MILFORD, Mass. – Two Massachusetts Army National Guardsmen, recently returned from Afghanistan, undertook the challenges of the premier obstacle course series in the world known as Tough Mudder in Pocono Manor, Pa. April 29, 2012.
Spc. Steven C. Eaton and Staff Sgt. James C. Lally, both public affairs specialists with the 26th “Yankee” Brigade, Massachusetts Army National Guard, were one of the teams that found themselves cannon-balling into a dumpster full of green ice water, helping each other over walls, and laughing together after being shocked by an obstacle named the Electric Eel.
Electric shocks, cold water and heights are just a few of the charms of the 26 energy-sapping obstacles that can be found along the 12-mile endurance course, designed by British Special Forces to test participant’s strength of mind, camaraderie and endurance. Appropriately, Tough Mudder is a proud supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project.
The master of ceremonies kick-started the event by encouraging the participants, also referred to as “mudders,” to work as a team, to help others along the way, to finish the course and just have fun.
Some of the obstacles definitely require teamwork, none more than one named Everest, which is a slippery skateboard half pipe that requires a running start coupled with an-all-or-nothing jump toward the outstretched arms of fellow mudders who attempt to catch and pull their comrades over the top. Their assistance and encouragement evidently foster a sense of community.
“The mudder community is unlike anything I've seen outside of the military. Everyone was reaching for the same goal. Regardless of who you are or what you look like when you reach your hand out for help, someone is going to grab it and help you over a wall, when you fall down someone is there to pick you up, when you're limping someone is there to help you cross the finish line. It's not about finishing first, it's about teamwork and camaraderie, it’s about helping your fellow mudders complete the course,” said Eaton.
The pair decided to sign up for the Tough Mudder while deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, after learning about it from other Soldiers.
When asked why he wanted to do attempt Tough Mudder Lally said, “The whole thing was Spc. Eaton’s fault. He came to me one day with the bright idea of doing a 10-mile, uphill obstacle course. I thought he was out of his mind but part of the Tough Mudder’s allure is that it sounds crazy so after I looked at their website I said yes. Part of the entrance fee goes to the Wounded Warrior Project.”
Consequently, the two drove from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania for an early Sunday morning of slogging through mud, crawling under ice-coated barbed wire and helping each other climb over cargo nets, rather than sleeping late and spending the day on their couches, something they longed for while in Afghanistan.
People who first consider the course might find completing it a daunting task. The course’s website warns that “to get through mud, fire, ice-water, and 10,000 volts of electricity you’ll need teammates to pick you up when your spirits dip.”
Eaton expressed his feelings on what it takes to earn a Tough Mudder Finishers Badge saying, “Completing the Tough Mudder was one of the best things I've ever done, it challenged me in every way possible, but the sense of accomplishment I felt is almost indescribable. There were absolutely times when I was thinking that I just want this to end, or I really didn't want to fall into this freezing cold water again, but having my friend next to me and telling myself that no matter what we were going to finish this pushed me through to the end.”
Now that he has experienced the premier obstacle course series in the world known as Tough Mudder, Eaton was asked if he would do it again. His answer: “Absolutely, now that I've done one I want more, in fact we’re already preregistered for the 2013 Tough Mudder in Massachusetts,” said Eaton.