When The Going Gets Tough, You Compete in Your 1st Tough Mudder With Noah Galloway

Team Merrell at Tough Mudder

When the going gets tough, what do you do? Do you rise to the challenge, or whimper at the idea of possible defeat? Depending on your circumstances, the answer to this question can have a myriad of options. A few weeks back when I recounted my mental health journey, I was not having the best time. In that week I was invited to participate in a Tough Mudder competition on a media team sponsored by Merrell and led by Noah Galloway. Galloway, an army veteran that lost his leg and a part of his arm in the line of duty, is the Tough Mudder ambassador and recently released a book on his journey entitled Living With No Excuses.

Since I was feeling a bit down, I stared at the email for a very long time before I responded because the idea of competing in a mud run scared me. At the time I had not worked out in month, and I was scared that I would hurt myself as I was not in the best shape. After speaking with reps via email, I decided to do it as a voice inside me told me to do something that scares you. I psyched myself for the remainder of the week and was ready to go bright and early that Saturday morning.

Eggs Benny from Jack’s Wife Freda. Photo: Andrea K. Castillo

We started our day with a lovely breakfast at Jack’s Wife Freda in the West Village. The super cozy all-day American-Meditteranean bistro has a plethora of delectable (and healthy) breakfast options. After much back and forth, I decided on the Eggs Benny which was two poached eggs on a potato latke, served with smoked salmon and beet hollandaise, paired with a latte to sip on. As we finished up eating, reps from Merrell began to distribute our gear for the mud run and post-activities. It included the following items:

Once we were geared up, it was off to the sprinter van with our team to head to Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ, the site of this year’s Tough Mudder Tri-State and Tough Mudder Half Events. Our team competed in the Tough Mudder Half; a 5 mile course containing 13 military-style obstacles. What is unique about Tough Mudder and other similar events is that it is not an individual race, but based on teamwork. With that in mind, my anxiety lessened a bit on our way to the course, and once I saw it, I felt much better about my decision.

Climbing the Pyramid Scheme

The course began with a trail run through dirt, leaves, and mud, with a hill in the woods that we all had to collectively climb over. Once over, there was a bit more trail running, the Warrior Carry, in which you and a partner take turns carrying the other on your back, with our first major obstacle being the Pyramid Scheme. The Merrell-sponsored obstacle shaped like a pyramid, requires teams to build human pyramids on a slope so that each person can effectively climb to the top. It is pretty much impossible for a single person to climb this alone as the surface was plastic and extra slippery as it was covered in mud.

I had a bit of trouble climbing this, and my lack of upper-body strength made it difficult to climb over the wall once I was at the top, but my team pulled me up to safety.

The Block Ness Monster

One of my favorite obstacles of the day was The Block Ness Monster. For it, we had to jump in a mud pool and collectively roll barriers, crawl over and repeat for a distance of 60 feet. It was a quick reprieve from some of the more mud filled obstacles, like the Mud Mile, which came later in the course.

Running through mud with Caitlin (I am on the right)

I like to think of myself as a bit of an adventure seeker, but I really blew my mind with the fact that I was not bothered by being completely covered in mud from head-to-toe at points in the course. Running in between obstacles really took my mind off of being dirty, but working in a group shifted my focus to the greater good.


I was incredibly inspired by Noah throughout the course, specifically on wall-climb obstacles like Skidmarked. Picture a 10 foot wall slanted toward you with no foot hold. The object is to climb to the top by using a boost from a team member, or going straight at it with a strong leap, and hoisting yourself over. I was amazed that in this obstacle and similar ones, Noah climbed over without our help! That definitely lit a fire under me to keep going, and showed right in front of my eyes that nothing is impossible.

She finished! Photo by Nicole Marie on my iPhone

In the end, I completed 12 out of 13 obstacles, passing on the final Everest 2.0 halfpipe as my shoulders were a bit strained at that point from prior wall climbs. The weather was not the best, raining on and off throughout the course, but I completed my task with the help of a super supportive group of individuals.

After rinsing off as much mud as possible and changing into dry clothing paired with a super cozy socks & sandals situation, I really took a moment to reflect on what I had accomplished. I ended an incredibly trying week a finisher of an intense physical and mental obstacle course. It made me realize how important it is do something that scares you every now and then, and how you can find trust in strangers.

I am so thankful for the opportunity, and I can’t wait to do more things that scare me a little bit more!


*All photos, unless noted, courtesy of Tough Mudder

**I received complimentary admission, transportation, and gear from Tough Mudder & Merrell for this post.

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