Last night my best friend & I volunteered at the Worlds Toughest Mudder. Even though we weren’t running in it we had a great time & witnessed first hand what being a Tough Mudder is all about. Let me set up the scene—Mudders of all ages started their day at 10am with temperatures in the 40’s. They were faced with the challenge of running for the next 24 hours. The course was a 10 mile loop with 40 military style obstacles—many of them including frigid cold water. Mudders came from all over the world—we met people from the North East, the West Coast, England and even Canada. They donned their wet suits, headlamps & various other methods of protection to keep warm & dry. Many would find out later the only way to stay warm and dry would have been to stay home. As the day progressed the temperature got lower and lower and by the time we got there for our 6pm shift it had already sunk into the low 30’s.
We got placed at the Twinkle Toes station—our home for the next 7 ½ hours & a place we grew to love as we met more & more Mudders. We had a tent with a small heater & lots of supplies. We had hot water, broth, crackers, chocolate chip cookies, bananas, Sharkies & golden nuggets of energy (also known as FRS blocks). Our feature items at the tent were my chocolate chip cookie banana sandwiches and my best friend made a mean Sharkie soup. Moments after becoming acquainted with our tent and our “warm stuff” as we would advertise it, our first set of Mudders were approaching. Cue the yelling, screaming & cheering.
In the distance, atop the motocross hills & the logs we could see tiny little headlamps & blinking red lights bobbing up & down. Those were our brave Mudders who were in desperate need of warm liquids & some energy in the form of food & enthusiasm. As they approached the obstacle Twinkle Toes– a series of ½ inch wide balance beams, we saw hesitant smiles on their faces. They had to cross the beams… if they were successful then they were able to stay dry, otherwise they fell into cold, muddy water. We saw numerous methods of crossing these narrow flimsy boards. Some just jumped straight into the water & pulled themselves across—others made it halfway through before swimming to the end. For males there were two popular methods: shimmying across on their bellies & pulling themselves across or sitting sideways & doing their best to not fall backwards into the icy water. The women had the advantage—they could straddle the beams & slide across or use their badonkadonks as one Lady Mudder said & slide across sideways as the males did. Out of all the Mudders we only saw three lucky ones run all the way across standing up. The most creative & challenging attempt we saw was a man who walked halfway across, then jumped horizontally across to two more boards. One his third attempted board he sadly fell into the water—great efforts on his part! The male winner of Worlds Toughest Mudder jumped right into the water and pulled himself across and the female winner slid across on her butt.
The conditions of our course got progressively worse as it got later and later. The boards became slippery & ice covered and the cold water was even more looming as these Mudders were more then freezing. Luckily we still had a warm tent waiting for these brave men and women & with smiles on our faces. We did our best to be as accommodating as possible for our Mudders. We were a full service station, as we liked to tell them. We would peel & feed them bananas, deliver food to them while they were hovering over the heater in our tent & I would most excitedly run over to the station to make a chocolate chip cookie banana sandwich for any Mudder willing to try it! All of our Mudders were extremely thankful and more then polite! We’d be waiting on the other side of the obstacle handing out free high fives—many of them hesitant because they didn’t want to get us muddy. We told them bring it on & on numerous occasions mud went flying upon receiving the high five. Many Mudders told us that we were their favorite station—a compliment we were gracious to receive. As we would come to find out at the end of the night news had made it to Tough Mudder Headquarters that we were the most enthusiastic ones on the course. We wondered later if we were cause for the noise complaint that some of the neighbors in town had called in about—who knows if we were, but at least it was for a good cause.
These Mudders exemplified what being a Tough Mudder is all about! Many runners started out with their friends but lost them on the way—but in the spirit of being a Tough Mudder they befriended each other & took on the course together. Although they were visibly cold & tired none of them complained & many were hesitant to ask for help. At times some of them even apologized for needing us to unzip a pocket for an energy gel or for peeling a banana & feeding it to them. From beginning to the end we were laughing & joking with all of our Tough Mudders & saw their determination from start to finish. Some Mudders we saw a second time—in fact right before our relief came the female winner came through our course. At 1:30am we helped our last group of Mudders —another one we were seeing for the second time. All of them were more then gracious for our support—something we were extremely happy to be able to provide. It was bittersweet leaving our tent and returning to Tough Mudder Headquarters—we were getting tired & cold but loved being there. Had we not had an hour drive home we probably would’ve stayed the night to cheer on our Mudders & congratulate them at the finish line.
So as you begin your training—whether it’s for your first 5k or your third Tough Mudder remember the story of these Mudders & use it for your inspiration. Know that whatever challenge you face in your training—whether its running in the cold or moving up to the next weight at the gym—remember that you’ll only go as far as you push yourself. That being said don’t underestimate your abilities. In true Tough Mudder spirit work out with a friend, a coworker or a family member & encourage each other. Learn to foster a spirit of teamwork & camaraderie. When you begin to accomplish your goals, your celebration with each other and for each other will be even more enjoyable. So get out there and go achieve greatness!