DOWNTOWN — When he nearly died from lupus, Adam Olbur had trouble walking 10 steps.
So when he completed the 2013 Chicago Tough Mudder — an intense running/obstacle race — even he was a bit surprised.
"Everybody said it was crazy, but I thought I might as well go big or go home," said Olbur, 34, of Ravenswood.
Justin Breen introduces DNAinfo Radio listeners to Adam Olbur:
Olbur, a project manager at Leo Burnett Downtown, is set to take on his second Chicago Tough Mudder on Saturday at the Richmond Hunting Club. He will be competing as part of a team with his brother, Aaron, sister-in-law, Megan, and some friends. He hopes to finish the course in about three hours.
"Seeing him come out to the event with a bunch of teammates, friends and family, it just puts a chill down my spine," said Alex Patterson, Tough Mudder's vice president of brand. "It's just incredible."
Time is not the key factor in Olbur's race, which is 10-plus miles and adds a series of brutal obstacles with diabolical names like Ladder to Hell, Boa Constrictor and Fire in Your Hole.
For Olbur, it's all about completing the event without any hiccups as last year he had to stop a few times due to cramping.
Olbur considers himself as an inspiration after he almost died twice from lupus, an "inflammatory disease that occurs when your body's immune system attacks your own tissues and organs," according to the Mayo Clinic.
Olbur was diagnosed with the disease during the fall of 1995, when he was a sophomore at suburban Stevenson High School. While trying to walk up a flight of stairs, Olbur said he couldn't breathe. After being taken to the hospital, doctors discovered three liters of fluids around his heart and lungs. His kidneys also were inflamed.
"If I hadn't been X-rayed, I would have died," said Olbur, who has a wife, Elaine, and a 23-month-old son, Parker.
He combated the disease with occasional intravenous treatments of Rituxan, but in 2007 his body had a "flareup" — a common term used by those with lupus. This time, a large amount of protein filled Olbur's bloodstream, which caused his kidneys to shut down and led to massive swelling in his feet. He couldn't walk more than 10 paces.
Again, Olbur, who ballooned from 170 to 220 pounds due to water retention, said he nearly died.
"I've had two near-death experiences," Olbur said.
So when Olbur was asked by friends last year to sign up for the Tough Mudder, he agreed, even though he'd never participated in any type of race before.
Olbur said Saturday could be his last Tough Mudder, but he likely will run some 5K or 10K races soon. He takes Rituxan every 1½ years but knows lupus is incurable.
Yet Olbur stressed tackling the Tough Mudder is part of his healing process.
"I feel like I've conquered lupus and that it's not going to conquer me," he said. "I just live my life and that's about it."