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Over 3 miles, a dozen obstacles, and the absolute certainty that one challenge would involve electrocution is where my thoughts tumbled around as I waited to start the Tough Mudder.

I signed up in the before times of 2019. The world was different and so was I. In 2019, I had a job with summers off, a plan for getting fit, and a gym membership with a zero-slacking guarantee.

Initially, I scheduled the event for July 2020, but it was canceled with everything else that year. I tried to get a refund since the enthusiasm that coursed through my veins was squandered on avoiding things like crowds and mass transit.

Unfortunately, the staff at Tough Mudder said no.


The registration was $65. Significant enough to rule out a donation to the mudder industry. Instead, I used a credit from a canceled flight to fund a way to Minneapolis for round two in 2021.

July came faster than expected and I was nowhere near prepared, but the brilliant Saturday morning didn’t care. I managed to muddle through the entire event and accomplish each of the simple goals that would have found comfort in a kindergartener’s classroom: try everything, have fun, and don’t get hurt.

Preparation or Frustration

In 2020, I prepared by 2021, I was impaired.

In order to get to the finish line and to greatness, focus on your work ethic.

Filled With Money

During the depths of the pandemic, the gym membership was temporarily suspended. Along with everything else. When society started returning to normalish, I requested an extension. Instead, it was canceled.

I wasn’t interested in another gym round, so I cobbled together what I could when I could. This training included running, pushups, and yoga. Plenty for average fitness where the biggest obstacle is pushing a heavy cart through Costco on a busy Saturday but below average for Muddering.

But, it was all I had time for.  

I hoped that the regimen was enough to move my hulk through the roughest bits.

It kinda did.

I had the energy and flexibility to throw my leg up and over walls but I lacked the upper body strength to throw my heaving mass over obstacles taller than my waist. Those obstacles were a good reminder that excuses are not preparation but conditioning for frustration.

Teamwork Makes Dreamwork

The first obstacle was easy: crawling through mud. The intent to get muddy was achieved and one of the few obstacles I could claim a gold medal standard. I would wear a coat of crusted mud for the next couple of hours.

Who needs sunscreen?

The first “real” obstacle was a station called Jumping Jacks. Large logs were chest high where the mudders have to throw their bulk up and over.

I eyed the obstacle suspiciously but was determined to try. Doubt was already gurgling up and swirling fragile emotions with thoughts like, if I can’t do this, what else can’t I do?

I placed my hands on the log, braced my legs, and jumped.

I slid off like a kid on a hot slide coated with butter.

The log was greasy with the muddy bodies that had already crossed.

To save the little ego I had left, I skipped every log but the last one. I looked at my mudder mates, swallowed the dribble of pride, and asked for help.

It was a humbling moment.

I hadn’t gone far (second obstacle to be exact) before I needed help.

I would need more help as I scaled walls, waddled through pits, and was shoved over a giant plastic block into questionable water quality.

To all those helpful muddered souls, I salute you!

The Gratitude Gift

Upon completion of the muddered event, I had an upwelling of gratitude. I went from Point A (starting line) to M (electrocution) with a lifetime in-between.

A shirt, snack, beer, and headband proof that I finished. I’m many things, chocolate lover, nature nerd, hoarder of library books, but I’m also a Tough Mudder Finisher.  

I took the swag with glee but donated the beer.

If I could have given it to one of the many helpful humans who had ensured my bulk made it over an obstacle, I would have.

But I didn’t see them.

Instead, I gave it to a random someone and made him promise the next time he mudders, to help a hapless human.

I can’t help them all, but I can help one.

Challenge = Change

For over a year, I have been waiting to don the tough and mudder through obstacle. I wanted to check another event off the life list because 15 years is starting to look more like 14.

This was a first with the mud, challenges, and mileage and I’m uncertain if it will be the last.

More than anything, I want to remember how many people, mostly strangers, went out of their way to ensure that their success included my success.

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