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A tent is being set up on the grounds. The Tough Mudder is an 11.8 mile adventure challenge featuring nearly 20 military style obstacles that aim to test a persons, strengths, stamina, and mental toughness. The event will be held September 7 and 8, 2013 at the Experimental Aircraft grounds. / Joe Sienkiewicz/For Wisconsinoutdoorfun.com

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The airplanes left a month ago and now the Experimental Aircraft Association campgrounds have been transformed in preparation for what some term the toughest event on the planet.

Crews have been digging holes, building berms and setting up obstacles for the past month in preparation for the thousands of people who will come to Oshkosh, ready to tackle obstacles and get muddy.

Tough Mudder, an adventure challenge that tests the strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie of participants, will take over the EAA grounds this weekend as Mudders climb walls, wade through mud and try to avoid getting shocked by live electricity as they near the finish line.

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“We work on producing the best obstacle events in the world,” said Nick Bodkins, a general manager for Tough Mudder events. “You’re going to see the most fantastic, amazing course that you can if you want to come out and run 12 miles.”

The 11.8-mile route, which features 18 military-style obstacles and several “course hazards,” draws everyone from serious athletes looking to take on a challenge and military groups to those who have lost large amounts of weight and teams of people who just want to have fun.

“We really have a full spectrum of people that come out to our events. You see everything from serious athletes to those who want to have a good time,” Bodkins said. “It’s not timed and there is no winner or loser. The entire event is designed around a mixture of being challenging and rewarding.”

It’s the third year Tough Mudder has held an event in Wisconsin and the first time it’s visited Oshkosh.

This year, between 16,000 and 20,000 participants, spectators and volunteers are expected to descend on Oshkosh for the two-day event, Bodkins said.

Since it’s a new event, it’s economic impact on the city is still unknown, but Wendy Hielsberg, the executive director for the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau, said while she doesn’t have any expectations, she’s optimistic it will be

“Any event in September, which is typically going into our off season, is great for tourism and great for business,” Hielsberg said. “I think this event is great exposure for Oshkosh, and specifically how versatile the EAA grounds are.”

Hielsberg said the hotel rooms available in the city have almost sold out.

Randy Schmiedel, of Oshkosh, is a first-time Mudder who falls into that category of people who are looking for a new challenge. Schmiedel, a veteran of countless running road races, signed up for the event at the urging of his wife Jane.

“It’s something different,” he said. “And it’s unique that it was happening right here in Oshkosh.”

For Rex Smith, a veteran Mudder who will be tackling his third Tough Mudder htis weekend, it’s the connection to the military that initially brought him to the event and what keeps him coming back.

The event raises money for the Wounded Warriors Project, which helps service members who have been wounded on the battlefield adjust to life.

“I’m a retired Marine and that’s why I started,” Smith said. “Every year I try to put together a team and we go out and have a good time.”

While Tough Mudder promises a challenging course for participants, Bodkins said the Oshkosh event may be one of the most spectator-friendly courses that Tough Mudder has created, allowing spectators to glimpse participants at many of the obstacles.

“We’re excited about being in Oshkosh,” Bodkins said. “It’s going to be a fantastic weekend.”

Jennifer K. Woldt: (920) 426-6676 or jwoldt@thenorthwestern.com

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