SENECA — Shawn Hamilton had run marathons, triathlons and iron-man triathlons.
Last year, he was looking for a new challenge.
He sure found one at Tough Mudder, a worldwide series of 10 to 12 mile obstacle events that force participants to run through electric wires, swim through ice water, and sprint through fire.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” said Hamilton, a member of the Coal City Unit Dist. 1 school board. “It’s not a race against the other participants, it’s a race against yourself.
“It’s really a test of mental capacity.”
For his first Tough Mudder, Hamilton and a group of friends had to travel to Indiana.
But when he tackles the endurance challenge this year, he won’t have to travel so far.
The 2013 Chicago event will be held at the Seneca Hunt Club May 18 and 19, and it seems as though it will be a big draw.
Individual registration for Saturday’s event has been sold out since April, and the event’s Facebook page listed 2,656 planning to attend as of press time.
According to Hamilton, that interest is largely because of the unique nature of the event.
“People are looking for something different,” Hamilton said. “That’s what intrigued me about it.”
Of course, the influx of participants and spectators into Seneca for the race creates a logistical challenge concerning traffic and parking.
According to Grundy County Sheriff Kevin Callahan, his department will be regulating the roads into the village, allowing only local traffic to enter.
Parking for the event had originally been planned in Seneca, but has been moved to the Chicagoland Motor Speedway in Joliet, from where attendees will be bused to the event.
Callahan said his department’s only concern right now is Old Stage Road, which runs past the Seneca Hunt Club and falls into Grundy County’s jurisdiction.
“Our main objective is to keep Old Stage Road clear,” Callahan said.
Callahan said five deputies will be at the event for security and that the department is currently putting together a plan of action for the event.
The first Tough Mudder was held in 2010 in Pennsylvania, developed by two British-born New Yorkers based on British Special Forces training courses. Since then, the events have come to more cities across the country, with 53 scheduled in 2013, both in America and abroad.
The event is not officially timed, but typically takes three to four hours to complete.
In that time, participants — either individually or in teams — submit themselves to an array of difficult — and unexpeced —obstacles.
Those include, but are certainly not exclusive to, monkey bars suspended over icy water, a greased quarter-pipe, and dark trenches that need to be crawled through.
What awaits the participants in the Seneca event is unclear because Tough Mudder does not disclose specific obstacles before start time to keep participants ready for anything.
Hamilton said that while many of the obstacles — like, say, the electric wires — are difficult to train for, there are ways you could prepare.
“It’s an endurance event,” he said. “So it’s important to be in shape cardio-wise.”
But, he said, the most important part of the race is that — individual or team — most of the event cannot be done alone.
“A lot of Tough Mudder is about comaraderie and working together,” Hamilton said. “It’s having others there with you that makes it fun.”
That’s something Tough Mudder explicitly promotes, both in the event and outside it.
Participants, for instance, recite a pledge before embarking in which they vow to “put teamwork and comaraderie before my course time” and to “help my fellow mudders complete the course.”
The event also raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project, providing combat stress recovery programs, adapative sports programs, benefits counseling and employment services to veterans.
As of press time, Tough Mudder has raised close to $5.5 million for the Wounded Warrior Project.
It’s a challenging course to make it through, but one Hamilton said is ultimately worth it.
“It’s about the challenge of it,” he said. “I want to challenge myself.
“It will be a lot of fun.”