Last-place finishers take pride in being Tough Mudders

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Jan. 29, 2012 at 8:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 28, 2012 at 7:29 p.m.

Jona Verdeflor crawls through an obstacle course at the Tough Mudder event at Brackenridge Park and Event Center in Edna.

Jona Verdeflor crawls through an obstacle course at the Tough Mudder event at Brackenridge Park and Event Center in Edna.

With less than 50 yards to go before crossing the Tough Mudder finish line, Stephen Sanders and Ryan Hart began jogging in place.

Moments earlier, the San Antonio-based brothers-in-law braved the final Mudder obstacle on the 12-mile course - running through sopping mud puddles and 10,000 volts of electrical wiring.

Sanders and Hart stared ahead at the black finish line blimp - listening to the fervor erupting from inside the Brackenridge Main Event Center in Edna - and took a moment to enjoy the final minutes of the exhaustive 6-hour feat.

Of the hundreds of Mudders to compete Sunday, the pair were last to cross the line. But for them, finishing last, meant they finished the toughest obstacle course in the world.

"I came in," Sanders, 33, said. "That's all I cared about."

"Me, too. They hauled a lot of people off before they even got to the finish line," Hart, 31, added. "We were determined from the start to finish the race."

After passing through the archway, trembling with tiredness, Sanders and Hart picked up a complimentary race-day Dos Equis beer and headed to a nearby picnic table to rest.

"I think it's a combination of exhaustion and being cold," Sanders said of his tremors. "I don't want to sit, or I won't be able to get back up."

Setting the beer down on the table, the guys tore their wet, muddy T-shirt from their chests and paused to reflect on the course.

"We helped a lot of people, and a lot of people helped us out there," Hart said, describing the Mudder camaraderie.

For about six hours, Sanders and Hart pushed their physical and mental strength to the limit: tunneling through underground pipes, swimming in icy tanks, repelling walls, climbing massive rope nets and mud hills, hauling tree logs and wading through swamp, all for the glory of bragging rights.

Resting at the picnic table, the evidence of the pair's day was seen in the flush of their cheeks, bespattered clothes, and Sanders' Mohawk hairdo, shaved earlier that morning, courtesy of the Tough Mudder staff.

"I had a full head of hair when I got here this morning," Sanders said, laughing.

Hart, too, decided to shave his head entirely.

Hart said the most challenging obstacle was the ice enema, but confronting the electricity was also a challenge, he said.

"I didn't have much trouble until the electricity. But I fought cramps from mile five," he said.

For Sanders, the monkey bar obstacle put up too great of a challenge.

"I made it across everything else, but I didn't make it through that one," he said.

The brothers-in-law join more than 1 million participants to complete the Tough Mudder course, which is designed by British Special Forces and erected in 12 countries worldwide.

Neither Sanders nor Hart said he had a military background, but support the event's aim to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warriors Project.

"I think it's perfect. I couldn't think of a better charity to get involved with," Hart said.

To date, Tough Mudder has raised more than $2 million for wounded soldiers.

Following the race and race-day party, Sanders and Hart drove home to San Antonio. But they said they plan to endure Tough Mudder again, wherever the course erects in Texas.

"He didn't have to talk me into this," Hart said. "Absolutely, I would do this again."



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