Obstacle-filled event to determine my manliness

Note: This column appears in the 1/5 issue of The Glendale Star and the 1/6 issue of the Peoria Times

As many of you have become aware throughout the years, I’m not much of a man. Many of the things that define manhood, like knowing how to use a circular saw, I am unable to do. There are two main things I do that attempt to offset this reality: 1) have facial hair, which is easy, and 2) run, which can be challenging. The latter is not totally manly and is often open to women as well, but it does take some stamina and mental fortitude, and so I will allow it, as should you. I should also mention that doing so once left me in an ambulance, and served as the least manly moment of my entire life. Still though.

In fact, the past three years I have participated in the Phoenix Rock and Roll ½ Marathon. (They host a full marathon, too, but c’mon—that’s ridiculous.) But earlier this year I was thinking, “Is there anything manlier than running aimlessly on a flat, paved surface for a couple hours?” It was then, as if by some Divine manly intervention, my friend Pete from back east called to inform me that the Tough Mudder event was coming to the Valley.

What is the Tough Mudder? I’m glad you asked. It is “a hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie.” It is also, according to Tough Mudder, “probably the toughest event on the planet.”

So that is what I am doing in lieu of the half marathon, Jan. 14. Finally, I will find out if I possess mental grit, and if so, all bets are off.

With regards to the camaraderie aspect, Pete is coming out to participate with me, and we also recruited my father-in-law and brother-in-law. That is our team. Pete, a former Infantryman in the U.S. Army and Tough Mudder veteran, is a customs agent at Newark Airport, which is technically a war zone. My father-in-law is a real estate broker who asked me a few days ago—the event is next weekend—how he should be training; my brother-in-law recently suffered a paintball-related knee injury and, in an unrelated matter, is required by a doctor to perform a series of back-stretching exercises every morning; and I, as previously mentioned, once ended a five mile race with zero obstacles on a stretcher wearing an oxygen mask. This should be interesting. We have already had t-shirts made, so there is no going back.

The obstacles vary for each event, but one of the more infamous ones is called The Chernobyl Jacuzzi, described as “participants climb into and out of one of three lined dumpsters containing icy water and colored dye.” Another one is called Ball Shrinker, which I will not describe. There are also obstacles in which participants run through live electric wires and flaming bales of hay. The obstacles, on the slim chance someone does not prefer to get electrocuted, are optional, but there are plenty to choose from, and choosing none, I have heard, does not diminish the difficulty of the course itself.

In fact, the event was supposed to be in Wittmann, but has since moved to Mesa after the original venue did not comply with the introduction of nine new obstacles. I am legitimately scared about all of this, but fear is an integral part of becoming a man, and I am 33 so I should probably get on that.

In the coming weeks, I will keep you abreast of my training and the event itself. If you are interested in learning more or participating yourself, visit toughmudder.com. If you are participating, meet me at the Ball Shrinker. (These are the things men say to each other.)


Dave Brigham said…
I found your blog via the Baseball Card Blog (I live a few houses away from Ben Henry's parents) and really enjoy it. My cousin recently completed a Tough Mudder event (he's 25) and did well and had a great time. Good luck!
mkenny59 said…
Hey, thanks, Dave! You have lifted my spirits in more ways than one ... I'll keep you posted on how it goes, but yeah -- seems like it's going to be kind of fun, actually. I think, maybe!