So, on Saturday, I ran a Tough Mudder. Billed as the “toughest event on the planet” (hint: it’s not), it’s better subtitled: “So much fun, it might be illegal.” Acting on a dare from close friend John Kingston (I’m not sure if it was a “triple dog” dare, but it was certainly close), I agreed to run. We gathered together a few of our closest — and most insane — friends, trained with varying degrees of panic-motivated intensity, and prepared ourselves for the field of honor in Charlotte, North Carolina.
But we didn’t just mud for fun; we mudded for a purpose, to raise money for Wounded Warriors, the Glen Doherty Memorial Foundation, and — in a cause with special meaning for me — the Michael J. Medders Foundation. Mike was my friend and brother-in-arms in Iraq, killed by an al Qaeda suicide bomber the very day that I reunited with my family at the conclusion of my deployment. No one was quite like Mike, and to this day it’s hard to comprehend his death. He was so full of life and spirit.
As we shared our story — and shared our purpose — the money came flowing in, with roughly $70,000 raised collectively by race day. But it was about more than money; it was about memory as well. In a high point (for me), during our pre-race dinner I told Mike’s story — ensuring that just a few more friends would remember him the way I remembered him, so that the meaning of his life and sacrifice would endure in just a few more hearts. We called ourselves the “Mike Medders Mudders,” and ran to honor the fallen.
The Tough Mudder was particularly appropriate. For one thing, men and women in the military love Mudders. It seemed like every other competitor had a distinctive military tattoo or was wearing gear affiliating themselves with specific units. For another, Mike himself would have no doubt loved the event. We trained in part through Cross Fit techniques, and Mike was our unit’s pioneering cross-fitter. Oh, and did I mention that it was fun? No one had more fun than Mike.
When it comes to Mudders . . . well, don’t try this at home. It was 10.8 miles of obstacles, electric shocks, ice water (in November!), and mud — lots and lots of mud. Perhaps the low point was my exit from the “electric eel,” an obstacle that requires you to crawl through mud while dangling electric wires shock you again and again. In my eagerness to leave the obstacle, I started to stand up prematurely and got an electric shock in the jaw — something that feels like a cross between a punch and a hornet sting. Or perhaps the low point was the “arctic enema,” a jump into a gigantic tub of ice water. Yes, ice water in November. Or maybe those were high points, where the exhilaration overcomes the agony.
Either way, it’s hard to describe the joy of (literally) plunging into the North Carolina countryside on a fall day, surrounded by friends and comrades dedicated to helping each other through.
God willing, we shall mud again. And when we do, we’ll do what we did on Saturday: pray fervently for mercy at the start (“Save us from our own insanity”) and thank God for his grace at the end — thanking him not just for the joy of the moment but for the lives of those who finished their race and now watch us run as part of the great cloud of witnesses in the glorious presence of their Heavenly Father.