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Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

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Oak Harbor resident Chris Camp gets excitable just talking about it.

Camp, a U.S. Army veteran and former attack helicopter battalion crew member, has competed in three Tough Mudder events and plans to do lots more. It’s in his blood now.

For those who aren’t familiar with Tough Mudder events, they are hardcore 10- to 12-mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test a person’s all-around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. More than one million participants have competed worldwide to date, and more than $5 million has been raised for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Tough Mudder, which features a series of 20 to 26 obstacles, was founded by Will Dean, a former counter-terrorism agent for the British Government. Competitors must be 18 or older, and most of them compete as part of a team.

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Camp, a quality supervisor at Mobis North America, competed in his first Tough Mudder event a little over a year ago in South Amherst, Ohio, at the Amherst Quarry.

“We started rolling around the idea about a half a year before that,” Camp said. “I was looking to get into shape, and my plant manager (Tyson Stoll) is gung-ho with the team-building aspect and getting in shape. I was researching different fitness workouts and I saw this video of someone they call Mustache Man, Andy Thom, a Tough Mudder veteran.

“I showed my manager this video of Tough Mudder and we were like, holy cow! We were like, let’s do it. No one wanted to make the first move. Tyson decided to make a team, and 10 of us from my company decided to sign up.”

Competing in Tough Mudder events is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it looks like Navy Seal training. The course itself consists of such obstacles as Arctic Enema, Boa Constrictor, Electric Eel, Berlin Wall, and Greased Lightning. It’s kind of like an Ironman event on steroids.

Camp’s team signed up to compete in a Tough Mudder event in April 2012, in South Amherst.

“I started training in December,” Camp said. “I looked online and there was a workout called Tough Mudder workout, like a cross-fit workout. I’m older (46) and I didn’t like to run so much because it’s hard on my knees and ankles. I decided to do this to challenge myself.

“For me, it was a personal goal. When the event came around, I don’t know if I was in perfect physical condition, but it was game time and I was ready to go. Everyone was equally nervous and didn’t know what to expect. We get there and there were thousands of people, competitors and spectators. Everyone’s just amped up. They start you in heats, a half hour apart, because there are so many people.”

Camp said it took his team almost four hours to get through the course.

“Tough Mudder is not a race, but a challenge,” he said. “There is no time limit, and it’s not just a road race. It was muddy. There is no sprinting in this. You did all you could do to stand upright; we were slipping and sliding. It was challenging to move in a straight line. It’s big on camaradarie and helping your buddy. It’s a really cool feeling, linking arms and pulling each other over the wall. You’re beat up, but everyone helps. It’s a really neat thing to be a part of.”

Camp has since competed in two other Tough Mudder events, last October in Maysville, Ky., and on April 28 in Mansfield.

Oak Harbor native Jackie Bodnar was at the event in Mansfield, serving as a volunteer. It was her first opportunity witnessing a Tough Mudder event. She went with her boyfriend, Kevin Siebert.

“When we arrived at the event, I went to the volunteer tent and thought it would be cool,” Bodnar said. “I signed up to volunteer and they assigned us at the finish line. I’m grateful, because it was an amazing experience to see these participants accomplish these feats. They receive a Tough Mudder bandana when they cross the finish line. You see people finishing in tears and some who were pretty beat up.”

Bodnar, a good friend of Camp’s, plans to volunteer at future Tough Mudder events. She said she gained a great deal of respect for the participants, and handing the finishers the ceremonial orange bandana at the end of the challenge was gratifying.

“You’re standing there in a foot and a half to two feet of mud,” Bodnar said. “This is what they’re running through. It’s really something when you factor in what these participants go through to get to the finish line.”

Camp said he was grateful to Bodnar and Siefert for taking his son, Ryan, 10, to the Tough Mudder event in Mansfield. Ryan also became one of the event volunteers.

“There’s just a sea of people and I don’t know if I’m going to see my son before the race,” Camp said. “I’m looking through the crowd and everyone is jumping around. Off to the starting line I see my son searching the crowd. It was probably one of the coolest moments for me. I was elevated to hero status, and that was really cool.

“Jackie and Kevin had Ryan at different obstacles on the course,” Camp added. “You jump in ice water, you jump off a platform into a lake, crawl through mud, crawl through Electroshock Therapy and volunteers put your orange headband on. When I crossed that finish line, I grabbed a big hunk of mud and threw it, and there’s my son. He has an orange headband and he was the one who put my headband on me. It was ridiculous how cool that was for me.”

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