For some reason, I thought that it would be a good idea to do a Tough Mudder for my 35th birthday. I’d seen an advert for it on Facebook and thought this looks like some good clean wholesome fun. A fellow co-conspirator, I’ll call him “James” for the purposes of anonymity, and I mustered a team. We had a decent amount of time to train, time off was arranged and the hotels were booked.
We were all ready to go, other than actually being “ready”. How do you train for “Probably the Hardest Event on the Planet”? I was pretty confident. I’d spent 7 years playing Ice Hockey as a youth, I’d choked a few people out as a BJJ player and I loved chucking my mountain bike around the Surrey Hills on the weekends with a stinking hangover and I was pretty handy with a kettlebell; I won’t go on. 10 miles isn’t too far, but I had no idea what the rest of it was going to be. I had read/ heard that I will get electrocuted and will probably end up in cold water, there may also be mud…..
It was six years ago now so some of it is a little hazy, but I do remember sitting in the hotel bar the night before drinking an Irish whiskey, for Dutch courage thinking “wtf” am I doing. I had my best poker face on, not letting my fellow crazies know that I was having a squeaky bum moment.
From memory team “dirtypablo’s” were in the 08:40 wave. To get into the starting pen we had to get over a 6′ wall. I remember thinking well that went well, this will be fine as I jumped down off the wall. I turned to watch the rest of the team come over the wall, I noticed that one of us had managed to get his mullet dyed pink and was still smoking his roll-up, sitting on top of the wall. At this point, I knew we were ready!
Kneeling for the “pledge” was a weird experience, there was a real buzz in the air that feeling of nervous excitement and apprehension, it was either that or the caffeine gels were kicking in or I needed a nervous poo. I don’t remember the sound that kicked it all off, buzzer, hooter or just the MC doing a countdown, but I do remember starting my Garmin 350XT and running. There was a huge roar, something like that “Battle of Stirling” scene from Braveheart, if you haven’t seen that film by now don’t bother, (sorry Mr Gibson).
We streamed across a short stretch of grass and into a river. The water was pretty cold, I had to keep moving forward as I knew there was a lot of people behind me. The next thing I knew a hand was being shoved in my face and someone I didn’t know was trying to help me out of the water, I turned and did the same for the next three random people, once the team was all out of the water, we moved on.
If memory serves, we were in a wooded area with a few obstacles bunched together. We crawled uphill, under barbed wire through a stinging nettle bed, clambering up a huge cargo net may have been next. At some point, we had to do the obstacle called “Electric Eels”.
Its pretty self-explanatory you are belly down, serpentine like in an expanse of water, with electric wires suspended from the frame above. The idea is to get from one side to the other. One of the lads got shocked on the temple and it knocked him out, as much as I was concerned for his well being, I was getting shocked on the arse so I kept moving, luckily my pal came to and we crawled out line abreast, a quick look around to check we were all out of the obstacle and we ran on laughing about the electrifying experience.
To be honest I don’t really remember much more about the other obstacles. But there was such a great atmosphere out on course, people helping strangers, lone runners tagging on to groups and having an awesome time. It was definitely something that stayed with me. Something else that stayed with me was the queue at the bottom of “Walk the Plank”.
This was just a case of getting up on top of a platform and jumping into the river. Being British I’m not adverse to queueing, but this was silly. I couldn’t see why it was taking so long to climb the platform, so I started trying to move through the crowd (some might say push in) to see what was going on. I was shocked to see that someone appeared to have slipped between the guard rails and had broken his leg and was now kind of part of the obstacle. His team was holding him up and trying to ease his obvious agony.
Walk the Plank
If you know anything about Tough Mudder obstacles you’ve probably heard about “Everest” and “Electroshock Therapy (EST)”. These were the last two obstacles on-course we did that day and I still recall how happy I was making it up Everest first time and then turning around and helping people up.
Our final obstacle was EST and I was filled with dread, Electric Eels was not pleasant, and EST was a bigger, longer version, surrounded by hundreds of spectators waving and shouting encouragement. I managed to stay on my feet but did get shocked two or three times and it wasn’t fun.
Everest before the “mayhem”
Everest with lots of really helpful people
So we 8, mainly IT guys gave the Tough Mudder course our best shot and we finished in just over 3 hours and 11 min, which apparently put us in the top 5% and ready to take on the World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM), sadly that never took place. But fast forward 5 years, 1 Tough Mudder tattoo and 31 more Tough Mudder runs and I made it to WTM 2017.
Be good, if you can’t be good, be sensational!