Racing in mud is a sport now.
You learn to squirm, squiggle, paddle through mud and muck, while dodging dangers, spitting out, coughing out, shouting out to other contestants while you're racing past other stuck-in-mud "Mudders," after you've helped them get unstuck.
Huh? Helped them? Hey, how can you win a race, if you' stop to help other guys?
On ToughMudders.com, I carefully read the vow -- when you join you pledge to help other mudders. I learned that most mudders have already survived challenges like the "Arctic Enema," (submerging your entire body in a vat of ice), and tried a "Kiss of Mud" (crawling through a thick mud patch, with barbed wire a few inches above their heads.)
I read about the new challenge -- "Electric Eel."-- live yellow wires -- they are dangling over the mud. As you travel, you have to contort yourself to avoid the 10,000 volt shock that a yellow wire can give you. The article said, "It's like trying to drive your SUV through a car wash without getting it wet."
"Tough Mudders" was hatched four years ago in a business-plan class at Harvard, and launched in 2010. The company generated $22 million in revenue in 2011; $70 million last year -- 60,000 people paid from $95 to $200 to participate in "Tough Mudder" courses. And this year there are 53 Tough Mudder events scheduled in 47 cities.
Participants buy their outfits -- mudder-branded T-shirts, shoes, and the orange headbands you buy and wear after you complete an event. (On Ebay you might be able to buy a headband for $100.)
Tough Mudder says it's a $150 million-plus industry, and preaches that it is "not a race, but a challenge." The camaraderie is almost religious -- if you're stuck, other mudders help you. At the starting line, participants kneel and recite the Tough Mudder pledge: "I do not whine -- kids whine. I help my fellow Mudders complete the course."
Is it a reaction to the economy, to what's happening in the world? Or is it a way escaping today's realities?
Tough Mudder co-founder, CEO, 32-year-old Will Dean, a former counter-terrorism analyst in the U.K, says, "I think a lot of people right now feel this sense that the world is against them. They are battling debts, trying to get a job. One thing you can control is your training for Tough Mudder. We believe very strongly that experiences are the new luxury goods."
Dean sums it up: "Wending your way through muddy filth, and electric torture is more thrilling, more valuable than a new, fancy watch. You have something to gloat about, and access to the best bragging machinery in history -- Facebook and Twitter.
The company has nearly three million Facebook "Likes," and other social media are peppered with photos of triumphant Tough Mudders wearing their orange headbands.
Hmm. Maybe if you play this new game -- practice it -- you'll be able to handle your life with more ease, and confidence. But for me ... well, I'd rather not practice tough-muddering. But, as a blogger, I can certainly try to write about higher voltage subjects, and use high voltage words.
Hey -- I've got a great-looking bright orange scarf --
maybe it'll help if I don it and kinda mutter and mudder my way into a recommendation that will inspire to try muddering.
Want to win an orange headband?
The videos will help you decide.