As a nine-year Army veteran, Sharika Blockett knows all about overcoming obstacles and what it’s like to work as a member of a team.
On Oct. 25-26, those experiences will have new meaning as she takes on the Tough Mudder. The event tests participants’ physical endurance as they trudge through a 10-mile military-style obstacle course.
For the second straight year, Tough Mudder, which has hosted 60 events on three continents this year, will have an event in Mount Pleasant at Virginia Foil’s farm.
Tough Mudder has a strong relationship with the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization that specializes in assisting veterans affected by their military service.
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Blockett, a Fayetteville resident whose husband is still an active soldier, will participate on the first all-female team representing the Wounded Warrior Project.
As of Oct. 5, 24 women were registered for the Wounded Warrior Project team. Blockett said she feels particularly close to these people, although she has never met most of her teammates.
Their goal will be to assist one another as they try and tackle obstacles that will include plunging through fire, swimming through ice, crawling through muddy trenches and dodging electrically charged wires.
The event is not a competition. There are no winners or losers. Time is not kept. The mission for participants is to finish the event, and teamwork is strongly recommended as part of Tough Mudder’s mission.
“I just want to see what I can do,” said Blockett, a 37-year-old mother of three daughters.
“Whether I complete it or not, I’ve been given an opportunity to do so. ... I know my battle buddies will cheer me on, so that will make it lovely.”
The first Tough Mudder events were held in 2010. Tough Mudder communications manager Carol Gottshall said 130 events have been held since then, drawing 1.5 million participants.
About 5,000 people participated in Mount Pleasant last year, Gottshall said, the same number of people Tough Mudder expects this year. She added that Foil’s farm has everything Tough Mudder looks for in a location.
“First and foremost, there’s some great soil for making mud there,” she said. “We’re also excited about the variety of terrain there.
“At this venue we have both open plains and wooded inlets. The course will run through hay fields, over sloping hills, and up some steep inclines.”
Gottshall said Tough Mudder and the Wounded Warrior Project have teamed for five years, and Tough Mudder participants have raised $6.5 million for the project in that span.
Blockett was tuned in to the Wounded Warrior Project in May. She has participated in several WWP events since then, including a weekend getaway to Concord’s Great Wolf Lodge. There she attended an information session to learn more about the organization.
A native of Pontiac, Mich., Blockett enlisted in the Army as a 17-year-old high school graduate in 1994. She worked in personnel and human services for track truck repair. Her nine-year service included a deployment to Iraq in 2003.
Blockett said she suffered mental and physical anguish from the demands of her job, and that led to permanent disabilities. A stay-at-home mom, she said she constantly struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, lower back issues and left knee injuries.
“I don’t regret my time in the military,” said Blockett. “I’ve met some amazing people. But the life itself is a hard life, with being deployed and field duty and 24-hour days. … It was too much for me to handle.”
Since she left the Army in 2004, Blockett said, she is not the same person she was when she enlisted.
“It’s the new you,” she said. “I always say I’m new and improved. It may not be true, but it’s what I like to say.”
The Wounded Warrior Project has helped her network with veterans who suffer from the same issues she does, or similar ones. Her best estimate is that half of her Tough Mudder team is from the Fort Bragg/Fayetteville area.
“(Contacting the Wounded Warrior Project) turned out to be one of the best things I could have done,” said Blockett. “My anxiety level has come down some.
“When you are around people that are like you, it makes it easier to just be the new you that you have become.
“Everybody that is deployed is not the same when they come back,” Blockett said. “It’s a little easier to talk about it because they are living the same life as you.”