On the 14th of September 2013, the Mudder Duckers paid $140 each to run through mud, crawl through tunnels and under barbed wire, jump off planks, dive under ice, and get electrocuted for 20km. Why? To test their limits in the self-proclaimed “toughest event on the planet”: the Tough Mudder.
Tough Mudder is an obstacle course designed by the British Special Forces to test physical stamina and mental grit. So, as one might expect, I was nervous. I also didn’t fully realise what I’d signed up for until I received the course map – 18 obstacles scattered across 20km of Phillip Island. Minimal training, combined with my crippling fear of heights, meant that this would be one of the greatest challenges of my life thus far.
Our team of nine ex- and current Ormondians drove to Phillip Island for our 12 o’clock start. We arrived at the Showgrounds, chattering with anticipation and nerves. After handing in our ‘death waiver’, identification numbers were scribbled on our foreheads and arms by the volunteers. One joked, “This is just so we can identify your body later”… not so funny.
Before the start line, we reached our first obstacle; we had to climb into the starting pen. Here, we all took a knee, placed our right hands over our hearts and made the Tough Mudder Pledge:
- I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race, but a challenge
- I will put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time
- I do not whine – kids whine!
- I will help my fellow Mudders complete the course
- I overcome all fears.
In the background, the intro of “Lose Yourself” by Eminem began to play, and we looked at each other as we broke out into crazed smiles of determination and excitement.
Gates opened and the Mudders flooded out. It was about 3km to our first obstacle, “Glory Blades,” slanting walls of wood planks to climb, quickly followed by “Kiss of Mud”(use your imagination), and “Trench Warfare,” which involved wriggling through a dark, muddy trench barely big enough to crawl through on hands and knees, and for a while, not even being able to see the way out.
Then came the “Arctic Enema” – an eight-meter long tub filled with ice and muddy water, with a wooden divider halfway across that we had no choice but to swim under. I came out with what I can only describe as the worst brain freeze ever. Then there was the “Mud Mile,” a mile of mud trenches and walls. We helped each other up onto the walls to slide or jump into the muddy water trenches. After that, I faced my worst fear at “Walk the Plank”, a five-meter jump into water.
The last few obstacles were the hardest; The “Everest” is a half-pipe only escapable by enlisting the help of others. You had to sprint as hard as you could up the muddy wall, with the hope of forming a human chain to lift you to the top, otherwise, sliding back down into the mud was inevitable. The two electric shock obstacles followed: “Electric Eel” and “Electroshock Therapy.” Both involved a field of live electric wires, some carrying as many as 10,000 volts, dangling unavoidably. You had no choice but to crawl or run through them. Nothing prepares you for electrocution. It sucks.
After four hours of non-stop running and obstacles, we came out on the other side, victorious.
With the coveted orange headband around my head, and a can of lemonade, my idea of impossible will never be the same.
Mudder Duckers 2013: Brigid O’Farrell, Natalie Walker, Olivia Crane, Laura Berthold, Charlotte Grover-Johnson, Claire Garratt, Simon Pickering, Arthur Thevathasan, Billy Thomas.