it should be noted that these are serious obstacles, patterned after those used by British Special Forces. This is not a coast through the playground. Crawling through the mud doesn't mean trying not to fall as you run through. It means crawling through the mud, under barbed wire. A water obstacle is not wading through a lake, it's jumping fifteen feet off a platform or dunking yourself in an ice bath. And let's not forget the electrocution: the last challenge is a dash through a mesh of wire that deliver electric shocks of varying degrees of pain. They range from a quick and painful snap to an out right stun that will drop you on your face. In the mud.
All these are spread across a 13 mile course, so you essentially cover the distance of a half-marathon.
Why would anybody do that to themselves? It's a good question. The pat answer is for the challenge -- just to see if you can. During the course of the race you feel like you were really quite stupid to pay money to do this to yourself. I came out of it scratched and bruised and I got slammed with a head cold in the next few days which could easily have come from god-knows-what germs in the mud. And yet, as soon as it was over, I vowed to do it again.
There is no clock in Tough Mudder. And you can skip any obstacles you'd like, but I didn't see a lot of skipping going on. The idea is to get everyone to finish, strangers assisting strangers: build a human pyramid, get dragged over the wall, then pay it forward. It all sounds very gosh-oh-golly touchy-feely but it's absolutely brutal. Assisting and/or being assisted isn't an act of charity, it's a necessity. The end result is that no matter what happens during the race, by the end it's a positive experience full of genuine camaraderie. I'm quite proud that no member on my team skipped an obstacle and we ran between all of them. I'm anxious to repeat the performance next year.
But I'll schedule days off for after.