For those of you who may not know about it, Tough Mudder is essentially a 10-12 mile obstacle course with over 20 obstacles. Obviously it focuses on physical and mental strength but mainly and most importantly it focuses on teamwork.
Two years ago I would never have dreamed of taking part, as much as would have liked to. I didn’t consider myself capable, I knew I lacked the physical strength for it and hadn’t even considered how much of a role mental strength would play. There was also the slight issue of needing someone crazy enough to take part with me.
So a couple of months ago in a moment of what I can only describe as pure madness, I agreed to take part in one. Pippa (yes I’m blaming you) decided we had to do the full course, so I’m sure you can guess where I found myself on 9th September: crossing the start line of the full Tough Mudder Northwest 2017. We spent 4.5hrs running/walking through mud and rain as well as climbing, swimming and crawling our way through the obstacles. Surprisingly it was pretty fun - I think rugby might have given me a weird love of things involving lots of mud…?
The running was the easy part. The obstacles included things that genuinely terrify me: crawling through several small confined spaces, jumping into ice cold water and running through wires containing up to 10,000 volts of electricity. The more straightforward obstacles that involved climbing or what was essentially monkey bars were made almost impossible by the fact that your hands were too frozen to grip anything. I have to add that the course designers were thoughtful enough to space out the muddiest and wettest obstacles in such a way as to provide a bath after you got too muddy only to then plunge you straight back into some mud.
For me, rugby played a huge part. The fitness and strength you gain from training and matches is unbelievable. While you may not run 10+ miles a match, the training we do means your legs are strong enough to run most of the 12 mile course. Continuously picking yourself up of the floor after tackles makes dragging yourself over hurdles of mud almost a piece of cake. Most importantly rugby gives you the mental strength. When you reach the sixthish mile of the course, it’s chucking it down and someone tells you your only half way through your mind starts to lose it. It’s been a tough six miles already how can you do another six? How can you do it in the pouring rain? And the cold? Not to mention that half a mile later you actually pass a six mile sign…..
An 80 minute game or a 2hr training session might not be as long or as intense as a Tough Mudder but you complete them regardless of the weather or any other challenges you face. When it pours with rain we still play rugby. When the other team scores try after try we still play rugby. When you miss a tackle, take a big hit or get an injury we still play rugby. So yes there was another six miles to go and it was chucking it down but if you’ve already done six miles, what’s six more? The weather might clear up (it rained most of the day) and there is no room for giving up.
We completed it in one piece (with many cuts and bruises) in what were quite possibly the longest 4.5 hours of my life; and believe me, I did not enjoy every minute of it. But it was an incredible experience and it’s helped me realise what I’m capable of and has even helped me work out some of my strengths and weaknesses. I’m not saying you need to do a Tough Mudder to know what you’re capable of (I would recommend doing one though) but it’s good to do something outside of the gym, outside of rugby. Yes keep making gains and improving technique but don’t forget to use the skills rugby gives you for other things. You gain incredible teamwork skills, mental strength, determination, not to mention improved strength and fitness, but it really is up to you to make the most of these skills.