On a brisk Saturday morning in the grounds of Cholmondeley Castle, alongside a determined team, I became a Tough Mudder.
These “events”, billed as the toughest on the planet, are sweeping the nation after making a big bang in the US. 12 miles of mud, freezing water, walls and electrocution and about 20 other obstacles that require team work and a fair slice of mental toughness to pile through. It was designed by the Special forces in aid of Help the Heroes.
So why would anyone actually want to do this?
I have no idea is the honest answer, and only the money we were raising for Brain Tumour UK and the thought of a loved one that lost a much harder battle to such a terrible illness kept me ticking.
After being read the rules by a compare who was wildly firing up the competitors on the start line, we were all set for a gruelling few hours as Rocky’s Eye Of The Tiger blared out on the tannoy. The rules include – I will not whine, children whine! And most importantly, that this is no race; it’s about getting round and helping each other out.
After a 10 foot wall was safely scaled, Arctic Enema was the first major challenge – a skip filled with dyed iced water sitting at a ball shrinking (their words, not mine) 1 degree. Barbed wire of course dangling in the middle to ensure you went under and faced some serious brain freeze. Nice. I was in and out of this sharpish (obviously) and fairly pleased with myself as this was billed as one of the worst hurdles.
We opened out into a decent pace and hit the mud mile. It was at this point I questioned my own sanity – a mile of stinking and at times chest deep mud, tunnels, and the odd cargo net. Great camaraderie drags you through and the sight of other blokes braving it in tuxedos mankinis and, in some cases, just a pair of trunks. Madness.
If anything the mud mile became a little monotonous and seemingly never-ending, but I would have gladly taken another mile of it as I approached the barrels sitting in a freezing lake. Under we went, 4 in total, and every time you dip under the cold hits you harder and more brutally. I broke into a sprint on several occasions to try and regain some feeling in hands and feet as I emerged from the lake. I can safely say the Skins tights and compression top I had had little or no effect and those in just shorts probably dried quicker!
I won’t describe the course in full, but the ‘mud maze’ certainly stood out, as did the electric shock therapy! Yup! Electric shocks, packed with 10,000 volts capable of knocking you out. You’re faced with a dash to safety like no other, whilst being sprayed with water to increase the chances of a shock, of course.
I had thought it might ‘smart’ a little but I would best describe it as like lying on the floor while being kicked in the head and stomach. All after alsmot dying of hyperthermia, at the end of a fairly gruelling half marathon-like distance, which is mainly due to the state of the terrain rather than the length of the run.
After emerging dazed from the electric shocks I was handed my can of beer and the famous orange head band – the Tough Mudders’ very own medal of honour. Truth is I could hold neither as my hands were completely numb.
I do regret that I fell into the water on the outrageously difficult monkey bars (slippery, spinning metal bars on an incline and decline) and 5 attempts at the half pipe called Everest resulted in my coming down on my bad shoulder. Almost enough to give me half a tiny reason to do this again. I can’t actually believe I’ve written that, but after the event, and it’s easier to say after, there IS something a little addictive about it… I think.
What am I saying? It’s awful, you won’t see me near it again!
What I will say however is that it’s incredible the way the mind deals with these obstacles. I am petrified of tunnels yet took it on without thinking (ish), jumping off a 15 foot plank into freezing water? Done, without a seconds pause. If you focus the mind enough you can do anything. I am also a great believer that you can train in the gym or eat healthy for as long as you like, but unless you have a goal, that training and dieting never really carries the right intensity. If nothing else, these events provide that focus, both mentally and physically. So start your engines now for May 2013!
Tough Mudder encourages: shaved heads, coloured mohicans, tattoos bearing their logo and as little clothing as possible. Sign your death waiver and repeat after me – You say TOUGH I say MUDDDDDERRRRR.