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If a measly marathon leaves you unmoved, if a triathlon seems trifling, if bootcamp has become a bore, then you’re ready to join thousands of competitors worldwide who are turning to extreme obstacle courses for the ultimate torture-test of physical fortitude and mental mettle. And when enthusiasts’ websites rank the roughest of the rough, the Tough Mudder organization consistently comes out on top.
Peter Rice ’10 is a course designer and manager for Tough Mudder, which proudly proclaims itself “the premier obstacle course series in the world.”
“Our courses are long — 10 to 12 miles each, with at least 20 obstacles,” Rice said. “These events are big — up to 20,000 people a day — so we need a venue with access, parking, and area accommodations.”
“Location is important,” said Rice, who recently managed a course in Scotland. “We start looking at a site two months out. We look at terrain and incorporate natural obstacles.” Ponds, even quarries, are fair game, as are steep inclines, and of course, mud. But Tough Mudder adds temporary features like walls, tunnels, and rope courses, as well as hazards like live electrical wires, fire, and ice. Once a site is chosen, it takes a week to design a course for a two-day event.
“We gather feedback from participants to make each course better and tougher,” said Rice, who grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The environmental studies major played rugby at Gettysburg and toiled as an oyster farmer before joining Tough Mudder.
“There’s a Tough Mudder philosophy,” Rice said. “We strive to be environmentally sensitive. We have raised more than $3 million for the Wounded Warrior Project (which aids wounded service personnel as they transition to civilian life). On the course, we want people to work hard and have fun. All participants pledge before the event that they understand Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge — teamwork and camaraderie come before course time. Throughout the day you see fellow Mudders helping each other. Finishing is its own reward.”