I recently had the opportunity to take part in the “Chicago Tough Mudder – Half. While it is advertised as the Chicago TM, the course was actually in Rockford, at the back of the Airport, and in the surrounding swamp/river/farm fields. They create a little tent city for the weekend’s events, and there is food, beer, changing and shower stations once inside the gates. Attendance was high, and apparently had the most participants of any Tough Mudder event that year (they are weekend long events). The Cost was high too – $85 a head. The course was 5 miles long, broken up by a total of 8 obstacles along the way. From a terrain perspective – the course was very flat and much like that of dirt/double track, for trail running.
I don’t want to write about this at length, but I do want to share 7 Observations and a 2 final sentences about the experience overall.
- FUN – Running around in the mud with a team of friends is FUN. Accomplishing stupid tasks for no reason, other than to do them is fun! It doesn’t seem like exercise, or difficult, but it is. Our team (Team name: Mud, Sweat, and Beers) wants to do the full (10 miles) next year!
- CONSPIRACY – The conspiracy theorist in me (in a joking way) thinks the whole operation is funded by the CIA to recruit more people for the US war efforts abroad, specifically in the US ARMY and US ARMY reserves. On the level, the US ARMY is a sponsor so is the RESERVE, and they advertise heavily in the Mudder Village area. There are Army Vets, and active duty personnel involved in putting the event on as Advertisers and Volunteers. There is even a mini skills test guided by the army located in the Mudder village you can participate in after the race (a big obstacle course).*****
- PATRIOTISM – We sang, as a group (each wave did too) the Star Spangled Banner before the start of the race. See above for added context.
- TEAMWORK – The Tough Mudder MC made an impassioned speech about team work, giving your all, effort, and in general, the unforgiving and rewarding nature of the obstacle course. More importantly, he stressed that while this was a “race” and a “competition,” that we would most definitely need each other (our team) and OTHER teams. This speech was interpreted by most (derived by the looks on the participants faces) as really cheesy and over the top, but it turned out to be true.
- COMMUNITY – The point of a Tough Mudder event (read: boot camp) is to humble (read: Break) you and realize you need to be a part of the whole and that as a whole – you can accomplish anything. Teamwork (see above) and community is the name of the game, and together we are greater. This is true. We could not accomplish all the obstacles without other teams help and assistance. Because we were aided in our pursuits – we aided others and we all finished the race and “won” that day. It was bonding – strangers helping strangers. This was evident at the shower station later, which were communal, and gravity fed, so everyone is forced to kneel down and scrub off all the mud and dirt. Strangers huddled closely together and showered off, exchanging “war stories” and what they had all just experienced together. It was actually kind of great to witness and be apart of.
- SPONSORS – Off the top of my head, I believe the most Iconic or accessible American Sponsors were chosen to support this event: US ARMY, PAPA JOHNS, ANHAUSER-BUSCH, OLD SPICE..but free samples and beer make it okay.
- EVERYMAN – or Every Person. You don’t have to train, but you can. People took is seriously and sprinted, while others chose a run/walk combo to complete the event. Some teams just walked the whole thing. There were some truly large, and out of shape people working through this event with a team. There were all gender’s and ages present. We were witness, as a team, to all body types participating in these events. It was pretty impressive.
- Expectations – We went into this with little to no expectation or ego. We told the couple that we would participate on a team with them after we were half in the bag from drinking beer all day. We had no ego wrapped up in our decision to do it, just to participate with friends. We chose to participate just to do something different, and see what all the fuss was about. Expectations can ruin a good time.
- Do it, you have everything to gain – despite the uber patriotic machine that fuels this – it is FUN and a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon with friends. We went for milkshakes and burgers after. It was sweet. I genuinely enjoyed the community building outcome; The experience made me wish we all did feel like we were in this together. It doesn’t seem that way anymore.
- ***** I received a follow up email from Tough Mudder after the event asking me to take a survey, my submission gave me the opportunity to win a $50 gift card. The survey was asking me if I ever considered joining the US ARMY or Armed Services and gauging whether after I participated in the event – if I was reconsidering my decision NOT to join!!