Posted by: Feet Banks
How tough are you? Does plunging through freezing water then scrambling under barbed wire sound like fun? How about getting zapped with 10,000 volts of electricity then human pyramid-ing up a vertical wall? If any of that sounds like fun you’re probably already signed up for the Tough Mudder, which rolls into Whistler Olympic Park this weekend June 21-22, 2014.
The Tough Mudder is a military-style obstacle course designed to test participants’ physical and mental strength as they help each other complete various challenges. Participants will face 20-25 obstacles over the 15-20 KM course (exact details are very hush-hush to keep things tougher). This is one of the most popular events on the Whistler summer calendar and while all sorts of “Group Suffering” fitness events are so hot right now the Tough Mudder is the undisputed ruler.
But why? What about freezing water, barbed wire, mud, blood and tears is so appealing to the average fitness freak these days? My theory is that humans have a built-in subconscious desire to connect with each other and feel a part of something larger. Enduring pain and hardship is one way to draw people together and as contemporary culture and technology make it easier for everyone to live in their own little bubble, an event like the Tough Mudder gives people a chance to feel like part of something tangible, real and human.
“You’re kind of bang on,” says sports psychologist and 1992 Whistler Cup ski champion Dr. Haley Perlus, who competed in a Tough Mudder in Colorado just last week. “People have a curiosity of how far we can push ourselves and the Tough Mudder satisfies the main three things that motivate us.” According to Dr Perlus those three things are: confidence to believe we can achieve something, the ability to choose our own fate, and a sense of belonging to something greater than the individual.
“Tough Mudder is great because you can choose what obstacles to do or skip,” Dr Perlus explains. “It’s not just a straight thing like a marathon or Ironman, they’ve invented a course that allows you do what you want with it and teamwork is an integral part of it all. Plus, the pleasure of success is always stronger if you have to endure a little pain along the way.”
Whistler local Chantal Limoges took part in the 2012 Whistler Tough Mudder. “I did it for the experience and to see if I could do it,” she says, adding that she was part of a team made up of co-workers. “The challenges were a real team building experience and I did feel tougher afterwards… but I also felt kinda weak for a few days.”
“That sense of teamwork is innate in us since birth,” Dr Perlus explains. “And this kind of corporate team building is great because you can have fun together but you really bond by surviving the challenges together. The need to feel effective in your environment is hardwired into us.”
Hardships bring us together. We’ve seen it throughout history– from the popularity of religion during the wars and plagues of medieval times through to the outpouring of togetherness felt during natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. Even sports fans can at least feel like they have support when “their team” loses the championship again. Tough Mudder gives us that same sense of belonging in a fun and healthy atmosphere.
Of course, if purposely subjecting yourself to that kind of punishment sounds crazy, you can bet it will be fun to watch others do it. It costs $20 to spectate if you fill out this online registration form. Be wary though, apparently watching "The Mudder" is addictive and many of this year's spectators could very well be get inspired to test their own toughness next year. For everyone else, there are some nice hotel deals and plenty of tough choices to be had in Whistler Village too: "Another round of oysters and drinks or should we hit the spa?"
Check out this official Tough Mudder video from the 2012 event in Whistler. Happy Mudder-ing.