The Tough Mudder: 'The Toughest Race on the Planet'


The man who founded the company, an Englishman named Will Dean, came up with the idea at Harvard Business School. Yes, a lot of smart people are involved with this.

Dean was quickly told it wouldn't fly. But with an $8,000 marketing budget and lots of word of mouth over Facebook, the first Tough Mudder took place in May 2010. It was a hit.

After the first year, 50,000 people had participated in the events. This year, a projected 500,000 are expected to get mudder. In fact, according to the Outdoor Industry Association, participation in extreme races spiked about 85 percent from 2006 through 2010. The rise is exponential.

So post-Arctic Enema, as I huffed beside Patterson (who's done five of these), I asked why anyone would want to this.

"You know, people want to prove something to themselves," he said. "Everybody has their own reason. Some have said they're bored with conventional fitness, some are they're just sitting in their office job and nothing has actually scared them since they were 9 years old and other people."

They also donate part of the proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, which is how Lunak was there. He blew through the first eight miles of the 12.5 mile course.

"Dude I keep getting shocked!" he croaked as we crawled beneath electrified wire in the mud.

I'd been so convinced the electrified wire was just a mind game that I didn't pay attention until I, too, got shocked.

Lunak was quickly becoming an inspiration to the other runners, nimbly crossing a wobbly two-by-four where at least half of the runners fell. It took him a while, but when he finished, a roar surged through the crowd -- a powerful moment. And the feat was extraordinary when you consider he was doing it on a single functional leg.

But by that point, Lunak's prosthesis began to fill with water and mud. He could no longer run. His stump was swelling.

But it got worse. We Walk the Plank (jump off a 15-foot platform into frigid water) climb Everest (quarter pipe slicked with mud) and scale a mud hill, which was the hardest obstacle, requiring extraordinary teamwork. We actually stood on each other shoulders, about 10 of us!

All this seems serious business -- except no one seemed to take themselves too seriously. Some were dressed in tuxedos, another group of people wore tutus and one person carried a giant inflatable monkey throughout the course (I briefly carried him). Yet others wore kilts (bad idea). Some wore homemade super-hero costumes. And throughout, the runners upheld the challenge's main motto: "Help your fellow mudder."

Just before the final obstacle, Patterson asked me if ABC News has a good health plan. I laughed ... but in a few seconds I'd take it seriously.

With 28 obstacles down, we approached Electric Shock Therapy, the final obstacle.

Lunak went through first, Wounded Warrior flag in hand.

We saw him stumble and collapse seemingly lifeless, face-first into the mud.

Patterson yelled, "Get the flag!" I didn't care about the flag, but worried that Lunak had been seriously hurt and sprinted in.

Just as I reached him -- ZING!

I got zapped in the head. Lights out.

I came to face-first in the muddy water -- eyes wide open, totally disoriented. It felt as if I'd been clubbed in the back of the head.

At that point, everybody was screaming, "Get up!"

I tried, and I saw Lunak stumbling forward, and, ZAP! Again, hammered by the 10,000-volt charge in the head, I collapsed into the water.

Finally, we all crawled out, stumbled to our muddy feet and somebody yelled: "The Wounded Warriors Project -- everyone give it up for them."

The Wounded Warriors, Patterson and I are crowned with bright orange headbands and are handed beers.

Muddy beyond recognition, exhausted, cut up and disoriented, we all grinned stupidly

Another bunch of hypothermic, beat up and shockingly satisfied customers.

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