Billed as being “probably the toughest event on the planet”, the Tough Mudder series is an obstacle race that usually comprises of a 10 – 12 mile (16 – 19km) route with more than 20 – 25 obstacles.
In fact, it is specifically designed to drag participants out of their comfort zone by testing their physical strength, stamina and mental grit. The obstacles play on common human fears, which include fire, water and heights.
Yet the toughness of the race did nothing to stop Singaporeans Jimmy Pang and Stephanie Tan, from taking part in the Tough Mudder – a global obstacle running event that takes place worldwide. In fact races have been held in countries such as Germany, Australia, United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Went to Brisbane for the Tough Mudder race
Jimmy, 46, and Stephanie, 29, had recently headed to Brisbane, South Eastern Queensland (SEQ) for the Tough Mudder experience together with five other participants, as part of The Mad Dudes Sports (TMD Sports) Singapore Contingent.
Said Jimmy, a regional talent development director, “I had known about Tough Mudder for a few years already. As I am not young anymore, my time for physical conditioning is numbered. So before I was no longer physically able to, I had registered for the race and bought a non-refundable air ticket for myself.”
And Stephanie, a Strategic Enablement Manager at a financial institution, had heard about Tough Mudder through her personal trainer, Jeff, from Virgin Active Club. She explained, “During a casual drink session that took place after a joint training session with me and Jimmy, I was asked if I would be keen to join the SEQ Tough Mudder with them.”
She added, “But there was hesitation, as the fees to fund the trip would buy me a good branded bag. I took several days to think about this before I finally bought my flight tickets.”
After putting her name down, Stephanie had also been worried that she was not physically conditioned for an obstacle race like Tough Mudder. She said “I was not training as regularly as I would have liked to as I was then juggling between pre-wedding duties and my new role at work. Furthermore I knew very little of the obstacles required to prepare for it.”
Prior to Tough Mudder, Stephanie had never completed anything more than 5.6km in terms of running, but she had no choice but to increase her mileage, signing up for a 10km run and half marathon – with the support of Jeff and Jimmy.
As well, she also worked on strengthening her upper body with pull-ups and weights training, in an attempt to get herself physically conditioned for the challenges ahead.
Jimmy though, regularly did upper body and weights training, but he never really used to be a runner till he had to train himself up for the Tough Mudder.
Said Jimmy, “I have a strong upper body, so things like monkey bars or walls would not be a problem for me. Carrying logs would also be quite easy. But when it came to running, I felt myself getting quite concerned.”
He added, “But then I tried not to think too much about any fears because if you start to think about it, you will psych yourself out of it. I simply did not think and went straight into it, telling myself that I could do this.”
The actual obstacles
But Jimmy admitted that when he was faced with the magnitude of the actual obstacles, he found them really tough. He said, “Tough Mudder really pushes you to the breaking point in terms of fear and physical conditioning.”
For example there are a lot of mud and water based obstacles… where the depth of the water is literally between 4.5 – 5 feet deep, unlike most of the other obstacle race series. Said Jimmy, “This is not life threatening but one of the ways that the race pushes the body till it breaks. And the shorter people may be at a disadvantage.”
Though there is actually no penalty with bypassing or failing the obstacles, most participants at Tough Mudder would usually choose not to, because their experience would not be complete.
One of the tough obstacles that Jimmy highlighted, had been the ice therapy one, where participants were submerged, waist level, in ice cold water of at least 2 degrees C. Said Jimmy, “When I came out, I was hyperventilating. It was worse that we had to slide into the ice bath so this meant we could not slowly and gradually go in.”
The electro therapy obstacle was another one that Jimmy had highlighted. He said, “this was basically a single wire shocking the whole body. On reflections, I wondered how on earth I had managed to survive this one.”
One of Stephanie’s favourite obstacles was the King of Swingers, a height obstacle. She said, “It makes one take a leap before you catch a swing and the objective is to reach for the bell. I saw a couple of people hesitate when they were on the 12-foot platform and I am glad I gave it a go.”
Another of her favourites was Blockness Monster which consisted of two rotators that were quite heavy and requires four to five people to hold down the obstacle while someone is clearing it.
Said Stephanie, “Participants will not be able to go through this obstacle without seeking help from others. It is merely impossible to do so on your own – it was one of my favourites to go through, as well as watch when I had completed it!”
Nothing like Tough Mudder races in Singapore
With obstacles like these, both Jimmy and Stephanie stressed that it is literally impossible to get through a Tough Mudder race without having teamwork and camaraderie amongst your fellow participants and the ability to help each other out.
Said Jimmy, “I did not expect so much team work to be required in order to complete the obstacles.”
He added, “There is really nothing like it in Singapore. Tough Mudder builds a very strong team work and instead of a finisher tee or medal at the end of the race, they give out coloured headbands to give everyone who has completed these races, a feeling of belonging and identity when they wear these together.”
Jimmy has taken part in other obstacle races in Singapore in the past, like Spartan and Viper Challenge but none of those can compare to his Tough Mudder experience. He said “For most of the Singapore obstacle races like Spartan and Urbanathlon, you can generally clear them on your own. The team element isn’t really there.”
Added Stephanie, “Tough Mudder is not just a test about your strength because you can do so through other obstacle races and do not have to beat yourself to fly abroad, paying AUD 170 to do it.”
She added, “Tough Mudder is a unique obstacle course that challenges your mental strength, determination to attempt and complete 18km and 25 obstacles and most importantly, a measure of your selflessness to stop and help others clear theirs.”
Tough Mudder also happened to be Stephanie’s first ever obstacle race. But now, after experiencing the Tough Mudder, she is now hooked… and is even planning to join the TMD Sports Singapore group for their next Tough Mudder race, which takes place in Bali in October.
Said Stephanie, “When I thought about it, it was crazy wanting to sign up for the next Tough Mudder in Bali when the race is two weeks before my wedding ceremony. But I will be joined by the same group of team members, my fiancé, along with some of our common friends and gym kakis. Given my previous positive expense in South East Queensland, I couldn’t say no!”
Jimmy, who will also be heading to Bali, points out that the camaraderie between the seven Singapore TMD Sports Tough Mudder participants, had become very strong since the Tough Mudder race. He said, “The friendship between us was instant. And in fact after the race we were even all in a dilemma, as though something was missing from our lives.”
Tips for future Tough Mudder races
For those who are keen to take up a future Tough Mudder challenge, what tips does Jimmy have?
He said, “Anyone can take part in a Tough Mudder race. In fact during the race, I saw people who looked to be doubled our size, and I really respect them for taking on the challenge despite their size, and simply going out there and getting the job done.”
Jimmy added, “You need not be the most strong or fit person, but as long as you have a decent level of fitness, you should be able to cope. But to complete the race you need to have both endurance and strength. You can’t be just a runner or a bodybuilder – you have to be both.”
And one more thing that Jimmy points out, is to remind future participants to wear old clothes. He said “Wear something that you are prepared to throw away after the race as you will definitely get quite muddy. And also tape your shoes to your feet because they may get lost along the way.”
Find out more about TMD Sports and the Tough Mudder
To find out whether you are suitable and ready for a Tough Mudder event in the future, why not head down to one of the training camps organised by TMD Sports?
You can find out more at their website: http://www.tmdsports.com
TMDSports would like to thank their sponsors, NutriFirst and Ntapes, for preparing them well for the race.
All photos in this post are courtesy of TMD Sports.