25,000 Tough Mudders test their limits

By Alex Palmer & Filip Bartkowiak 29 November 2013
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Tough Mudder, heralded as the world’s toughest adventure obstacle course, lands in Australia for the second time.

ARCTIC ENEMA. KISS OF MUD.  Fire Walker. Electric Eel. These are four of the 21 obstacles some 25,000 people faced over the weekend at NSW’s inaugural Tough Mudder event in Glenworth Valley.

Designed by the British Special Forces, Tough Mudder represents a different breed of adventure racing. In fact, it’s not even a race. An untimed event, Tough Mudder is more than your typical mud-run on steroids – it is a chance to test your limits.

To date, some half a million people have plucked up the courage to enter the challenge since its inception in 2010. Awaiting these contestants, nicknamed ‘Mudders’, was a 20km trial through – you guessed it – mud, across greased monkey bars, over giant walls, into ice baths, and under electrified wires carrying a mighty 11,000-Volt shock.

Tough Mudder lives up to its name

As the first wave of contestants, varying in ages from 18 to 50+, clambered into the starting pen, a heavy sense of anticipation filled the air.

“I’m starting to wonder why I signed up for this,” said Alexandra Cowan, 26, from Dean Park, after checking out the obstacles. “But as cliché as it sounds, it’s about getting outside, pushing yourself, being part of a team and hopefully conquering the challenge.”

Prior to being unleashed on the course, contestants were asked to get down on one knee and raise their right hands. Dressed in everything from athletic apparel and custom-made team T-shirts (‘Fudder Muckers’ was a notably popular team-name choice), to costumes like Batman, Super Mario and Where’s Wally, they solemnly pledged: “I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge. I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time. I do not whine – kids whine. I help my fellow Mudders complete the course. I overcome all fears”.

Throughout the day, contestants could be seen honouring this vow. Obstacles – living up to their reputation – were gruelling. But amidst the exhausted yells, profanities, screams and laughs, camaraderie and teamwork prevailed. If help was needed, it was given – whether it was pulling someone out from the under the electric wires or catching and hoisting someone over Everest (an enormous, greased half pipe) as they ran full speed towards it.

Tough Mudders get dirty

Caked in a healthy layer of mud, we saw Alexandra, slightly bruised and battered post-challenge, but adorned with an orange headband – a symbol of completion.

 “There are no words to really describe the challenge to those that haven’t done it”, she said. Alexandra was among the fortunate. Nurses and medics treated a steady stream of twisted ankles, dislocated joints, cramps and concussions with at least seven people being taken to hospital. On average, contestants took 2-4 hours to finish the course. As they crossed the line and enjoyed a celebratory beer, we asked a number of them two questions: “Is it tougher than you thought it’d be?” and “Would you do it again?” The simple answer to both questions: “Yes”.

Tough Mudder’s 2013 Australian series is now open for entry and pre-registration. For a full list of locations and details visit www.toughmudder.com.au

VIDEO: edited by Alex Palmer