13,000 face the dirt for McHenry County's first Tough Mudder

An open field, dirt, a team of highly trained professionals and a little bit of crazy. When combined, you get two things: 10.4 miles worth of a challenge and more than 13,000 adventure-seekers willing to tackle them.

Richmond played host to McHenry County’s first Tough Mudder on Saturday and Sunday giving local and out-of-town participants an excuse to get a little crazy and very dirty.

A Tough Mudder is an endurance event in which participants go up against a military-style obstacle course including underwater tunnels, monkey bars, freezing cold water and a quarter-pipe greased with water and mud for climbing.

In this event, mud is key and no mudder is left untarnished.

The event’s site, the Richmond Hunt Club, was able to bring a leg up, in terms of dirt, for those that participated.

“The soil in this area holds and retains water better than a lot of other locations we’ve been to,” said Ben Johnson Tough Mudder’s head of communications.

Translation? They have good mud.

Participants can go solo or in teams, but at some point, everyone ends up working together.

“There’s a lot of comradery out there,” Johnson said. “Friends helping friends, strangers helping strangers, everyone really bands together to help each other finish.”

DeKalb resident Clayton Shive attended the even solo with girlfriend Carrie Schulz in tow for moral support. Shive took on his third Tough Mudder event Sunday knowing that he would head in on his own, but he wouldn’t battle the course alone.

“It’s a really unique experience. You see a lot of people working together, total strangers helping you get up walls and over obstacles,” Shive said. “It’s a great way to push yourself and test your limits.”

A team of co-workers found safety in numbers showing up 10 strong. The group of Walgreens District 246 employees raised $12,000 for Wounded Warrior Project, Tough Mudder’s official charity partner.

The group’s oldest member and first-time mudder, Cliff Rhodes, came looking completely prepared for the challenge. When asked what his strategy was to keep up with his younger cohorts, Rhodes gave a little chuckle.

“They’re going to have to keep up with me, Rhodes said.

The 64-year-old Libertyville resident is the group’s most experienced member with marathons, triathalons and an Iron Man under his belt.

“I’ve run in the rain and the cold and today looks like a good day to get muddy and do 10 [miles],” Rhodes said.

Fellow team member Amanda Dinkelman had the pleasure of being the only girl on the team. The McHenry resident was anxious for the event but didn’t stress knowing she had a pack of nine guys to back her up.

“We’re all going to rely on each other out there,” Dinkelman said. “There’s going to be some obstacles I can’t do on my own but the goal is to finish, so I think we’ll do good.”

The event drew local participants, as well as travelers from Milwaukee, Chicago and Rockford areas, with an economic impact of $5 million to $8 million locally.

Headed northwest from the big city, Erasmo Gonzalez, made the trip from Chicago for a family challenge with his son, Victor, and daughter, Angelica, as well as his future son-in-law Eddie Tello.

“It’s a good challenge and it’s good for your body, just don’t break your legs,” Gonzalez said.

The group didn’t have Tough Mudder experience and none of them were too anxious to get to the final obstacle of the course, the Electroshock Therapy, a field of live wires above a watery mud pit.

Spectators enjoyed watching and cheering from the sidelines and the base area had food and drinks along with promotional tents from sponsors and local vendors.

At the race’s start, participants were corralled in a holding area, ready for the flood gates to open and the insanity to be released. The groups sang the National Anthem and shouted many a resounding oorahs in preparation. A body surfing mudder and a countdown were the final steps before unleashing the crowd on its mission.

The day ended with hugs and high-fives, new friends, piles of muddy shoes and clothes and an overall sense of accomplishment.

If you missed out, don’t worry. Tough Mudder will be back next year with a date already slated for May 2015.

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