Verona has lots of athletes. We have tri-athletes and at least one Ironman that we know of. And now this: Tough Mudders.
Say what? A Tough Mudder is a 7- to 12-mile trail run over hilly and generally muddy ground followed by more than a dozen military-style obstacles, designed by British Special Forces. Obstacles like underwater tunnels in cold water, log bridges and monkey bars over more cold water, an electrified string curtain and fiery bales of kerosene-soaked straw. Fun, right? Sounds just like the kind of thing that a crazy friend would drag you into, or in Jim Keating’s case, his brother Phil. “I had no idea what I was getting into,” says Jim Keating.
On November 20, the brothers Keating and assorted friends tackled the Tough Mudder Tri-State, held at at Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. The next day, Dave Freschi and his son Nic, a Verona High School senior, also slogged their way through the course. Interestingly, all are parishioners at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, the church just across from the H.B. Whitehorne field, but they competed with different groups and objectives.
“I did it because i like challenges,” says Dave Freschi. “I like pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I also like the camaraderie of doing an event like this with others; it creates a special bond. The event is not billed as competitive but as collaborative and that is very much evident at some of the obstacles, which require teamwork to overcome. The opportunity to do something like this with my son was also very appealing to me. It is a special opportunity for father/son bonding in a society that has all but migrated away from traditional physical rites of passage.”
It took the Freschis two hours and 30 minutes to complete the course, something that only about three-quarters of those who enter do. (Jim Keating also finished, and you can see some of his Tough Mudder photos here.) The event’s organizers try to prepare participants with a suggested training regimen and a course preview, but not every obstacle is described in detail. “The one mystery obstacle on the course ended up being electric shocks delivered from hanging tendrils aptly named ‘jellyfish tentacles’,” says Dave Freschi. “I was shocked at how painful the jolts were,” he adds without a touch of irony. “My son’s approach to this obstacle was much wiser than my blind run through it and he came through unscathed.”
Freschi plans on doing another Tough Mudder, but if you are one of his friends, be forewarned: He’s looking to get you all involved. As for Jim Keating, “If the group wants to go again, I’m there!”