Tough Mudder: For fun, and a frosty one 

Annual obstacle course challenge brings 20,000 to Whistler over two days

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - electric feel Tough Mudder participants navigate the Electroshock Therapy obstacle, featuring live, dangling wires, at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday, June 21.
  • Photo BY braden dupuis
  • electric feel Tough Mudder participants navigate the Electroshock Therapy obstacle, featuring live, dangling wires, at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday, June 21.

After travelling eight hours to get to Tough Mudder at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday, June 21, Norielle Bellis wasn't about to leave without one of those orange, signature headbands.

"Because how embarrassing would it be if we drove eight hours from Prince George, told all of our friends and family about this Tough Mudder thing, and then didn't finish?" Bellis laughed, as her friends Lauren VanderPloeg and Megan Vassallo agreed.

"Plus there's a beer at the end, so I mean, I can't say no to that," VanderPloeg added.

So there they were at the finish line, exhausted and exhilarated, cold beers in hand, donning the orange headbands given only to the Tough Mudder conquerers.

"It's an accomplishment to say that we've done it, that's for sure," Vassallo said.

Around 20,000 people took on the course on Saturday or Sunday, braving the 19-plus obstacles along the way for no other reason than to say they've done it.

A few yards from Bellis and her friends, John Bourcet and his boss Terry Bergen were also savouring their victory beers.

Both men made the trip up from Victoria to take part in their third Tough Mudder since the event first came to Whistler in 2012.

"It was a slog, man," Bourcett said.

"It did seem tougher than previous years," Bergen agreed.

Being repeat mudders, Bourcett and Bergen were granted access to the "experts only" Legionnaires' Loop — a stretch of the course featuring obstacles exclusive to Tough Mudder veterans.

Bourcett said the highlight was the "killer mud mile" — a 35-metre pit of mud that's "like cake."

"It was just fun," he said.

"You're here to get muddy."

And looking around at the thousands of smiling, mud-caked participants, that seemed like a pretty fair assessment.

But what's it like to be on that course trudging through the mud, diving into arctic-temperature water and getting electrocuted? To test one's self in what's billed as "Probably the Toughest Event on the Planet?"

Without actually, you know, doing it?

"You need to do it," said Kate Fitzpatrick, director of community support with Tough Mudder.

"You can't really experience it until you've actually done it."

Fitzpatrick knows as well as anybody what it takes to be a Tough Mudder, having done the endurance run four times herself.

"What I love about it is you often meet people throughout the course," she said.

"You're meeting interesting people (and) you're cheering everyone on."

Ask any one of the thousands of mud-splattered participants and you'll likely hear similar stories of friendly cooperation.

"Anyone can do it. It takes just a little bit of training," Bourcett said. "And everyone helps everyone out, right? So you're not alone out there. It's not a race, it's just fun."

That, it would seem, is what sets Tough Mudder apart from more reserved events — sure, you can go for the fastest time, just make sure you're having fun.

One '80s dream team — made up of guys dressed as legendary pro wrestlers Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Bret "The Hitman" Hart — seemed to get that.

"It was muddy. Very muddy," the Macho Man said matter-of-factly before taking a swig of his Dos Equis.

"It got all over us. We're dirty, but we loved it."

Hulk Hogan, after reminding all you kids out there to eat your vegetables and do your homework, said it's all about teamwork, brother.

"You're just constantly looking out for your friends and your family and kind of taking it one obstacle at a time," the Hulkster said (The dream team declined to share their real names).

"It's about having fun (and) looking forward to having a beer at the end with everybody."

See page 68-69 for more photos of this year's Tough Mudder

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