Life Lessons from a Tough Mudder Novice

Last weekend I completed my first Tough Mudder, a birthday present from my sons – an hour and a half slog through forest trails, water tanks, multiple obstacles, terrible weather … and a whole lot of mud.

The event was compelling, inspiring and even enjoyable for many reasons, highlighted by the Tough Mudder ‘Pledge’, which all participants sign up to before they start. Now I’m not pretending for a moment that this is the most fundamental set of principles for life, but as all competitors repeated ‘The Pledge’ and we immersed ourselves (literally!) in the event, it occurred to me that these principles also resonate with the challenges of everyday living. How does the Tough Mudder Pledge transcend the challenge itself?

  1. “I understand that Tough Mudder is not a race, but a challenge”
    The idea behind Tough Mudder is that getting it done quickly isn’t the goal – instead, getting it done is the goal, and being realistic about the challenge and working as a team are the enablers. I realised that being mindful of my team and taking time to think strategically during the Tough Mudder in order to make sure that the challenge was achievable, enabled me to think about what was important – and life operates the same way. Slow down, take your time and make sure that importance is valued over urgency.
  2. “I put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time”
    This furthers the argument against being fast, in that in order to succeed in life, you need to surround yourself with allies as they are the ones that are going to support you in good and in bad times. We’re not meant to be solitary creatures, we need support and companionship – and often this solves problems we’ve been wrestling with on our own for months. Success isn’t always measured by what we do, but how we do it and who we do it with.
  3. “I do not whine – kids whine”
    Complaining gets us nowhere, let alone closer to what we really want. Rather than complain, find out what’s causing the logjam and identify how much control you have over potential solutions. Get through the things that are in your way so that you can get your way – in the Tough Mudder, you have to do that. You must deal with the obstacles in your way in order to progress, but cleverly you can only do this as a team or with colleagues – as I rapidly learned when being pushed by one son under a large roller in a tank full of muddy water, and being pulled out by my other son!
  4. I help my fellow mudders complete the course”
    This links back to point #1 – when you finish isn’t nearly as important as how you finish. My sons and I tried to work together (mostly!) and if we hadn’t done, we would not have completed the course. We also got help from others at times, particularly on the really slippery trails, and helped one man who had lost the members of his team but was determined to climb a pyramid, where we enabled him to achieve the task by offering encouragement, advice – and literally a hand up.
  5. “I overcome all fears”
    Willpower, humour and attitude are what seemed to drive everyone we encountered during the Tough Mudder. Whilst we were reasonably fit, it was inspiring watching others willing themselves around the course and on the final run-in knowing that they were about to complete what might have been the toughest test of physical endurance they’ve ever faced.

So, a much more meaningful event than just a physical slog, more relevance than I imagined to life’s tasks … and we’re back for the full one next year!