Tough Mudders, Better Friends

Kent, Pat, Del. Danny (kneeling), Me, Doc, Marshall, and Seth

Kent, Pat, Del. Danny (kneeling), Me, Doc, Marshall, and Seth

Much of what I’ve done in my life has been done for one of two reasons: 1) to impress a girl, or 2) because my friends were doing it. The former source of motivation goes back as far as junior high and remains my prime motivator today. However, the latter dates back even further to when I was five and my cousin Sheldon thought it would be fun if we flushed my big brother’s collection of miniature statues of the presidents of the United States down the toilet. I remember explaining to my mom that it was Sheldon’s idea and her saying – as she would many more times throughout my childhood – “If Sheldon jumped in the lake, would you too?” I’m pretty sure I answered, “Yes.” My mom thought I was just egging her on and being a smart ass; however, even then I think I understood the value of jumping into lakes (or running across them) with friends.

This past weekend, I completed a Tough Mudder with the group of friends in the photograph above. If you don’t know, a Tough Mudder is a ten-mile run through and over rugged and very muddy terrain with various physically-challenging obstacles to be conquered near each mile marker. Injuries are not uncommon during this event, and in at least one tragic case, a competitor drowned. I was disappointed to learn, however, that many participants greatly reduce the difficulty of the course by simply walking from one obstacle to another or skipping some of them altogether. When anyone asked why I would enter such an event, I thought of my two primary behavioral motivations mentioned above and concluded that after twenty-seven years of marriage, my girl is more impressed by feats of laundry than feats of daring; therefore, my reason for entering the Tough Mudder was clearly because my friends were doing it, and I can’t think of a better reason.

Although I enjoy Facebook, my friends are not people I “follow;” my friends are people I DO stuff with – even when that stuff is not convenient are entirely sane. In recent years, I’ve kayaked and hiked mountains through bear country in the Adirondacks, completed numerous races including a half-Ironman, whitewater rafted a river considered one of the most treacherous in North America – twice, and ran to Put-in-Bay across three miles of ice on Lake Erie. The only adventure I’ve begged off on is when several of my buddies went skydiving – even friendship has its limits. Before we do whatever “It” is, we talk about It and, sometimes, try to talk ourselves out of It. Next, we do It, and It’s usually not as bad as we convinced ourselves It would be. Finally, we talk about It and tell the same stories over and over every time we’re together and, somehow, IT becomes even scarier and more bad ass than we built it up to be in the first place because that’s the way guys are.

Some of those guys in that picture I’ve been friends with for years, and I love them like brothers. Although, if you asked my actual brothers, they wouldn’t think that much of a benefit. A few I’ve grown closer to in recent adventures, and one I met for the first time this past weekend. Some I work with. One’s my boss. Of the other two, one is a wildlife biologist and the other is an M.D. When we’re paddling like mad, tramping over the ice, or slogging through mud, however, we’re just big boys playing like the kids we once were and forging and cementing friendships that will last our lifetimes because we did shit – sometimes scary shit – together.

Now go find some friends and go jump in the lake.

Ty is the author of SO SHELLY and GOODNESS FALLS:
http://www.amazon.com/Goodness-Falls-Ty-Roth/dp/162287529X