About 10,000 contestants will brave a steep, 11-mile course set on the slopes southwest of Patterson and Diablo Grande’s Legends golf course.
Participants won’t be competing as much as surviving, according to event creator Will Dean. They will face climbs, heat and obstacles — scrambling up walls, across a plank, through smoky fire and frigid water — before making a final dash through dangling wires charged with electricity.
And then there’s the mud — the kind that grabs people up to the knees and swallows running shoes.
“Running 10 miles is not really a challenge,” Dean said. “Getting electrocuted, burned, crawling through barbed wire, carrying a log half a mile on your shoulder, that is (the challenge).”
The event — a sort of obstacle course on steroids dreamed up by Dean, an Englishman who worked five years in counterterrorism for the British government — is modeled after some of the most rigorous military tests.
The Diablo Grande Tough Mudder is one of 24 taking place in the United States this year and among dozens worldwide.
Dubbed by organizers as “probably the toughest event on the planet,” each event, based upon British Special Forces exercises, includes about 20 military-style obstacles that test strength, stamina, mental fortitude and camaraderie.
There is no prize money involved, and contestants are not timed. The idea is not to win, but to make it through. Often with help from fellow contestants.
The event’s website urges participants to “...forget finish times. Simply completing a Tough Mudder is a badge of honor.”
Home at Diablo Grande
Planning for Tough Mudder Diablo Grande began in February, when Carmen Kearney-Millan, chief financial officer for Diablo Grande parent company World International, and Josh Clay, the general manager of the community’s golf and country club, announced they had landed the event.
Kearney-Millan said event organizers initially approached her last summer to bring the Tough Mudder to Diablo Grande.
“We are truly excited to be the host of such a worthwhile and upscale international event,” wrote Kearney-Millan in a prepared statement. “We hope to see people from all areas to find our residential and resort golf community a peaceful place to play and stay in the near future.”
Dean said Diablo Grande was selected because of the community’s golf courses and hilly trails.
“The Tough Mudder team scoured the country, looking for a venue with the most extreme terrain features and obstacles,” Dean said. “At Diablo Grande, not only did we find the physical challenges we were looking for, but also a team that shares our brand values and vision to host the best event for our participants.”
World International and Troon Golf Management, which runs Diablo Grande’s golf courses, are jointly hosting the obstacle course, which is already 90 percent filled, in terms of sign-ups.
Event organizers stated on their website that they decided to open a second Northern California event in Truckee because of the overwhelming response.
At Diablo Grande, about 10,000 participants, paying as much as $200 apiece depending on when they register, might slog through a mud bog, crawl through a greased pipe and under barbed wire, ford an ice bath, cross a rope bridge and run amid strands of electrified wires.
Each event is designed to be unique and incorporates challenges suggested by the local terrain. The set-up will include existing trails, ponds and other obstacles already in place at Diablo Grande.
“The tougher we make it, the more people enjoy it,” Dean said.
Spectators who want to view the chest-beating action can buy advance tickets for $20 or pay $40 at the gate. Tickets purchased on the day of the event are cash only.
The competition raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit group that helps severely injured members of the armed services.
Participants receive a registration discount if they raise more than $150 to donate to the Wounded Warrior Project. To date, Tough Mudder has raised more than $3 million for the cause, according to the website.
Kearney-Millan said World International would not seek any funds from Diablo Grande’s homeowners association for the event, as Tough Mudder contractors and engineers will pay to build the courses.
World will provide parking space for 4,000 participants, crew members and spectators, Kearney-Millan said. Any overflow will be directed to Patterson’s business parks on the west side of town, where a free shuttle will pick up and drop off attendees, she said.
Tough Mudder security and parking officials will manage a separate event entrance and parking near Diablo Grande’s security gate. California Highway Patrol, local police, fire, medical and security crews will also be present, Kearney-Millan said.
Dean said the organizers are used to handling large crowds.
“It’ll be fine,” he said. “We have our systems in place. We can handle the capacity of the venue.”
Diablo Grande Controller Charles Smith expects Tough Mudder to draw media attention from around the region. He said he was delighted to host a major sporting event.
“The media and social networking coverage we expect to see from this event will be enormous,” Smith said. “We are already aware of television stations that will be on site.”
A different kind of test
The organizers, meanwhile, seem proud that 22 percent of contestants never make it to the finish line.
Tough Mudder is designed to appeal to a different crowd than those drawn to traditional triathlons, the three-part sport of swimming, cycling and running, Dean said.
“People who want to wax their legs and practice changing socks quickly are just not going to enjoy this,” he added. “Part of the challenge is getting people outside their comfort zone, mentally and physically.”
Competitors will set out on the course in waves of 500 people, 20 minutes apart. Participant registration begins at 6 a.m., both days of the event, with the first wave of challengers set to start the course shortly thereafter.
Tough Mudders are 80 percent male and mostly in their early 30s, according to the website. The average finishing time is about 2.5 hours.
At the end, everyone who completes the course receives the same reward: a T-shirt, an orange headband and — if of legal drinking age — a cold beer .
Participants must be at least 18 years old on the day of the event to participate in Tough Mudder.
Dean said the events have grown markedly during the past year.
“We had 14 events last year,” he said, “Twenty-four this year. Word of mouth has just taken over. People continue to go to all the events.”
For information: www.toughmudder.com.