EAST STROUDSBURG, Pennysylvania—"Tough Mudder" is not your typical run in the mountains; it is a world-class military-designed obstacle course. In fact, it's the type of thing you're told never to try at home with gut-wrenching obstacles like muddy, electrified water, ice, and a scorching blaze. It's treacherous and long, and like any other fulfilling adventure, requires participants to sign a liability waiver.
The 20-kilometer course is hidden in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. The organizers take pride in calling it "probably the toughest event on the planet."
For the 5,000 registered "mudders," bruises, blood, mud, and costumes are all part of the fun. In fact, the course has become so popular that there are 34 events like it this year covering three continents, with more in the works.
So how do you train for something of this magnitude? And why would you pay money months in advance to do this to yourself?
"It's called commitment. That, and a desire to feel invincible, both in mind and spirit," noted participant Felix Foster.
Since its founding, Tough Mudder has helped to raise more than $3 million for severely wounded American servicemen and servicewomen in transitioning to civilian life, through a non-profit organization called The Wounded Warrior Project.
"They really highly emphasize our fallen ones and our ones who are out there fighting for us. I just put myself in their shoes at that moment, and was like, wow, this one is for them," said Jermoe Axel Brown, another participant in Tough Mudder.
An eight-man team called the "Militants," four from New York and four from Washington, trained together in the weeks leading to the main event. But there are some things you just can't train for - like an obstacle called the "electric eel."
"They tell you, oh it's 10,000 volts and you're going to get shocked. And by the way, if anyone next to you in the water is going to get shocked, you're going to get shocked too," noted Foster.
And then, after all the training comes the moment of truth. The drumbeats of war, complete with piercing battle cries, in this three-hour rush of adrenaline - it all comes together as one, that feeling that while everything can stand in your way, nothing will stop you.
In just two years since its founding, Tough Mudder has captivated more than 500,000 participants worldwide. It has also managed to raise more than $3 million for a cause the organizers feel is a good fit for the course, The Wounded Warrior Project, which provides recovery programs, counseling and employment services to severely wounded American service members as they transition to civilian life.