Sometime in February, my mate Simon and I had a few beers and began talking about the Tough Mudder. We had heard one was planned for Yorkshire this year and joked that we should do it. The following morning, somewhat hungover I decided to sign up and goaded Simon into doing the same and thus began our Mudder journey. Over the next six months or so we began a training regime; roped in 8 other suckers to join us, made some good friends and had a good laugh along the way. Importantly we also raised a good chunk of money for a very worthy cause, but more about that later.
Anyway, much faster than ever imagined, Saturday 7th September rolled around and we found ourselves driving up the motorway to Skipton, still unsure of what to really expect from our first Tough Mudder. We arrived, registered, got changed, wrote our numbers on our foreheads and arms (and I added ‘tattoos’ to our un-inked team members) and before we knew it we were warming up.
The Tough Mudder doesn’t muck about; I mean before you even begin running you have to climb over a wall just to get into the starting pen. Once in the pen we went through the course instructions and all took the Tough Mudder pledge, then it was a count down from ten and the air-horn sounded, we were off. The first mile or so was a steady down hill over the grassy banks of the Broughton Hall Estate and zig-zagging through a wooded area, nothing too severe as yet. It was hard to get any pace going as the track was narrow in places and you could only run as fast as the person in front of you. Eventually it opened out and after a quick uphill stretch we met the first obstacle, the Glory Blades. Two sets of 8 foot wooden walls leaning towards competitors. With teamwork, we made light work of these and were soon running up another hill towards the next obstacle – Arctic Enema. I hadn’t even bothered trying to replicate this while training so I completely wasn’t prepared for just how much of a shock it would be. I adopted a what-the-hell no fear approach and jumped in without hesitation. To be honest, although I did feel the cold, jumping in wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, neither was ducking under the middle divider. Apparently this was because I had gone into shock and it wasn’t until I climbed out that the whole experience hit me! Brain freeze! Blurred vision, light headedness and by Odin’s beard, cold like I have never experienced in my life. Luckily I was able to shake it off in a few seconds and after posing for a photograph with team-mates, got running again to warm up.
More uphill running (there was a lot of this as the day went on!) and a little time to take in some of the breath taking views the moors had to offer. As we reached a plateau the next obstacle came into view, the Dirty Ballerina. A series of 4 foot muddy ditches to leap across. Luckily my legs were still fresh and I managed to leap these without any problems. All those plyometric table jumps and standing jumps in training had paid off (cheers Mick!). More up hill running, definitely off the beaten track, punctuated with the odd leap across a ditch or stream and on to the Boa Constrictor shortly after mile 3. I was dreading this one as I am no fan of water or confined spaces; so crawling through a small underground, half-flooded pipe, didn’t fill me with joy. However, my fears turned out to be unfounded as it was nowhere near as bad as I had built it up to be in my head. A quick slide down the first pipe, crawl through some muddy water and a quick crawl through the ‘up’ pipe and we were all done, back to the trails. As we hit mile 4, I still felt I had plenty in the tank though my lungs were starting to disagree. Luckily my trusty blue inhaler had survived so far and after a quick blast I managed some more hills and reached what Simon confidently said was the ‘top’. He clearly cursed us when he announced ‘We can’t get any higher up than this!’, he was wrong.
Next up was the Electric Eel. Whether by luck or invention I managed to crawl through the whole obstacle without getting shocked, I was almost smug when I emerged unscathed (the smugness would not last long). Next up was Hero Carry, essentially carrying a team mate for 100 metres, then swapping. Piece of piss, except my ‘hero’ teammate’s mud moustache made him resemble Hitler at this point. So more of a notorious-facist-dictator-carry than a hero carry. Then a very short run and we hit the Berlin Walls. 11 foot doesn’t sound a lot until you stand up next to it and realise it is more than twice your height (as I am a modest 5’5”). Still, teamwork came into play and very quickly all ten of us were over both sets of walls, and other than catching my right bollock on the top of the second wall and rolling around in agony for a little while, we were off for some more running.
I thought we must have hit the halfway around this point because it felt like we really had reached the top of the hill and my legs and lungs were starting to feel it. I was of course wrong. Island Hopping was up next and after seeing most of the people in front of me fall in the drink after their first or second leap, I didn’t hold much hope for myself. However, I kept a low centre of gravity, kept to the middle of each island and wasn’t afraid to crouch down and use my hands and hey-presto, across in one attempt! I think this was probably my finest moment of the day!
Next up was an uphill/downhill section through a wooded area. Navigating fallen trees and exposed roots, very steep inclines/declines caked in thick mud and peat bogs. Shortly into the woods we came to a standstill on the very narrow trail. After a few minutes of frustration, some of our more enthusiastic team members (Sonny, Mick, I’m looking in your direction) gave some verbal ‘encouragement’ to the people ahead. Very quickly things started moving along and we were literally out of the woods and on to the next obstacle, the Cage Crawl. This was another water obstacle I wasn’t looking forward to. A long trench full of water with a cage over the top, giving about 8-10 inches of breathing space, so you had to lie on your back in the water and pull yourself along the cage. It actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and very soon I was scrambling out of the sludge and back onto the trail.
The next stretch of running was the most wild of the course and finally did take us as high as we could go! Running through heather and bracken, up peaty and boggy hills then back down. This in itself was probably one of the harder sections of the course. Once we got through all of that it was time for another obstacle, Trench Warfare. Hands and knees crawling through sludgy zigzag tunnels then a short jog to another section of bog and woods. Once out the other side it was a quarter mile run with a log for Hold Your Wood, not too difficult, just uncomfortable. It did make for a series of hilarious ‘you’ve got wood’ jokes though. Another stretch of running through mud and woods and onto Kiss of Mud, more crawling through clay and sludge as low as you can to avoid snagging your arse on the barbed wire over head. We were approaching mile 9 by this point and I have to admit I was flagging on the hills. My lungs were burning and my inhaler was by this point firing mud down my throat.
