Even broken ribs didn’t stop Fairfax Station’s Michael Drueen from pursuing his goal of completing a 50-mile obstacle race, although the injury did leave him just short of the milestone last year.
Drueen is now training and racing his way to his second crack at the World’s Toughest Mudder event this November, a 24-hour version of the Tough Mudder obstacle race.
A human resources professional for a DC-based think tank, Drueen first decided to take on a Tough Mudder after seeing an ad for it online three years ago.
Recently divorced, “I was looking for something to focus my energies and efforts on,” he said.
Billed as the most difficult obstacle race, Tough Mudders are 10 to 12 miles long and have participants scaling walls, crawling through trenches, jumping into ice-cold water, leaping over fire and enduring mild electric shocks.
“It resonated with me,” said Drueen, now 43.
While Tough Mudder and other similar races have faced criticism and lawsuits in recent years for injuries and even a few deaths attributed to the races, Drueen said he believes the events are as safe as any other challenging sport.
Since flying out to Temecula, Calif., for his first Tough Mudder over two years ago, Drueen has completed 26 of them.
“That first Saturday I could barely walk back to the hotel room,” he said.
Last year, he decided to train for the World’s Toughest Mudder, the 24-hour event. “It seemed like the ultimate challenge,” he said.
His training includes running the regular Tough Mudder course two or three times in one day, and then returning on the second day to run it again.
“I’ve done ultramarathons … ultramarathons are easier,” he said.
However, Drueen was injured early in the World’s Toughest Mudder last year when he jumped into a cargo net and landed with his fist under his rib cage, cracking several ribs.
Despite the injury, he continued for about 17 hours and cleared about 42 miles on the course, which is a 5-mile loop with 22 obstacles.
“I couldn’t imagine quitting,” he said. “It certainly was a dumb thing to do. I don’t recommend it.” But, he added, he wouldn’t do anything differently in retrospect.
“Sometime around 4 in the morning, it just got too painful to continue,” he said, leaving him a few miles short of his 50-mile goal. He will be striving for that goal again this fall.
In addition to the physical challenge, Drueen said being a regular on the Tough Mudder circuit has provided him a sense of community with other racers.
“We’re not competing against each other,” he said. “It’s a community of people who are gathering to push each other and help each other.”
Drueen volunteers with the group Hoorah 2 Heroes, which honors military veterans, first responders and others. With the group, Drueen has helped wounded veterans and others, including an individual with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, complete the obstacle race.
“It’s an amazing experience to be able to give back to folks,” he said.