By 2nd Lt. Marie Denson
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
A two-day challenge with one goal: find the toughest man or woman on the planet. This is the headline for the 2011 World’s Toughest Mudder, and Senior Airman Sam Bessinger, 50th Space Communications Squadron, plans to head to New Jersey Dec. 17 to earn the title of the toughest man.
The World’s Toughest Mudder is a non-stop 24-hour challenge with more than 150,000 participants. It is 10-miles long with a 30 obstacle course. Competitors run as many laps as possible and the individual who completes the greatest number of laps throughout the 24-hour period earns the title of the toughest man or woman and $10,000.
This isn’t going to be an average obstacle course. Bessinger explains that although the obstacles are kept secret until race day he can expect to see some of the more famous obstacles from past challenges.
“They have an obstacle with dangling 40-feet long wires that are hooked up to car batteries,” he said. “You have to go through the [dangling wires] and some of them are charged up to 10,000 volts. You’re going to get shocked!”
Bessinger, who helps maintain communications equipment here, joined his younger brother Hank last June to compete in the Colorado Tough Mudder in hopes they both would qualify for the world championships.
The Colorado Tough Mudder was held at Beaver Creek in Avon during a two-day period and involved about 10,000 people. In order to automatically qualify for the world championship they had to place in the top five percent of the Colorado venue.
“We were nervous for the Colorado Tough Mudder,” he said. “It was a 10-mile course and we thought we had to get in the top five percent of our group [of 500] and not overall. We saw the competition and it looked pretty stiff.”
They calmed the tension by talking about the Wounded Warrior Project and by saying the Tough Mudder pledge is to help others; we’re in this together.
“We did help out other people and they helped us too,” he said.
In the long run, building the camaraderie with the other competitors and helping each other throughout the race didn’t have any effect on who was going to win.
“You helping some guy over a wall isn’t going to make a difference. It’s not going to come down to two seconds in the end for qualifying. In the end whoever is in better shape will win”
Bessinger and his brother placed sixth and seventh in the Colorado venue out of their group of 500, and were in the top five percent which automatically qualified them to race in the World’s Toughest Mudder.
To prepare for the world championships Bessinger is running and working his legs to help maintain the constant pounding they will soon take. He is also doing pyramid workouts to help build upper body strength. Another part of the preparation is putting together the right equipment.
“The first thing we are looking at is that it’s New Jersey in December so it’s going to be cold. And there will be water obstacles, so I figure the person who brings the right stuff and is prepared is the one who will do well in the race,” he said.
The World’s Toughest Mudder website says that for training purposes, qualifiers should expect the event to require cardiovascular stamina, brute strength, agility, dexterity, mental grit and most of all a passion to prove one self to be the Toughest Mudder on this good green Earth.
This is exactly how Bessinger and his brother feel about the race and how they are going to prepare for their upcoming adventure.
“As long as our bodies can hold up we think it’s going to come down to who has the mental strength to keep going. There’s a difference between mental failure and physical failure… you can’t let your failure be mental,” he said. “We have to think of a good idea to keep us going. We can’t stop just because we want to.”
Bessinger’s goal is to cross the finish line with his brother and win it all, but a bonus to this competition will be to have the memory of competing.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be on a world stage and be able to compete with your brother,” he said. “We will always have this memory that we went to this world-wide event and that we competed together.”