If you haven’t heard of the 20-plus kilometre, hardcore obstacle course known as Tough Mudder, then you have probably been living under a rock. The Sunshine Coast has been abuzz with ‘Mudders’ lining up to register since it was announced that our beloved Coast will play host to this crazy event in August 2013.
It’s easy to be distracted by the distance (it’s a half marathon), as well as the much publicised obstacles, some of which require you to run through fire, dive into ice-filled pools and of course, run through a vast array of exposed electrical wires. You’d be forgiven for thinking it is an event just for adrenalin junkies, fitness freaks and the odd mid-life crisis candidate. And on the surface, it probably is. However, Why Fitness recently caught up with Tough Mudder’s Jon Barker, General Manager and Event Director, and Paul Basile, Operations Manager, during their brief visit to the Coast. we discovered that Tough Mudder not only has a heart, but also a soul.
How did you come to be involved in Tough Mudder?
JON My background is in running the PGA golf events in the USA, as well as working in film and television such as American Gangster with Russell Crowe and Sex and the City as well as The Good Wife. I was approached by head hunting firm Odgers of London, who represented a sports division. At first, with what they were describing, I thought they were out of their heads. But I went in for a chat and was blown away by the concept of Tough Mudder. The ethos of this three year-old company is one of teamwork, pushing boundaries and camaraderie. It’s friends helping friends and strangers meeting strangers. I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved.
PAUL I have been a lifelong athlete, recently involved in Cross Fit, and working as a fitness professional in operations with Bally Total Fitness. From here I went on to work in operations and logistics for the Vancouver and London Olympics. Following this, like Jon, I was approached by Tough Mudder and jumped at the opportunity.
How many Tough Mudder events have there been, worldwide? JON We have just celebrated our 100th event. In 2013 there will be a total of 54 events worldwide which will see 750 000 people compete. We are expecting 22 500 people to compete here on the Sunshine Coast in August.
People of all ages and fitness levels are lining up to register. We even have local business networking groups training together. What kind of base level of fitness is required to complete a Tough Mudder challenge?
PAUL Tough Mudder is extremely challenging. However, at the same time, it’s not exclusive. You have to be healthy enough to do it but at the end of the day it will come down to the time it takes. If you were to concentrate on one thing in your training, running would be it. It is an endurance event so while strength is important, if that’s all you’ve got, then it will be tough. However, if all you can do is run, you will also be in trouble. Overall, high intensity interval training, or short burst training, that allows you to build your strength and cardio together, will be your best focus leading up to the event.
The electrical wires is an obstacle that is talked about a lot. Should people be afraid of these and other obstacles?
JON That’s exactly what we want!
We want you to be fearful. We want you to be scared because we want you to conquer that fear; that’s the point. Tough Mudder plays largely on fears: fear of height, claustrophobia, electric shocks. But challenging those fears and facing them head on can be life changing.
PAUL It is not comfortable and it is not enjoyable. But so much of this is about the mental challenge and we put it out there in a physical form. Overcoming fear is just as important as being fit. No, the electrical obstacle is not enjoyable. I did not like it at all [note: this guy is buff!]. But knowing that I did it, that I got through all the obstacles, has opened up so many other possibilities to me now. That is what the challenge is all about, it’s part of the experience.
Fear is a habit. It’s the same as dreading waking up at 5am to go for a run. If you can break that habit you can then challenge yourself to something new.
Why do you do what you do – why Tough Mudder?
JON There is something about standing at our start chute and watching six hundred people (the event’s start is wave-based over the weekend) ready to go with excitement on their faces. You are connected emotionally to that and then there is something even more emotional seeing people cross the finish line with the realisation that they have achieved something that they never thought they could do.
PAUL I was attracted to Tough Mudder because of my background in fitness. Fitness is not how fast you can run or how much you can lift; to me, fitness is holistic. To be healthy, fit and happy occurs mentally and physically and Tough Mudder taps into that. Tough Mudder puts people in a position where they are forced to grow emotionally and socially. Being lifted or helping lift someone over a ten foot wall does this. Access to this here on the Coast has never really existed before, not on this level.
Tough Mudder is tough, it is challenging, and it is scary. This August, your fears of drowning, being shocked, being in enclosed spaces, of heights, the unknown – all these fears and more will be challenged.
But on the other side is a calming sense of achievement, knowing your limits, facing your fears, breaking through both and discovering a part of yourself that was never available to you before Tough Mudder.