After hearing the news that Tough Mudder was adding a tear gas chamber to some of its courses, I have to admit that my first reaction was something shocked, appalled, and dismayed, akin to one of those creepy “concerned mothers” whose only thrill comes when they see that the local library has purchased one of the books that are on their list of smut, smut, smut so they can go in front of the library board and demand it be removed For The Children! “Tear gas!” I cried. “They’ve gone too far. I shall never partake in an event with so little regard for its paying entrants!”
I’m happy to report that this overwrought inanity lasted for about fourteen and a half seconds, but the prevalence of overwrought inanity based on poorly understood or outright incorrect information is the root of many of the problems currently facing our society, so I think it’s important to call it out when it occurs, even if it occurs within my otherwise flawless head.
Once I stopped being stupid, I realized that the news didn’t really affect my opinions much at all.
I don’t have much of a relationship with the Tough Mudder. It was one of the first obstacle course events I heard of, if not the first, and it certainly captured my imagination at the time, but as I became more fit and actually doing an obstacle course race became feasible, the Tough Mudder dropped down the list of goals. I suppose it’s still on my radar of things that I’d like to do, but for now at least, it hasn’t crossed above the line of the financial and time resources I’m willing and able to invest.
Why? Keeping in mind that this is based on my not-terribly well-informed understanding, there are a few reasons.
First, the lack of timing reduces the appeal a bit. Not that my time in any event is going to be particularly noteworthy, but as I’m using these events for motivation and as an indicator of my progress, having some form of measurement is nice.
Second, it seems to be a fairly run-heavy event, which doesn’t particularly suit me well. Given that until fairly recently a 5K was a massive run for me, a 10-mile course that appeared to be relatively sparsely populated by obstacles didn’t hold much appeal.
Third, the obstacles themselves didn’t attract me. I’m not exactly opposed to the pain that comes from OCRs—like many participants, I think, I get a perverse joy from the soreness that happens when you exert yourself to or beyond your limit, or even the bangs and scratches when you do something wrong. But the obstacles that Tough Mudder has where the pain is the point—the ice baths and the electric shocks—I’m not as excited by.
But that is an opinion—and, as I mentioned, not a well-informed one—rather than a valid assessment of the value of Tough Mudder and its obstacles. Whether you agree or not, good—either way, you are precisely as right or wrong as I am. The idea of electric shock as an obstacle is neither right nor wrong (as long as it’s not a truly dangerous level, and given the number of Tough Mudders there have been there’s no reason to believe it is). I feel no less or more than other obstacle racers for not being drawn to it.
While tear gas is a new wrinkle, I don’t think it changes anything. It continues the Tough Mudder niche of challenging oneself by putting oneself into clearly unpleasant situations that must be endured. I suspect those who are drawn to that style of self-challenge will and should continue to be drawn to Tough Mudder. I wouldn’t be shocked if I try it before long, and I may even love it.
But for now, it’s not what I’m looking for, tear gas or no. I feel okay with that. As long as I remember, the way I failed to for that embarrassing fourteen and a half seconds, that such an opinion is neither right nor wrong.