This time last year a mad fool called Steve decided that he wanted to run all 6 British Tough Mudders in 2015 to mark his half century on Earth. Craig, hiss friend and another made fool chirped up and said "I'll be your wingman" then me, an even madder fool, said "well I'm your wingman so I guess that means I'm doing it too.
Thus the three of us were honour bound to complete this challenge whilst raising funds for our chosen charity... who else but Serve On!
We leave our chosen abode at 04:00 so that we can join the first wave of the first day. It starts at 07:40 and there is still a light frost on the ground. I look around at all our fellow Mudders and for the umpteenth time that week I wonder what the hell am I doing!
The guy at the front gets up and starts talking over the PA about bringing your 'A game to A town', asking us to give him a ‘HooRa’ and applauding those who are first timers and those who are legionnaires (MultiMudders). He talks about how we all help each other and that there is NO quitting here. We all take a knee, put our hand on our hearts and, at the top of our voices, recite the Tough Mudder Pledge;
I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race but a challenge.
I put teamwork and camaraderie above my course time.
I do not whine – kids whine.
I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.
I overcome all fears.
With ‘motivational’ music blasting in the background (AC/DC - Highway to Hell is usually a favourite) we count down to the start and charge through the archway, into the orange smoke and onto the next course... Not going is never an option, not starting is never an option, not completing is never an option so we put our heads down and put one foot in front of the other foot for the next 10-12 miles.
People recognise us from previous Tough Mudders and ask if they can run with us so our team grows. People read our t-shirts and ask what Serve On is all about. We are doing our best to spread the word and it's getting around!
Usually around the 2 mile mark we loosen up, settle into our stride and start having fun. Craig and Steve have earned themselves the nicknames of Crash and Eddie after the Possums from Ice Age. Running with them is just the same as it would be running with the Possums - with their crazy antics that keep everybody laughing all the way round (and before anybody thinks it, NO, this does not make me the woolly mammoth!!)
The one thing I do know is that I wouldn’t be able to make it through the course without Crash and Eddie literally throwing me over, under or through a variety of challenging obstacles! They have my back every inch of the way. At mile 3 we all breathe a sigh of relief as it is usually by this point that I have managed to injure something! And so we carry on..
This year we have run more than 60 miles through the glorious English countryside - from Winchester to Yorkshire to Henley, through sun and rain. We have clambered over, under or through more than 120 obstacles with tonnes of mud (of varying stickiness), swam through 6 containers filled with muddy iced water, received copious amounts of electric shocks (yes, they do hurt), crawled under barbed wire, jumped and swung into deep water, waded rivers, raced each other through swamps (funnier than you would imagine), hung from monkey bars and scaled walls.
Doing this we have sustained some injuries. Several sprained ankles, numerous dented shins (all due to arctic enema), cut hands and knees (unless you were smart like me and wore gloves and full length leggings!), 1 cut butt cheek (leggings didn’t help on that) and 2 dislocated shoulders (incurred by mucking about, not on the actual obstacles)! Add to this the scratches and stings from the brambles and nettles that you can encounter en route we have quite a job assessing the bruises and damage the next morning! So why do I do it?...
There are those that we have seen who run as groups of individuals, who leave their colleagues behind because they are not as fast... They just don’t get it; they don’t get it at all. We start as a team, we finish as a team and we pull each other through.
Thankfully, the vast majority of the time we get to see human nature and teamwork at its best and it truly is inspiring! People helping friends and strangers alike over obstacles that they couldn’t make on their own. The strangers look quite stunned that someone was prepared to help them but then, at the next obstacle, you then see them turning round and helping others too! If we could instil the camaraderie and teamwork that you see on the course in everyday life, the world would surely be a better place!
This, I believe, is the epitome of what Serve On stands for and is what I see at every training session I go to.
I want to say thank you to those who have run with us. Seeing friends who have joined our team at various venues, both from Serve On and on the day, overcome their fears and concerns and get hooked on the experience and feel the same amazing sense of personal achievement when you finish and you get your orange headband! Everybody should experience this at least once!
Everybody is so friendly, people see our t-shirts and ask what it is all about and so we spread the word further and hopefully gain some recruits to our cause. In addition to this we managed to raise £1000 for Serve On. Thank you to all those who have helped us on our way
What have I learnt? Apparently, I can be quite ‘independent’. This has taught me that I can’t do everything on my own, that I achieve more as being part of a team and that it is fine to ask for - and accept - help. By doing so this enables me to turn round and help others.
This is not all down to physical strength either. I like the feeling of achieving something but also pushing my boundaries. A lot of completing a Tough Mudder is all in the head; it calls for a whole heap of positive mental attitude, and determination.
Oh, and NOT training is NOT clever!
Would we do it again? Hell yes!!! We are currently waiting for the 2016 season passes to be released and mad fool No.1 is trying to talk us into entering World’s Toughest Mudder at the end of next year… That will be a whole new story.
If you would like to join us when the 2016 Tough Mudder UK tour comes to town just let me know and I can send you the details.