MAN UP Our correspondent claws his way through 28 punishing obstacles to complete the Tough Mudder challenge. Does he make it out unscathed? Not a chance.
The parking lot is deathly silent. People with muscles and strong jaws stop in their tracks as the sound of cheers pour down from the early competitors on the mountain. Our coffee buzz long gone, the effects of the joint we puffed on the drive are creeping up and I start feeling lightheaded.
My longtime friend and photographer Tony Testa, who had talked me into pitching this story in the first place, pulls a pill container from his backpack. "Here, take one of these," he barks. "It's pure Ephedrine. You can't even get them anymore."
I don't question him, and toss one back with some Mountain Dew. Next stop: nine-plus miles of mud.
Tough Mudder is not a race, but a challenge. With no time limit, and a focus on camaraderie, the goal is just to finish the 28-obstacle course scattered throughout the front face of Mount Snow in Vermont. At each Tough Mudder event, an estimated 22 percent of the participants end up quitting due to injuries or hypothermia (yet still no deaths), and I can very well be one of them.
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Today, my 14,000 fellow Mudders-to-be are mostly men and mostly white, though about a third are women, and there are a few black guys. Some have come in costume: Superman, Mighty Mouse, Robin, and the Mario Brothers are all here. There are guys in tutus and two Jesuses. Most people are taking it pretty seriously, dressed in regular clothes. I'm glad I'm one of them; I'd hate to die dressed like Wonder Woman.
Testa has been training for this for months, running up and down stairs, working out at the gym, riding his bike. As for me, I'm just a skinny, out-of-shape writer — and I've neither trained nor quit my nasty habits to prepare for this. I'm just hoping that eating a shitload of bananas and a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs from the Chateau in Waltham the night before will make up for the years of abuse I've put my body through. But the course is more than capable of trouncing even a well-maintained athlete, and I ain't even close to being one of those. The danger I'm facing is akin to going bareback with a chick you picked up under a bridge. But I know there's no turning back now. Buy the ticket, take the ride, right?
"Beating Tough Mudder is mind over matter," a British-accented Will Dean, the inventor of Tough Mudder and Harvard Business School graduate, informs me. (I had arranged to interview him before going off to battle.)