Who’s the toughest of them all? Not me. Or so I found out during my inaugural “attempt” at the Tough Mudder challenge (note quotation marks around the word attempt, but we’ll get back to that). You may have heard of the Tough Mudder challenge – and by challenge I mean a situation that calls for an internal dialogue something along the lines of ‘get me out of here, I’m ready to leave now, seriously… get me out of here, I need to go’. Tough Mudder is described (on their website) as “hardcore 18-20 km obstacle course challenges designed to test your all-around strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie. With the most innovative obstacles and over one million participants globally to date, Tough Mudder is the premier obstacle course series in the world.” One million participants… and one sore princess. I can report on the following learnings with regards to my own foot-stamping experience:
Stamina: If you’re about to attempt a 20km course, it may be worthwhile preparing beyond simply ‘thinking’ that you can do anything you put your mind to.
Mental Grit: Hundreds of calming Yoga classes will not mentally help you in any way, shape or form in a Tough Mudder Challenge.
Camraderie: Thank god for other people. Sorry… I mean other ‘mudders’.
Now this all sounds very torturous and sorrowful, but perhaps that’s because I’m sitting here with aching hips, mud clogged ears and a washing machine full of clay. I have to say It wasn’t all bad, in fact, there’s really something to be said for an event that pushes focus on the collective attempt of ‘teamwork’ over individual’s own driving goals. For me, when I was shedding a tear at the 15km mark due to pain in my eardrums from a daring leap into muddy water, a stranger who was undertaking the challenge alone came up and placed his hand on my back and asked me if I was going ok. When I blurted out “no… I hurt my ears on that blah blah blah whinge whinge whinge…” I felt like a pathetic princess in an interview on a reality show like The Bachelor or something. I wanted to slap myself. I consider myself a strong person, how could I be crumbling like this?!
What I realised through the event was that I lead a very comfortable exercise life, where I can get in and out of things relatively fluidly. In Yoga – “Too sore for downward dog today? No problem just lay on your back and breathe slowly… thinking of unicorns and happiness (or something to that effect).” Of course pushing yourself to your limit and beyond is something that’s more mental than anything… but when you’re smack bang in the middle of a 20km course including obstacles, ready to cry, stamp your feet… there’s literally only one way home – and no one standing around to give you a ride. This. This was the moment when “pushing myself beyond my limits” was defined, practically and in a greater capacity than I’d ever felt in my life. Aside from my own pain, the evidence was abundant – Throughout the day I saw two dislocation injuries and one young woman carried off-course with apparent hypothermia. Luckily for me I have a good ‘winter coat’ (yes… already) so at least I was able to finish the day without my blood freezing!
Today, people have asked me if I’d undertake the challenge again and my instinctive response is “No, never”. But I can already tell…there’s a little mudder developing inside of me (in a metaphoric kind of way not a pregnant kind of way)… who’s thinking “gees I’d love to get through this challenge without being such a princess”. Maybe next time I’ll just train more than a brisk jog to the milk-bar for some beef jerky and Babybel cheese.