‘Never give up’: Man with MS completes Tough Mudder
SMYRNA, Tenn. (AP) — A 10-mile Tough Mudder obstacle course competition is hard enough for an experienced athlete. Bruce Ippel of Smyrna faced a whole different challenge to make it to the end.
Getting there was a journey that began a little over a year ago after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a debilitating condition that attacks the central nervous system and causes problems with vision, speech and muscle control, among other issues.
“We were blown away, shocked,” Bruce said. “I would never have imagined this sort of thing would happen to me.”
For most of his life, the Colorado native has been involved with sports — from football and basketball to rock climbing and hiking. He ate healthy and worked out all the time.
But not long after he and wife, Tina Ippel, moved to Murfreesboro, he began having problems with balance. At first they thought it was an inner-ear infection.
But an MRI test showed a mass in his brain that turned out to be a sign of something far more serious: multiple sclerosis.
Overnight, it seemed, he went from being a little off-balance to needing a cane to walk. Eventually he began using a motorized wheelchair.
Admittedly, he felt defeated.
“I wanted to be able to do the things I used to do,” Bruce said.
Instead of working out like he was used to with his wife and friends, he just sat on the sidelines — but not for long.
For months his condition got worse and worse before doctors discovered a medication that could keep the effects of MS at bay.
“The first medication was not aggressive enough. It got worse because it’s progressive. Then they put him on something (similar) to chemotherapy,” said Tina Ippel.
It was at a 5K with his wife and their workout buddies, including instructor Roger Brady, that his anger prompted his action.
“Roger saw how upset I was (watching everyone else compete). So he got me out of my scooter and I did a couple of obstacles. I was not going to accept the fact that I cannot do this,” Bruce said.
Between the new medication and some determination, Bruce went back into the gym and began working out.
“I went from the chair to the cane ... and I got busy getting back to where I once was,” Bruce said.
Working out took its toll. At the end of each session, which was four to five times a week, he was so exhausted he’d have to nap.
Still, he kept going back. As a longtime athlete, he said, he knew if he could get through the mental challenge, he could do the physical work. “And I never felt sorry for myself,” Bruce said.
“I did not want my life to change, so that’s why I push myself,” Bruce said. “If my hands start bothering me ... I deal with the pain and keep going.”
Tina said being part of a group helps his stamina and his spirits.
“They are encouraging,” Tina said.
Over time, he began competing in 5Ks in preparation for the biggest challenge: a Tough Mudder, which takes competitors through a muddy course littered with walls and obstacles.
A Tough Mudder is daunting, but Bruce said he was determined to finish it — although he came pretty close to tapping out. His teammates would give him an extra push here and a pull there. But he did the majority of the course without any aid.
At about Mile 8 of the course, between the heat and physical exertion, Bruce collapsed. His teammates were worried.
“We begged him to stop,” said Scott Degenhardt, a workout buddy who went on the Tough Mudder trip as part of a support team on the course. “We really couldn’t believe he’d gotten as far as he did. I don’t even know where he found the energy to get up and keep going.”
Bruce said he’d gotten that far, there was no way he was going to stop.
“It was all about me. I wanted to finish. I’d gone from where I was to where I am now. I had to prove to myself I could do it,” Bruce said. “That’s why I couldn’t give up.”
It seemed fate was paying attention. About the time he collapsed, an ice truck was driving by the course. Degenhardt said he jumped into action and they were able to cool Bruce’s body down quickly so he could return to the run.
“The Lord was looking out for me. I knew I was going to be all right,” Bruce said.
Four hours into the Tough Mudder competition, he finally made it to the finish line. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t have help,” Bruce said.
Bruce continues to work out and plans to keep going to competitions. He’ll often wear his favorite shirt, which reads, “I work out and have MS, what’s your excuse?”
“It’s easy to give up,” Bruce said. “But my best advice is, don’t give up. Never give up.”
Information from: The Daily News Journal, http://www.dnj.com