Tough Mudder: Mud, sweat and lots of joyful tears
There's marathons, there's triathlons, and then there's the new wave of paleo-style obstacle courses which elevate the term 'challenging' to a whole new level.
Tough Mudder is endurance sport for Generation X. It's considered up there with the world's most difficult 'challenges' incorporating energy-sapping running up-hill and in forests, wading through swamps, dodging barbed wire, crawling through tunnels and plunging yourself into ice baths.
Along with the freakishly fit model, socialite and food blogger Roz Purcell and thousands of others, I headed to the Cavan-Meath border at Oldcastle for my date with destiny. The venue was the Loughcrew Adventure Centre.
We were expecting the flat, beef-fattening land for which Meath is justly famous. What we got were hills - lots of them.
With Tough Mudder there is no "can't" or "won't" - you just "do". This philosophy is reflected in the helping hand of a stranger pulling you through a mud bank, someone lending a shoulder to hoist you over 10-foot walls or the encouraging words of your team-mates reminding you that whatever obstacle you're about to face means you're closer to the finish line and another reason for a pat of the back.
The camaraderie forces you on. Not to mention the craic along the way, as you share jokes with other participants from mile one to mile 10.
Team-work is the glue that holds the event together, making every step of the way easier and helping you face your fears.
Tough Mudder makes you realise your own strength, both inner and physical.
You simply don't want to let yourself and your team-mates down, so you force yourself to dig deep and soldier on as if your survival relies on it.
Of course, it doesn't, and if the more difficult stages of the event such as being 'tear-gassed', dunked into a pool of ice or running through 10,000 volts of electricity are really daunting, you have the option to by-pass these particular challenges.
A pint of cider awaits at the finish line and there is an unexplainable feeling of elation when you're given the orange headband, awarded to those who complete the event, as you catch your breath.
Tough Mudder is something that everyone should strive to do at some stage over the next few years.
It's an event that shows fitness can't be judged by how heavy a weight you can lift, how fast you can run or how high you can jump. Tough Mudder proves that being fit, healthy and active in this day and age is much more complex than that. It's a return to how our ancestors used to keep fit and it incorporates both a physical and mental approach.