I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
I put team work and camaraderie before my course time.
I do not whine…
I help my fellow mudders complete the course.
I overcome all fears.
A little before 8.40am on Saturday 21st September, I was on one knee with 8 work colleagues and over a hundred strangers as we recited this pledge, hand on heart.
I’d been awake for nearly 4 hours already, driven 80 miles to the edge of the Brecon Beacons, and was about to start Tough Mudder: 12 miles of hilly trail runs and brutal obstacles. I signed up with these work colleagues over 6 months ago, but now it was real.
The weather couldn’t have been kinder, really. Not cold, but not too bright and sunny either. The opening 20 minutes or so was a gentle jog around the beautiful Glanusk Estate near Abergavenny, better than your average Saturday morning run, and more fun too. We haad laughed at the team in flesh-coloured skinsuits and mankinis, and were following three guys in silvery wigs and ‘old-lady’ cardigans and dresses. Then we hit the first obstacle, “Kiss of Mud”, which wasn’t as muddy as I’d expected. Over the Glory Blades next, and then we approached the fabled, infamous Arctic Enema.
What I remember about this:
- The water didn’t look anything like the website videos. It looked like a container of filthy ice.
- It was bastard cold.
- The water didn’t just look filthy. It smelled filthy and tasted filthy.
- I wish I’d shut my mouth more tightly.
- I jumped out within a few seconds, so while I was bastard cold afterwards, it wasn’t the Hellish experience I’d been fearing.
Then the hills started: we climbed up steadily for what seemed like ages, pausing only briefly to
swing across wade through the water beneath the monkey bars obstacle and then to carry a massive hunk of tree a few hundred metres around a muddy loop of trail. I had long feared the monkey bars, fully expecting not to make it very far across. I started well, getting a few rungs out, until a teammate behind cried out “Yes Chris!”, at which point I promptly lost my grip and fell into the murky water.
Soon it was getting properly muddy. The Mud Mile did exactly what it said on the tin, with often knee-deep ‘puddles’ of thick, sloppy mud, and deep ruts that were slippery underfoot. As the trail turned steeply downhill, we weren’t sure whether running, skiing or sliding was the best tactic. Whatever, I tried to remember my school climbing holidays in Snowdonia, running down the scree slopes, and I had a blast…
Electric Eel required us to crawl through muddy water underneath a host of electric cables. Hero Carry saw us carry team-mates along the trail for 100m, and Dirty Ballerina witnessed the lightest footwork over deep ditches this side of, er, anywhere…
I was the Old Man of the team, but I was loving it, able to keep up a steady pace running, and just going for it at the obstacles. I was psyched to complete the Human Gecko climbing wall, and was at the front of our group as we approached the Hero Walls, imposing 10 foot high monoliths that dared you to be afraid of them; and I was afraid. I had my only panic-moment of the event, as I stared up at them, frozen. Then some massive guy of solid muscle offered me a leg up and practically threw me over the barrier, which seemed to lift the doubt from me, and I scrambled over the second wall (yes, there was another wall behind the first one!) without help.
From there it was a flat course to the finish, but still 6 obstacles to negotiate, including a crossing of the River Usk and the Boa Constrictor tunnels, which summed up for me the whole event. As I crawled out of the narrow tube, the guy behind me was a(nother) muscle-bound hunk, with biceps that looked as big as my thigh. But he was getting stuck: he was too muscly for the tube, and couldn’t squirm his way out. I took his (massive) hand and tried not to cry out as his grip crushed mine, but pulled him to the end of the tube, from where he jumped out, slapped me on the shoulder and beamed “Thanks mate!”
Three more obstacles, perhaps the most dramatic… By the time we reached Walk The Plank, a 15-20 foot high platform from which we had to leap into water, with less than a mile of running to the finish, the sun was out. We were knackered but mostly elated. This had been more fun than we expected. Everest is effectively a massive half-pipe structure we had to run up, leap for the top and haul ourselves up. And as a final twisted joke, the dash for the line and the fabled Tough Mudder headbands is through Electroshock Therapy.
I loved doing Tough Mudder. I loved finishing Tough Mudder. I loved the challenge, the adrenaline rushes, the fatigue and determination, the realisation that my training was worth it, that An Old Man can do this shit. I loved sense of humour all the way around the course, the collective spirit of everyone taking part, that we were part of something.
I can’t wait to do another one. And next time, I bloody will make it across the monkey bars.