Tough Mudder is one of the most frequently reviewed events. I’ve officially run more of theirs than any other company’s races now. This weekend was a reminder as to why. I ran both days with our own Matt B. Davis, and we both remarked frequently upon why Tough Mudder remains unique.
On Saturday, when we reached Everest, there was a big crowd as always. After we all made it up, we noticed there was a huge team attempting this famous Tough Mudder obstacle as well. All but one of them had made it up. She was perhaps 5 feet tall and in her late 50’s. She made 5 gallant attempts, but was unable to reach the top. Her team and she were all first timers and they reluctantly began to leave. Matt and I stopped them and told her that we would get her to the top. Her team rallied, and we built a human ladder from the bottom and lowered a guy from the top. She climbed us and reached the top of Everest. Her face was unforgettable. I’ve no doubt that neither her nor her team will forget that moment. As Matt and I high-fived and jogged off, I told him that he could get to the top unassisted if he wanted.
We returned to Tough Mudder the next day, and Matt easily crested Everest unassisted for the first time, as did Rise of the Sufferfests’ Scott Kenneally. He also completed Tough Mudder’s Funky Monkey 2.0 for the first time. Here’s my point, Tough Mudder is an event of firsts. The team and the veterans, both achieving milestones they won’t soon forget.
Helping others through the course at Tough Mudder is an expectation. It is part of the pledge we all give before each wave. It is viewed as a responsibility, but in reality it is a gift. Many of us have been in OCR for years and run hundreds of events. They get old after a while. That’s just a fact. But, for me, being given the opportunity to help someone accomplish a feat they thought was beyond their capability, is worth a thousand podiums. At every Tough Mudder you will see Legionaries sitting atop Pyramid Scheme and Everest, or in the water at Blockness, helping dozens of runners complete these team challenges before moving on. At World’s Toughest Mudder, you may have been helped up by Ryan Atkins or Junyong Pak, even with $100k on the line.
Tough Mudder’s biggest obstacle, King of the Swingers, is another such opportunity. At three events is a row, I have been witness to the stark fear that obstacle inspires in those afraid of heights and deep water. Now, if you are lucky enough not to have a phobia, then it’s likely you don’t understand the fear people face up there. If you do have one, then you know these folks are literally paralyzed with fear. That they can’t move, or even open their eyes at first. Sometimes they can’t even climb to the high platform Tough Mudder erects at KotS at all. But, each of these three times, the same thing happened. The crowd, the fellow runners, the volunteers, everyone cheered them on enthusiastically. There was no impatience or frustration. My good friend Yvette stood up there for 15 minutes, crying, shaking her head, and repeating “no, no, no!” and then, she jumped! Thunderous applause. I had the same experience at Long Island with another woman who finally leaped and caught the bar after about 10 minutes of sweating it out. I watched her run off into the woods with her hands in the air yelling “Yes, yes, yes!” Tell me that’s not a beautiful thing.
Even when there is a failure, as there was with my third friend, he now knows what it looks like. He’s determined to try again. That’s the kind of thing that brings people back. Now you add in the tiny cramped tunnels (that I loathe), the freezing Arctic Enema, the dark crawls, the voluntary waterboarding of Cage Crawl, and you realize that Tough Mudder really does have something for everyone. Really the only thing missing is an obstacle wherein a bucket of spiders is dropped upon you. I know where you can get spiders wholesale, so let me know.
There is nothing like Tough Mudder in North America. Don’t be a dingbat, go run one.
Photo Credits: Tough Mudder and Matt B. Davis