Tough Mudder is not for everyone. Created in 2010 by “a former counter-terrorism agent for the British government,” it seeks to “test participants’ strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie.” This means a 10- to 12-mile course with a couple dozen obstacles involving many hills, mud, ice-cold water and 10,000-volt shocks. This past weekend, eight Pomona students competed in Tough Mudder SoCal.
Most participants cited the ultra-challenging nature of the Tough Mudder as their main motivation for participating.
“I heard about it in November and wanted to test myself,” Jasper Werby PO ’14 said. Kai Orans PO ’14 expressed a similar sentiment, citing a desire to “go big and challenge myself.”
Tough Mudder’s website makes no secret of its desire to “punish” participants, and Pomona’s competitors prepared accordingly. Ben Kersten PO ’15 focused on running.
“I would try and run about five days of the week, doing a longer, 12-mile run about once every two weeks,” Kersten said. “After running, I would usually do core training. I mixed in weights really only a few times, focusing on exercises with a lot of motion like lunge-hops or pull-ups.”
Werby said he practiced “martial arts and ran on an elliptical to go easier on my knees,” while Monaghan said he prepared with “weights, upper body and core workouts before spraining [his] ankle about a month before the event.”
Even with their training, some were taken aback at first by the intensity of the Tough Mudder.
“I felt pretty prepared except for the shocks,” Kai Orans PO ’14 said.
Participants agreed that the atmosphere of the event was a highlight. Tough Mudder takes pride in not taking itself too seriously, and participants are encouraged to wear costumes and have fun. Afterwards, there is a live band, and each of-age participant receives a free beer, giving the event the feel of a party.
“I really loved the atmosphere of the event,” Patrick Liu PO ’14 said. “The organizers made it clear that the event was not a race or a competition but a challenge. They highlighted the fact that there will be certain obstacles that cannot be tackled alone—you will be helped and you will help others. This air of camaraderie (staying back to help pull people up a half-pipe, for example) was the most rewarding aspect of the whole experience.”
The event itself was an 11-mile race at the Vail Lake Resort outside of L.A. with 23 obstacles. Because Tough Mudder emphasizes teamwork and collaboration, most obstacles require several people to complete. Examples of obstacles include greased monkey bars over a pit of ice-cold water, a mud pit with a covering of barbed wire, a run through electrified wires and the halfpipe, a steep slick slope that requires some help to climb over.
“The toughest obstacle [for me] was probably the ice bath (nicknamed the ‘Chernobyl Jacuzzi’ or ‘Arctic Enema’),” Monaghan said. “At first I didn’t think it was as bad as I’d heard, but when I came up on the other side completely surrounded by ice, I felt colder than I’ve ever been. Trying to run when my feet felt like chunks of ice was both difficult and worrisome—I thought I might re-injure my ankle.”
“I was most afraid of Walk the Plank,” Werby said. “I’m not a very good swimmer, and you had to drop into ice cold water and swim about 50 feet.”
A Tough Mudder is untimed so as to further stress teamwork and getting everybody to the finish line. All eight Pomona students finished. Reflecting on the experience, most shared two things: soreness and a willingness to do it all over again.
“I would absolutely do it again, and I plan to,” Monaghan said. “Despite the physical pain (and the sore days afterwards), or perhaps because of the pain, it was one of the most satisfying physical challenges I’ve ever completed.”
“I loved it,” Orans said.
Werby echoed his sentiments. “Finishing felt great… it was a test of will and a great experience,” he said.