Here at éclat we are not ones to turn away from a challenge. Following our success at the Windsor Triathlon earlier in the summer, we had barely crossed the finishing line before the discussion turned to what we are going to do next year to push ourselves.
Now whilst my mind may naturally gravitate towards running challenges, or if I am feeling particularly adventurous, perhaps an abseil or parachute jump could be classed as ‘fun’, I generally do not think the idea of flinging myself in mud, water and finishing it (or perhaps myself) off with a touch of electrocution is a sane thing to do. It appears my colleagues, and millions of others across the globe, do.
Enter the 2018 éclat challenge – Tough Mudder.
Now, for years I have actively avoided Tough Mudder. I know many people, both in my social life and professional life (a special shout out here goes to the Arxan UK Team), that have taken on the challenge and relish the obstacles in a bid to collect and obtain different coloured headbands. (Seriously – headbands!? Where is the proper race bling in the form of a medal?)
Anyhow, post-race prizes aside, we all found ourselves agreeing to take on the mud.
In a bid to get an idea of what we were letting ourselves in for, we registered to be volunteers on the course at the London South events over the last two weekends. Kelly and her boyfriend Chris manned a water station on the 16th September, whilst Emily, Barry, Matt and I donned the rather fetching bright orange volunteer t-shirts on the 24th September. On this occasion, we divided and conquered. Emily and I kept the challengers hydrated with water and Lucozade at the fuel stop in Zone 4. Barry and Matt were there to assist in Zone 3 at ‘The Liberator’ obstacle.
First off, I have to say how amazing the volunteers are for these events. It is an incredibly long day, which started with leaving the house at 5am to drive to the course, followed by a 12-hour shift, and then a 2 hour+ journey home (largely thanks to some issues on the motorway on the way back). But throughout all of this, everyone was upbeat, positive and cheering on each competitor as they ran, trudged and flung themselves through a very muddy course.
Out on the course, the guys took the opportunity to have a go on the obstacles themselves before the competitors had got there. Something that Emily and I then took great pleasure in watching and laughing at as videos of them falling off the obstacles came through as we patiently waited for our first thirsty runner. We were also paired on our hydration station with two guys who had taken on the course the day before, and the very enthusiastic nutrition team from Trek.
At first the runners were coming in in dribs and drabs, and we thought this would be quite a nice, leisurely day of laying out cups and refilling as we merrily chatted away and offered words of encouragement to those who staggered past us. How wrong we were. Before we knew it, it was packed and whilst we never had anybody wait for a drink, we literally couldn’t layout and refill the cups quick enough.
What made it all worth it was not only the thanks from those that were gasping for a drink, but also some of the costumes and stories that we heard along the way. One gentleman had run the course four times on the Saturday and was now going for three times on the Sunday, another was rocking a sodden and slightly limp looking Pikachu onesie, whilst the first-timers were slightly more dumbstruck and trying to work out why they thought this was a good idea.
At the end of the shift, as Emily and I waited for the boys to be delivered back to the volunteer centre, where we had checked out and were getting the opportunity to sit down for the first time in 12 hours, what also struck me was how much of a family it seemed to be and that everyone, whether they were volunteers or participants, had genuinely enjoyed themselves. Everyone left the event with the biggest, and muddiest grins on their faces and, despite how tired and achy we felt, we had all genuinely enjoyed ourselves.
So, we have all bitten the bullet and are registered as a team to take on the Tough Mudder London West in Henley on Sunday 6th May 2018. Whilst this may sound a while away, I have a sneaky suspicion that it is going to creep up on us fairly quickly. Many of us have already identified our weak areas and training plans have been freshly downloaded, stared at, then swiftly followed by a couple of gasps and ‘Oh My God’s’ before being rapidly closed from view.
If any of the Tough Mudder Legionnaires have any hints and tips for us novices, we’d be extremely grateful. I have a feeling we may need all the help we can get with this one…