Electrocution. Open flames. Sub-zero temperatures. 15-foot drops. Why would ordinary San Franciscans spend a perfectly good weekend subjecting themselves to all this?
Just for the hell of it.
Saturday is the fourth NorCal Tough Mudder, a 12-mile obstacle course and endurance challenge that's part sporting event and part apocalypse training. Teams of challengers face trials like the "Electric Eel" (a crawl through a icy water with live wires dangling overhead to jolt those who can't keep their heads down) and the "Dirty Ballerina" (a series of jumps across half-meter long trenches brimming with black mud). There's no prize to win, no medals handed out, not even any records to break. The only reason to do it is that, against all reason, people insist it's a good time.
"When you run a marathon everyone is very isolated and not having much fun. With Tough Mudder you're laughing the whole time," says Shanon Loftus, a 40 year old mother of two who lives in Pacific Heights and has signed up for this year's challenge. Her team consists primarily of colleagues from her SoMa business consulting firm, who all entered last year on a whim. "By the end you're wet, exhausted, freezing, and your arms and back are aching. One of our guys got electrocuted on the tailbone and was numb for half an hour. I can't imagine a better way to spend a Saturday." She says it makes a great icebreaker on dates.
Holly Ashby, a 31 year old sales exec from Pac Heights, says the ordeal is good for something else, too: couples bonding. She's running Mudder with her fiance, a mobile app developer. Because what better way to celebrate your pending nuptials than with a trip into the "Arctic Enema"? That's a dumpster full of ice water everyone has to hop in and out of. "It's not quite as bad as it sounds," Ashby says. "It's harder on men, for obvious reasons."
Tough Mudder NorCal is April 12 and 13 in Patterson. Registration is open through Friday.