An article on Outside magazine’s website says the obstacle racing industry is getting rid of electrified obstacles and other outrageous elements in a quest for longevity.
Tough Viking, a Swedish obstacle series, has scrapped its electrified obstacles for 2016, and, according to the article, that makes it one of a handful of events getting rid of such articles. Savage Race did away with its electric obstacle in 2014. The article goes on to point out that while Tough Mudder still has Electroshock Therapy, the company now downplays it, didn’t include it in its new half-length course, and has phased out Electric Eel, where participants crawl on their stomachs under live wires.
This isn’t the first time electrified obstacles have come under scrutiny. In 2013, an article on Today.com ignited a debate over Tough Mudder’s electrified obstacles. The article interviewed emergency room doctors, who saw a rash of Tough Mudder participants, most with injuries related to electric obstacles, following a Tough Mudder in Pennsylvania in the spring of 2013. The doctors in the article state the obvious: Getting zapped by electricity can be dangerous.
Many obstacle racers have long complained about electrified obstacles, calling them too dangerous, while others dismiss them as little more than a gimmick.
Personally, Electroshock Therapy has left me with wire burns in the pits of my elbows, where I can only guess they burned my skin while reacting with the salty sweat in my elbow pits. At World’s Toughest Mudder 2012, Electric Eel knocked me unconscious. I didn’t feel anything. I was crawling along, then suddenly felt the sensation of my head nodding down, then jerking back up, like falling asleep in class. In my confusion, trying to remember where I was, the guy behind me yelled about a huge spark he saw go off on the base of my skull. And then there’s the several times I’ve felt the charges swim down my entire body, into my quivering legs.
But I love Tough Mudder’s electric obstacles. And I hope they keep them.
Physically demanding obstacles, although challenging, are relatively easy to tackle. The hardest obstacles are always the ones that mess with your mind, that tap into your fear, that demand a certain mental grit. I’ve watched tough guys, people who could crush any physical obstacle Tough Mudder or Spartan Race could throw at them, cower in the face of electric obstacles.
These obstacles aren’t about if you can leap and pull yourself up and over anything. It doesn’t measure how fast you are or strong you are. They make you look inside yourself. You know it’s going to hurt. But you know you’re going to be okay (and, if you have medical reason to believe otherwise, you are asked to go around it). Can you brave that pain for the short time it takes to get through this obstacle?
In that way, the electric obstacles are a better metaphor for life than all the monkey bars, rope climbs and sandbag carries combined.