Tough Mudder (The Urban List)

Okay, someone is going to have to explain Tough Mudder to me. Not what it is—I am capable of reading their website—but why anyone would put themself through it. What part of a 20-kilometre obstacle course designed by British Special Forces including challenges called Ball Shrinker and Artic Enema attracts people? Maybe it’s the bit that requires running through four-foot flames leaping from kerosene-soaked hay, or dodging 10000-volt electrical wires while wading through muddy water that turns them on (actually 10000 volts probably could turn you on, now that I think about it). When did being submerged in a dumpster full of ice or commando crawling under barbed wire sound like a weekend well spent? What’s more, why would you pay up to $180.00 for the privilege? There are clubs that offer similar entertainment in Fortitude Valley for half the price, minus all the dirt. Surely participants aren’t all doing it for the orange headband and free tattoo they receive on completion?

The one held recently on the Sunshine Coast ended up being the largest worldwide, and had more women participants than ever before. This is beyond my comprehension. You know what I like to do when I have a day on the Sunshine Coast? Go to the beach. Then I like to go for lunch—preferably somewhere that makes good cocktails. I know it doesn’t sound quite as exciting as hanging upside down off a rope bridge covered in muck, but at least you get to keep your shoes at the end of the day. The bins full of discarded sneakers at the end of Tough Mudder must make Nike and Reebok’s corporate hearts positively leap with excitement.

I’m not sure what it is that disturbs me most about this event—that it actually exists at all, or that I personally know so many lunatics who took part. A quick Google Image search returns a collection of photos that look like stills from an Oliver Stone war movie—people hauling themselves through pipes full of mud, sliding down muddy embankments, struggling to carry huge grimy logs through even more mud, being pounded by high-pressure water cannons, mouths full of mud . . . the only thing missing is Mel Gibson dressed as Braveheart charging into the fray. Oh, wait. That’s actually the first stage of every Tough Mudder event, a Braveheart re-enactment. Sigh . . .
Wouldn’t it be easier to go climb the Kokoda track with your arms tied behind your back, or spend a year in Guantanamo Bay?

Look, I get that it’s all about the twin senses of camaraderie and achievement on completing the competition, but I experience that camaraderie every time my friends and I manage to agree on which bottle of wine to order with lunch, not to mention the sense of achievement I feel when I wake up without a hangover the next day. What can I say? I like my thrills clean. Mostly.

There is one saving grace in all of this. As a mate rightly pointed out a couple of days ago, there are some sensational bodies among the competitors (which is possibly how the organisers justify charging $40.00 for spectator tickets). So I’ve decided to brave the mud and sign up as a volunteer for the next one. I’ll be hosing competitors down as they cross the finish line. I expect it will require extreme mental endurance, but I’m willing to give it a go.

This article first appeared in The Urban List:

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