Next up was the Under Water Tunnels, probably one of my least favourite parts of the course as it involved the most swimming and being under water. Three lots of rows of barrels strung across a deep pond and you had to swim to them, dive under them then on to the next. I lost my inhaler on this one, which was a pity because I was quite breathless by the time I had done all three and swam to the shore on the other side. Next up was my biggest regret of the whole day. On the run to the next obstacle was a stretch of mud down a hill side that was smoothed out. Like a fool, I just bounded down the grassy bit to the side to keep grip then realised people were using the mud as a slide! I should have turned back and had a go but by this time I had fallen behind the team a little after pissing around looking for my inhaler.
By this point the end was in sight and we caught up with the spectators, so it was nice to be cheered on and have some friends and family to greet us. Another short hill run then I found myself climbing the steps to the top of Walk the Plank. In theory this is probably the easiest of all the Tough Mudder obstacles. All you have to do is jump off a platform into a pool of water, piece of piss right? Not really, I’m not especially afraid of heights or jumping into water, but when you’re looking down at that muddy pool from 5 metres up, suddenly it’s a very daunting concept. I hesitated longer than I would have liked but then threw caution to the wind and jumped off the platform into the murky water below. Next thing I knew I was climbing out and running on to the Funky Monkey. Before we could attempt the monkey bars of doom, we had the Mud Mile to contend with. This section does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a mile of the boggiest, sticky and muddy trail I have ever lacked the common sense to traverse. Just to make it a bit more interesting it was punctuated with huge mounds of soft mud trying to steal your trainers from you. I quite enjoyed the Mud Mile, despite however filthy we were getting it seemed to me that this is what it was all about. I even seemed to get a bit of life back in my legs and managed to pick up the pace a little. Once out of the muck, we found ourselves at the Funk Monkey.
I am sad to say the Funky Monkey was the only obstacle that defeated me. How anyone can get across those greased up, spinning and ascending bars is beyond me! I’d practiced at this one quite a lot and as of last week was able to swing quite gracefully across the monkey bars at the gym, so I was quite disappointed when I lost my grip on the third bar and plunged into the water. I took a mouthful of the nasty, muddy stuff and had a bit of trouble getting out until team-mate Si helped. With the Funky Monkey done, we knew there were only two obstacles and less than a mile left of the Tough Mudder left.
Everest. A skateboard quarter-pipe lagged in plastic and covered in mud and grease to make it slippery. The objective is to run at it as fast as you can and jut as you lose grip, leap for the summit hoping you’ve done enough to grab the top or your fellow Mudders grab you. Again, unless you have some kind of super-human abilities, team work was a massive factor here. Luckily I was running with a fantastic team, so there was never any doubt we wouldn’t be able to help each other over this one. I sprinted at full pelt towards the ramp, amazed that I still had a sprint left in me and managed to get just over half-way up before leaping towards my team mates. I reached out my hands, grabbed Mick’s thumb, let it slip and skated back down to the bottom of the ramp. Damn! I went back to the starting gate and tried again; this time as I leaped I managed to grab two hands of my team-mates firmly and was hoisted to the top of Everest. It felt so good to be at the top I may as well as climbed the real Mt. Everest! We stayed to help some others get up then moved on for the final stretch, which was seemingly the only downhill section of the 11.5 mile course! We built up some speed and all ten of us came charging down the home-straight towards the finishing line. Only one thing stood in our way of glory, Electroshock Therapy. Imagine a tunnel with hundreds of live electrical wires dangling from the ceiling, so close you can’t avoid them and you’ve got Electroshock Therapy. Rather than trying to outsmart the obstacle or avoid the very real prospect of a 10,000 volt shock to the system, we charged on like marauding warriors hell-bent on our goal. Some of the team took a tumble but quickly got up and kept going, some got through seemingly unscathed. I think I got off lightly; I managed to get about half-way through before I what felt like a horse whip hit me down my left hand side. My reflex reaction was to jump right away from the pain, straight into another! Ouch! I was like a pinball bouncing between high-voltage bumpers, but luckily I only counted four shocks before I came out the other side. In my head I was like a graceful gazelle, running and jumping with the wind across the African Savannah, but in reality I probably looked like what I was, an idiot covered in mud being electrocuted. It mattered not though, as there was the finish line. We all crossed together as a team and were presented with our orange Tough Mudder headbands, to wear with pride. We also got a nifty finisher’s t-shirt and a pint of Strongbow, which is not my favorite drink but boy did it taste good on this occasion. I don’t think I have ever earned a pint more than that one! So we all managed to get round 11.5 miles of ‘probably the toughest event on the planet’, without serious injury, together, in good spirits and in less than three hours! We were all buzzing (and not just from the electrocutions!).
The Tough Mudder had been the accumulation of over six months of planning, training and anticipation. It certainly lived up to expectations! It was tough, but I think how we all got around in a decent time and without too much difficulty was a testament to how well we trained and prepared. Personally, I think I gave a good account of myself and was really pleased with how I and the rest of the team performed. It was a fantastic experience, not only the event but all the build-up and training before hand. I’ve made some fantastic new friends and had a good laugh, as well as improving my fitness and really feeling like I have achieved something. As an added bonus, we have managed to raise a good chunk of money for the Special Care Babies Unit at Rotherham Hospital. As it stands we have raised somewhere in the region of £2,000, which will all go to a fantastic cause. Thank you so much to those who have sponsored and if you would still like to sponsor us, you can by heading to: www.justgiving.com/4SCBU.
Right, off to start training for Tough Mudder 2014.