The first World’s Toughest Mudder took place 6 years ago. Few in the world knew it was happening, and a rare 800 some at the start line were prepared for what they would face.
The event was December 17, 2011 at Raceway Park, NJ.
Yep. December. In New Jersey.
Preparation was such a mystery that most of those 800 some people froze when the sun went down. 700 plus went back to their tents, and never came back out. Junyong Pak and Juliana Sproles emerged as the first champions and a new era had been launched in OCR.
Each year since, Nolan Kombol and countless others from TMHQ have grown and evolved this event with creativity, heart, and innovation. Would you believe at one point there wasn’t a team category? Would you believe pit crews were once verbotten? What if I told you that penalties the first year meant standing in one place for several minutes? What about when arctic enema was the penalty for almost everything in 2012? Anyone remember the golden carabiner?
I’ve been thrilled to have had a front row seat at every event since 2012 as media and/or participant and I can tell you that this will be the most competitive and exciting race we have ever seen.
Call it a “What To Watch”. Call it a “Who’s Who”.
I call it “The Best WTM To Date”.
Let’s start with the men first. Also, please note the use of the word “contender” in the post is the “dictionary definition” and is not meant to be ironic.
Any of these men could go 100 miles or more.
Let’s start with the best. Jon Albon and Ryan Atkins are two of the best ever in OCR, let alone WTM. Neither one has ever left WTM anywhere but first place. Atkins won solo in 2013 and 2014, then Atkins and Albon won as part of a 4 man team in 2015, and as a 2 man team last year. Just for good measure, Albon won UK Toughest earlier this year. It’s a coin toss on the win, but these vets are likely to go 1-2.
Trevor Cichosz (pronounced Psy-Kos), the reigning champ, worked his way up the podium ladder coming in 3rd in 2014, 2nd in 2015, and finally winning in 2016.
2015 Spartan Race Champ Robert Killian comes in after a strong year in OCR and hungry for another title. He had a disappointing first WTM in 2015, and came in 2nd as a team last year with 2015 Champ Chad Trammell.
Matthew Hanson, 4th in 2013, injured mid race 2014, and 75 miles last year. He could finally make his way onto the podium this year.
Dark Horses: Matthew Lister and Tyler Nash – Both men got 50 at this year’s Chicago Toughest. Luke “SkyRunner” Bosek – Experienced Ultra Marathoner, and impressive showing at Atlanta Toughest.
Alex “CH1K0R1TA” Roudanya
Even without 3 time champ Amelia Boone (out to injury), this is easily the deepest women’s field in history.
I’ll list them alphabetically for organization sake. The truth is any one of these women could be on the podium come brunch time.
Deanna Blegg burst on the scene at the 2012 WTM finishing 2nd to Amelia and 3rd overall to only Amelia and Pak. We quickly learned she was an HIV survivor and were even more impressed with her accomplishment. 2013 she won World’s Toughest Mudder for the women and only 6 men finished ahead of her cementing her WTM legacy. 2014 she nearly led her Australian team to victory, but finished 2nd behind the Hunter McIntyre led ,Spartan Wolfpack. 2015 she finished 3rd as an individual. Last year she sat out as she was diagnosed with breast cancer. (But, as Will from World’s Toughest Podcast always reminds us, she did invent BleggMitts in the meantime).
Although some knew her from past endurance events, Stef Bishop essentially came out of nowhere to win last year’s event for the women. She’s raced in several Toughest events this year but did not get on the podium. Even still, you can never count out a reigning champion.
April Dee is the “Bulldog Of OCR”. She’s got a mean bark AND a mean bite. She’s the best talker in the game, this side of Hunter McIntyre and knows one gear, called Hammer Down. This has led to two 4th place finishes in 2015 and 2016, losing momentum in the later miles. Perhaps she can put together the plan to last the full 24, and finally get on the podium.
Susanne Krauss finished 2nd in 2016 for the women. She also won this year’s, Europe Toughest Mudder. We admittedly know very little about this athlete, other than she is one to watch.
Morgan Mckay. With her infectious smile and laugh, along with her ridiculous, yet dead on accurate, comic strips of the WTM course each year, Morgan is a fan favorite. After several disappointing years in Jersey and Vegas, she finally cracked the podium with a 3rd place effort last year. She also finished 4th in two of the Toughest events this year.
CH1K0R1TA has been running Spartan Races for years, but the TM community has only been learning about her this season. We watched her battle the other top women through airings on CBS of the Toughest events. She went on to finish 3rd in the Toughest total mileage rankings with 110 total miles.
Allison Tai’s best WTM finish to date was a 2nd place in 2014, doing no better since. However, if you’ve watched the TM Competitive Series this year, you have seen her dominate with 5 podiums and 2 first places. It would not be surprising to see her at any spot on the podium come Sunday.
Lindsay Webster. If you are reading this, you know who she is. She’s never gone 24 at any event, and yet no one will be surprised if she takes home the gold.
Dark horses: KC Northrup, Adriane Alvord, Rea Kolbl. KC and Adriane have been playing in the OCR endurance space for a minute or two. Rea has never done anything like this event, but many have run the farthest in their lives on WTM weekend, and it’s OCR where anything can happen.
2 Person Team
With TMHQ pulling the prize money on this category late in the game, the only “2 man”that really stands out is Team Merrell – Wesley “Dr. Red Tights” Kerr and Evan “Strength and Speed” Perperis. Both men got 90 miles last year and finished in 7th and 8th place.
The other team being bandied around is known as “Community First” with Joel Forsyth and Nicholas Allmond. Both have faired well in the Toughest Series this year.
4 Person (Country/Continent) Competition
Lots of hubbub in recent weeks from the aforementioned TMHQ switcheroo, should make for some strong competition in this first ever relay category.
Canada – Before there was Ryan and Lindsay, there was Claude and Marco. Claude Godbout and Marco Bedard head up a strong team that includes Benjamin Morin-Boucher. (**This just in, learning Claude is injured and pit only, still a solid team.)
USA – Chad “World’s Toughest Dentist” Trammel, Ryan “Woodsy” Woods, Brian “Lewinksi” Gowisiki, Glenn “Pronounced Race” Racz.
Goat Tough/North America with Kris Mendoza and Austin Azar, Mark Jones, Miguel Medina. These guys have the biggest names and the biggest target on their backs.
Whoever Germany sends. (most likely 2 teams). The Germans have been sending strong teams for a few years now. Last year their teams got 90 and 80 miles. Easy money to say at least one team makes this year’s podium.
So there you go. Agree, debate, call me an idiot for not including you/your cousin/your gf/whatever.
I’ll see you in the desert, doing what I always do. Staying up all night, soaking in as much as possible, and watching history be made.
14 hours plus of live coverage on the ToughMudder Live Facebook page.
Additional coverage on Obstacle Racing Media social channels starting tomorrow.