Last week, after two decades or so of prevarication, I made my will. Tough Mudder does that to a fellow.

What happened to buying a sports car and getting a tan? Picture: Tough Mudder

If you were watching the telly on Saturday, you might have seen footage of 10,000 or more weekend warriors, SAS pseuds, Bear Grylls wannabes, muscle heads, gym bunnies, fools and otherwise completely normal people taking part in Sydney’s first ever Tough Mudder.

This is my story, or at least the story of a troop of seven 40-somethings who competed to the very best of their limited ability in what is billed as “probably the toughest event on the planet”.

Tough Mudder events are described by its organisers as “hardcore 18-20 km obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie”. Some half a million people have already endured them since the first in Pennsylvania in May 2010. More than $3 million has been raised for veterans’ charities, which is a nice thought to consider as you are being electrocuted in the 11th and 21st obstacles.

The first Australian Mudder was held in Phillip Island in March, and I’m told that plenty who competed in Victoria headed north for Saturday and Sunday’s events at the picturesque Glenworth Valley, Peats Ridge. They must have been the knowing types running past me with ease as I ground my way arduously through mud pits and uphill climbs.

So what’s it like? Well, let’s talk about my waterproof, shockproof camera that has survived the Kokoda Track and a 100 kilometre Oxfam Trailwalker. It expired somewhere between the second and third obstacles and despite a night’s drying out has not recovered, so sadly there’s no video of my exertions. Other cameras were seemingly made of sterner stuff and their owners have already posted some great material on Youtube.

So that’s the Tough bit. The Mudder portion is something else again. Never have I seen more heavy, cloying mud, even on the way to Kokoda. The 18th obstacle, the so-called Mud Mile, was poorly named for two reasons: it was probably only two hundred metres of mud pools followed by mud hillocks and then more mud quicksand, and it seemed more like 10 miles. I’m still coughing up black muck.

But it is moments like this where the camaraderie kicks in; you simply will not make it without having someone pull you through the worst. Only God knows how the first person exited.

The same must be said for the penultimate set piece, the “Everest” wall. About five metres high, you run full pelt at a slippery half pipe and just as you start to lose traction and slide, lunge forward and hope that someone lying on top can grab your arms and hoist you over. My team-mates were heroes here, and in most other places where upper body strength was required.

I slipped badly once while carrying a log around a course of more slippery mud, and wrenched my ankle slightly. Others were far less fortunate, as evidenced by the steady stream of ambulances coming and going during the day. But in all honesty, if you are relatively fit, adventurous, open-minded, lucky, don’t mind getting ridiculously dirty and avoid doing things you know are sillier than the organisers intended, you’ll get through. Finishing in a fraction less than four hours and with all team members’ limbs intact is testament to that.

Highlights? Well, the title of this article refers to obstacle number 2, the “Arctic Enema”. Previously known as the “Chernobyl Jacuzzi”, this impediment was formerly a garishly coloured ice cube bath that must be traversed testicle-tighteningly quickly. The organisers have since realised that the addition of countless tonnes of mud from contestants is going to quickly leave flourescent dyed water looking less like a radioactive pond than … well, you get the drift. As a heart-starter, it’s better than any known coffee brand.

Much is made of your being hit by 10,000 volts from wires hanging down on two obstacles, including the very last only metres from the finish. You will be stung, you will suffer and you might even be knocked over. But the amps are low, there’s no residual pain and to be honest watching people being zapped in a non-life threatening way is hilariously funny. Don’t think less of me for saying that – it really is.

Low lights? I’m glad I wasn’t caught in the traffic jams on the way into the Valley. For this I can’t blame the organisers; once at the venue, everything ran like clockwork.

I also started but then chickened out of two obstacles that involved tunnelling in tight dark places. Claustrophobia was one fear I could not defeat on the day.

Will I do it again? No, I don’t think so - the real Mount Everest beckons in two weeks. So is this what a mid-life crisis looks like? Probably, but it’s the best sort, mud and all.

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    • Richard says:

      11:53am | 24/09/12

      Yay! How fun! I love those sorts of event :D :D.. Looking forward to the Warrior Dash in November :D :D

    • TChong says:

      12:17pm | 24/09/12

      not being a spoilt sport- great fun, good cause,
      but a “stream of ambulances” isnt a recommmendation, nor should it be seen as a badge of honour, but more shows a poorly planned event, or some participants who’ve downed too many Red Bulls.
      Trying to beat the clock is the undoing, rusing, tripping

    • TonyJ says:

      01:02pm | 24/09/12

      I bet you’re fun at parties.

    • Slothy says:

      03:20pm | 24/09/12

      Eh, there were 10,000 people doing something that by its very nature carries a risk of, possibly serious, injury. Even if 90% of people come through with nothing but bruises and scrapes, that’s still 1000 injuries ranging in severity from sprained ankles to broken bones. You can’t avoid a certain number of accidents entirely without changing the very nature of the event, and everybody knew that going in. No seriously, you should’ve seen the waiver we had to sign.

      In my experience, people were enthusiastic but not stupid, and good at calling out hidden dangers (“hey, guys, there’s a massive pothole here, watch your ankles” “look out for the tree branch on the left”) and helping anybody that looked like they were in distress. Sure, there were a couple of injuries that were probably caused by people overestimating their limits, but most would just have been a hand slipping or an ankle rolling at an inopportune moment.

    • Sue them says:

      12:48pm | 24/09/12

      What, a dangerous risky event that hasn’t been shut down yet? You should see if you can’t sue someone for your camera. A million or two should be enough to kill the fun and satisfy the cotton wool brigade.

    • Alfie says:

      02:15pm | 24/09/12

      My idea of fun doesn’t stretch to getting mud in my crack.

    • Slothy says:

      03:06pm | 24/09/12

      I did it yesterday! It was great fun, although less fun today as I count the various scrapes and bruises and my muscles protest at any dramatic movements.

      RIP my dignity, Mud Mile 2012. Never forget. I’ve never felt so helpless floating in that concrete masquerading as mud, without even the strength to pull my knees to my chest so I could stand up.

      My waterproof camera survived the whole event, although I was reliant on drink stops and river crossings to periodically clean the mud off the lens. Unfortunately that means I couldn’t get photos of some of the most entertaining obstacles.

      It’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me health and fitness wise as well. I exhausted myself doing the 5km Warrior Dash in February, and then was slowly talked into giving TM a try. Between then and now I’ve been training 2-3 times a week with Battle Camp, 1-2 times with my TM team mates and playing indoor soccer on Sundays. I ran (ran!) a 10km race a fortnight ago and felt fine, and when I hit the 5km mark in TM couldn’t believe that I had been so tired so early back in Warrior Dash.

      The camaraderie was amazing as well. I met so many great people just jogging alongside them for a bit and without exception people were encouraging and friendly. I need to give a shout out: to everyone who gave a hand, a push, a boost, a shoulder, or an encouraging word, to me or to any of their fellow Mudders, THANK YOU!

    • CJ says:

      04:51pm | 24/09/12

      I did it, too. Had a similar experience to the one you described. Note for next time mate, the underground stuff isn’t so dark. I’m a bit claustro, too, but there was plenty of light coming the the cracks above.


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