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Sunday, December 03, 2023

UF team tests endurance, gets dirty at Tough Mudder obstacle course

Sean Limon spent Sunday crawling through mud, scaling walls and climbing ropes. They had sounded fun, like the kinds of things kids do.

To do all this, he had to sign a "death waiver."

Limon and three of his friends teamed up to complete the Tough Mudder obstacle course challenge in Tampa. During the workweek, Limon is the Oral Communication Coordinator for UF's Warrington College of Business' Center for Management Communication.

He heard about Tough Mudder, which travels to different cities, from UF journalism professor Ted Spiker. Spiker recruited Limon and two other friends for his team.

"The way he described it was, ‘OK, I get to be a kid again,'" Limon said.

This included diving into ice-water pools, running through electrical wires and running up slopes slick with cooking oil.

Limon, who competes in triathlons, said the event emphasized teamwork and camaraderie.

He said if someone was having trouble with part of the course, another participant was right there to help.

"No one even had to ask," he said.

That mentality is part of what makes Tough Mudder stand out, said Jane Di Leo, public relations manager for the organization. The obstacle course is not a race, and participants don't worry as much about times, she said.

Former British counterterrorism government worker Will Dean dreamed up the 10-12 mile obstacle course when he was a student at Harvard Business School. Di Leo said when Dean entered the idea into a business competition, professors told him it would never work because it wasn't a timed race.

He and his co-founder started the business with $10,000 anyway, and Di Leo said the goal for the first event was to attract 500 participants.

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About 5,000 people showed up to the course on May 2, 2010 in Allentown, Pa.

On Saturday and Sunday in Tampa, about 17,000 people participated in the challenge, Di Leo said. Tickets typically cost between $90 and $200. The earlier participants register, the cheaper the ticket is.

UF master's in finance candidate John Bennett, 23, thinks his ticket for the Saturday challenge in Tampa cost $110 or $120. He spent about $150 total because he bought food and donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, a charity that benefits war veterans.

Tough Mudder encourages participants to donate and takes $25 off the ticket price for those who raise $150 or more for the Wounded Warrior Project.

The involvement with charity is part of why Bennett completed the challenge. One of his Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers served with the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. The veteran got six fraternity brothers, including Bennett, to form a team.

Bennett said he went into the event thinking it would be more of a run than it actually was. The hardest part was Everest, a quarter-pipe similar to part of a skateboarding ramp. The slope was about 12 feet tall and covered with cooking oil. Participants had to run up it and make it to the top, usually helped by people who pulled them up.

Limon said pulling Spiker over the ramp and seeing him "smiling from ear to ear" was the best moment for him.

"We went in as a team, worked as a team and finished as a team," Limon said. "Anything else would be considered a failure."

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