I have been asked this question a lot recently. Why do you want to run World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24h Obstacle Course Race? Are you crazy?
What is World’s Toughest Mudder?
For those of you that have never heard of World’s Toughest Mudder: it is the 24h race format of Tough Mudder which was started in 2011. The first few events were held in New Jersey, before they moved it over to Las Vegas. I first heard of the event after I did my first Obstacle Race in 2015. I was trying to read about this new sport that I was getting myself into, and this event was one that caught my attention. The articles I read stated, that at the first event in 2011 only 11 people finished the race. The first woman, and second overall, was Amelia Boone, which then became probably the most famous woman in OCR up until today. And with this event she gained a nickname: the queen of pain.
I watched the videos of World’s Toughest Mudder, not believing how anyone could probably endure this type of event.
The World’s Toughest Mudder Community
The more I read about the event, the more interested I got. I read about the spirit of the Tough Mudder Community, that put camaraderie before everything. Their events at the time were not timed at all, because they were a challenge, not a race. World’s Toughest Mudder was the only one which was timed. But the spirit of the event persisted despite the competitive component. People were helping each other on the course as much as they could, not matter if it was an elite athlete or an unfit person. Leave no mudder behind was the rule.
Being a spectator at World’s Toughest Mudder
In November 2015 I was running the Half Marathon in Las Vegas together with my Dad, and I found out that World’s Toughest Mudder was held the same weekend. So I urged him to drive out to the venue so I could watch the start. And maybe get a glimpse of Amelia Boone, my new OCR heroine.
As soon as I arrived there I was hooked. The ambiance seemed more like a festival than a race with this tent city (aka the Pit) right in the middle. The obstacles that I first saw, especially King of the Swingers looked so amazing, that I wanted to try them out myself. We then watched the start, where the legendary Tough Mudder MC Sean Corvelle gave his well-known speech:
No one is better than your best, but your best will make you better.
And that day I promised myself to be back one day to run the thing.
Preparing for World’s Toughest Mudder
I gave myself two years to prepare for the event. I did not want to take it easy, and so I trained hard. And with this training the taste for the challenge came too. I wanted to not only run the event, I wanted to run it for 24 hours without a break. Because only then you would get a special 24h headband.
As a preparation for the event I ran the 8h Europe’s Toughest Mudder race in the UK last May as well as a timed normal Tough Mudder, which is now called Tougher Mudder. Tough Mudder Headquarters (TMHQ) announced earlier this year, that a special award called The Holy Grail will be awarded to people that have done all 3 events. So yes, I also want the Holy Grail. And I want to earn my 50 miles bib number.
Experiencing the Community
While I was at Europe’s Toughest Mudder I also experienced the amazing Tough Mudder Community for the first time. I had done a Tough Mudder before, but this was different. This event mostly attracted hardcore mudders that were really embedded in the community. And the spirit was amazing, on and off the course. People would chat you up, help you over obstacles, and were super friendly in general. I met several people in person, that I had previously only know through Facebook. But my favorite moment was when Sara Knight, an elite racer who took second place in the end, overtook me on the course on my last lap. Why? Because she cheered me on, told me to keep going. There were not a lot of people out there any more, especially not a lot of women. And this really boosted my spirits.
The virtual Community
The World’s Toughest Mudder Community then continued to be an important part of my preparation, mostly online and on social media. I joined the famous World’s Toughest Mudder Facebook group and various other sub groups, and the closer we got to the event, the more time I spent on there. I was reading about gear lists, making sure I bought everything I needed. (and this was a lot). I read about training and nutrition. And all the other lovely shenanigans that were going on. And I felt incredibly welcomed. Every time I asked a question I got fast and good responses by a variety of people, including the elite racers.
The group engagement has gotten to another level once the famous puzzle piece were released. There TMHQ tries to raise the excitement about the race by splitting the course map into a lot of small puzzle pieces, and releasing them step by step through community challenges. And the community responded as a whole, and me helping out whenever I could. For example we were challenged to do and film 1655 pull-ups in total (where I submitted 3), post 50 pictures of our wetsuit gear (which I did) or find 40 first timers, that would share their goals for the race (my goal: 50 miles). While this seems like a fairly ridiculous thing to do (and it definitely shrinks my productivity to an absolute minimum) it absolutely reached its goal: to bring the community together and make them even more excited about the event.
Why do I want to run World’s Toughest Mudder?
So while my usual response to questions like “why do you do this crazy stuff” is that I want to challenge myself, explore my boundaries and become a stronger person, this response has changed for me over time. In addition to the physical and mental challenge, I want to experience the community spirit. I am looking forward to meeting all these crazy people from different backgrounds and from all over the world. I want to meet old and new friends and maybe get a glimpse of my idols. But most importantly I want not only be lifted, but also lift others so we will all become better people in the end.
Because no one is better than our best. And we will leave no mudder behind
Edit: I am editing this post on the plane from NYC to Las Vegas. At boarding I randomly bumped into 4 guys on my flight that were also on their way to World’s Toughest Mudder. First 4 friends: check!