I arrived at the first obstacle.
What greeted me was one big pool of dense, black mud with a giant fishing net hanging low above it, leaving just enough room for people to crawl underneath. So I did, on all fours at first, then completely on my front, worming across with my face just half an inch above the slimy bog. Unfortunately, the attempt to keep my face clean was thwarted by the person in front of me whose wiggling motion was spraying the black stuff all over my head. When I finally emerged from the crawl, I felt like the Tim Robbins character from Shawshank Redemption when he escaped from the prison. But instead of covered in human shit with little bit of mud mixed in, I was covered in mud with a little bit of cow shit mixed in.
And that was how my inaugural Tough Mudder race began two weeks ago, on a windy, cloudy Sunday, somewhere between Timbuktu and Wherethefuck, 2 hours outside of Sydney, surrounded by trees, bush, mud and more mud.
For those who don’t know what Tough Mudder is, it’s better you stay that way, lest you think I’m some kind of a masochistic plonker. For those who DO know what Tough Mudder is, you are one masochistic plonker and you need to get you head checked.
But perhaps I DO need to get my head checked, because I very much enjoyed the experience. It was a 20km course, dotted with 20 obstacles, each one with a sophisticated name (eg Pole Dancer – something that I used to associate, before I got married, with lots of dollar bills instead of muddy fills) and requiring camaraderie among the participants.
In fact, in one obstacle called the Berlin Wall, we had to climb up and over this big-ass wooden structure. Gung ho and full of testosterone, I took a big run up and heaved up myself up the wall. The good news was that my hands reached the top. The bad news was that my arms had lost all strength by that point and I couldn’t pull myself up. Then I felt a pair of hands on my butt pushing me up. I was very grateful for the boost, until I felt the hands actually squeezing my butt-cheeks while lifting them up. When I eventually reached the top of the wall, I turned around to see who had just touched my ass so sensually. And who I saw was a girl staring back at me with a dead straight face. I guess that’s better than if I saw a guy looking back at me with a grin on his face!
Another memorable obstacle was one where we had to dive into a mud pool filled with ice cubes. That was certainly a shock to the system, on a day where the temperature was no more than 15 degrees Celsius AND windy. I jumped in and the sensation of the cold was such that my mouth opened involuntarily with a gasp, swallowing a mouthful of mud water. And if you thought swimming through mud was hard, try doing it while the surface is covered with icy fragments big and small! By the time I came out, I was small and shrivelled like sultanas, and I’m not just talking about my hands either.
And just to leave the participants in no doubt whatsoever about the psychiatric state of the organisers, the last obstacle is one where you had to run through a 10m mud patch with strings dangling off the top. These were no ordinary strings but live electrical wires. I know because I got zapped trying to run through all of them. Some people who thought they were smarter tried to crawl under the electrical wires. What they didn’t realise was that there were electrical wires in the mud underneath too. It was a no-brainer which route I was going to take. I chose to have my head and upper body zapped, instead of having my sultanas fried!
The thing that really appealed to me about the whole event was the camaraderie and the physical interaction between the participants. No, not the having-your-ass-cheeks-squeezed-by-a-strange-girl kind. But the kind where most are more concerned about helping others get through the obstacles, rather than finishing the race themselves as fast as possible. The fact that participants don’t wear a bib with a timing tag, and that there is no official finishing time to greet you at the end, testify to what Tough Mudder is all about.
Indeed, it is all about the feeling of liberation.
Get a bunch of people young and old, but all childish at heart. Let them loose on a vast playground filled with obstacles to climb over, crawl under, dive off and hang on. Better still, let them do all this while jumping up and down in muddy puddle, Pepa Pig-Style, with no fears of being arrested for drunken behaviour.
Let me ask you – can you think of a better way to relive your childhood?
Keep on pounding.