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The weekend before last, 54 teammates from the Single Dad Laughing Health Club flew and drove from all over North America to embark on one of the most difficult and trying physical and mental challenges that people pay to put themselves through. The Tough Mudder.

54 teammates with no common denominator (besides a common determined heart) that I can find. Rich. Poor. Tall. Short. Gay. Straight. Male. Female. Brown skin. White skin. Boistrous. Shy. Athletes. Those struggling to make acquaintance with fitness for the first time. Youngsters. 50-somethings. Married. Divorced. Perpetually single. Roughnecks and rednecks. Sophisticated and well-spoken. Bloggers. Teachers. Accountants. Call center workers. Gosh. We really don’t have any solid thing in common between the lot of us besides the SDLHC.

Most of us had never met each other except through the Single Dad Laughing Health Club.

Isn’t it odd, if you really think about it, that so many strangers would come together from all corners of the continent like this to do something that most people instantly balk at or dismiss completely?

I mean… So many on the team made huge financial sacrifices to be there. So many took giant leaps of faith. So many of us overcame huge social anxieties and fears to join together. Others of us overcame major obstacles in our personal lives. There wasn’t a person there who didn’t make sacrifices of money, time, or even relationships to make it.

So why did we all go? I have no idea. Each person had his or her own reasons. What I do know is this…

Everyone on our team arrived with some sort of burden or hope that they would somehow get right with in the mud and with their sweat. Most of us didn’t know what that burden or hope even was until we were faced with it.

I’ve thoroughly blogged about two other SDLHC Tough Mudders now. I am not going to blog about the stories this time. I could fill three months of blog posts and still not cover every powerful and amazing thing that happened on that course and to me and my teammates, and let’s be honest. If you weren’t there, it could get a little old because there’s really no way most people will get it.

So instead, I am simply going to share some of the incredible photos that came out of this Tough Mudder.

Oh, I promise you… This Tough Mudder, like the last two, changed so many lives. It drastically changed my life. The online Facebook group for our team is still a big daily bawl-fest as each member tries to put into words what this experience did for them and their lives.

The course was far more difficult than any SDLHC course in the past. Enormous hill after enormous hill seemed to constantly appear in front of us. The mud was so slick that just walking was an enormous battle half the time. Very few people made it to the end without nursing some sort of injury, or cramp, or scraped up legs, or bruises.

The terrain was definitely more difficult. Some of the obstacles were more difficult. Tough Mudder made Everest taller and more difficult. They upped the voltage running through the live wires of Electroshock Therapy. The tear gas tent was excruciating. The ice water in Arctic Enema was the coldest I’ve been in yet.

It took us nearly nine hours to finish the course. Nine hours is a long time to be physically and mentally pushing yourself to such extremes.

And in the end, I felt like an incredibly proud papa as I looked over the wave of depleted faces that were somehow still smiling so big as we walked hand in hand across that finish line. Together.

These pictures are a bit out of order. Sorry about that. But it doesn’t really matter.

These photos speak for themselves. They speak for the weekend. They begin to show the pieces of a puzzle so many of us are still trying to piece together. You see, the physical accomplishment is almost always far from the last thing people take from these things. At least when it’s an SDLHC team. What each person takes is completely unique to what they left out there. And it usually takes weeks or even months to fully sink in. You just have to experience it to know what I’m talking about.

Gosh. I’ve had goosebumps and chills as I’ve collected these photos. I mean… The Single Dad Laughing Health Club over on Facebook… I’ve never seen anything like it.

I never intended to start something that would turn into what it has become. It was quite a beautiful accident.

I just wanted a few hundred online friends to say hey and report our workouts to in order to keep ourselves accountable. Instead… it has turned into ten thousand incredible humans all going at life together. It has turned into so many real people feeling safe to finally embrace health and to finally confront the ghosts of their pasts. It’s turned int… things like this for crying out loud! All of this. And so much more.

Anyway. I probably shouldn’t get started on the people in the SDLHC. Let’s get to the photos. Simply click on the first image to begin swiping through them. Oh, and Humaning App users… sorry, these probably won’t show properly in the app. Click on the “open in browser” button in the bottom right corner to view them instead.

[justified_image_grid title_field=off caption_field=off load_more=scroll load_more_text=”Lots More! Click to Load Them!” load_more_mobile=click load_more_limit=30 orderby=menu_order]

Our next SDLHC Tough Mudder is in October in Philadelphia. Gosh. I don’t know if I can wait that long. These things change me as much as they change anyone.

Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

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Dan Pearce is an American-born author, app developer, photographer, and artist. This blog, Single Dad Laughing, is what he's most known for, with more than 1.4 million daily subscribers as of 2017. Pearce writes mostly humorous and introspective works, as well as his musings which span from fatherhood, to dating, to life, to the people and dynamics of society. Single Dad Laughing is much more than a blog. It's an incredible community of people just being real and awesome together!