The name says it all. Our eldest boy decided that he would take part in this event for the charity that he has founded, Journey of Hope. We went along to support him with a degree of curiosity and no great expectations.
Tough Mudder, according to Wikipedia, was started in 2010 by two British guys living in New York. Apparently, they thought up the idea as part of their course while studying at the Harvard Business School. It is a spin-off from the Tough Guy Competition, claimed to be the world’s most demanding one-day survival ordeal (note the use of ‘ordeal’ rather than ‘event’). The disclaimer you have to sign, even as a spectator, is quite daunting and voids the Tough Mudder organisation from any responsibility whatsoever – very American.
Personally, I’m surprised that this event took so long to come to New Zealand as it fits with the national psyche perfectly. The event was heavily subscribed despite its relatively high cost, and about three thousand Kiwis descended on the course like hyped-up lemmings in search of a good cliff.
I took my camera, as spectators can penetrate about 4 kilometres into the 18 K course. I was particularly impressed by the glutinous quality of mud that the organisers had provided – I guess holding it in a swamp helps. As always, it typified events in New Zealand: well organised, easily accessible and full of cheerful people doing daft things.
Mud, mud, glorious mud
The course itself is difficult, but I was struck by how much people seem to be enjoying themselves while subjecting their frail bodies to a variety of devilishly ingenious insults. Apart from crawling through muddy ditches, jumping into baths filled with ice, leaping off structures into mud pools and being repeatedly shocked, there were underground tunnels to crawl through and cunning barriers to scramble over.
The second thing I saw was how quickly cooperation sprang up. There were obvious teams but hardy individuals like Brooke were quickly subsumed into the mass of humanity and pushed and thrust over barriers; helping, pushing and thrusting others over in turn. We are a funny lot, us humans. Hairless skinny rodents, almost defenceless, we have infiltrated every part of the Earth, dominated many ecologies (often for worse) and fight incessantly amongst ourselves. However, there seems to be a strong urge to bond together against a common enemy, in this case, the designers of the Tough Mudder course.
Apparently, the course was designed by members of the British Special Forces but I did wonder what the special forces guys would make of the variety of humans that made their way around their course. They ranged from the obviously super fit guys and girls who charged around and looked like they could do it two or three times without breaking into a sweat. But there were also people of all ages, some even older than me, and quite a few who did not fit the fit and hard stereotype. And there were office groups with members who clearly were never, never, going to trust their colleagues again. Nevertheless, the majority of people had a smile plastered on their face, which frankly amazed me. However, I suppose I have to look back 20 or 30 years to the things that I did, equally crazy, and with equal enjoyment. I confess to being profoundly jealous.
From a photographer’s point of view, it was great. Access was (relatively) easy and, joy of joys, it wasn’t pissing down with rain. I dispensed with tripods and all that nonsense, using my D800 with either the Tamron 24-70 or 70-200 mm lenses. The latter is a complete honey, and I love it. I avoided the standard images and tried to get the feeling of the participants through my camera. Let me know what you think...
The 'boy'? Well, he came in the top ten percent. Respect.