Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Volunteering at Tough Mudder

This past week I spent two days volunteering at the Tough Mudder (TM) event in Western NY.  I'm been very curious to see what differences there might be between the various promoters.  Particularly with Tough Mudder.  Partly because I've had no previous experience with them and partly because they are the only major event that isn't actually a race.

The first thing I realized was that during the actual build week, there aren't many volunteers.  In fact, Tuesday there were only two of us...with a third as a no-show.  Wednesday there were several more, but still only around six or seven.  Unlike the massive number of volunteers on the event days, the mid-week numbers are fairly low.

Like the Spartan build I worked on almost exactly two years ago, volunteers generally didn't work on the actual obstacles...they have a special crew for that.  We worked on things like the starting and finishing pens and some other areas in and around the festival location.  I imagine the two or three TM people we worked closest with were those who usually dealt with volunteers.  So they're used to energetic, enthusiastic people who have no idea what they're doing!!

Interestingly, it would also appear that whatever genetic marker is responsible for people that actually enjoy OCR (obstacle course racing) is also the same marker responsible for generating sarcastic, smart-ass remarks...about everything!!

What I also found in common was the unanimous 'love', if you will, for Tough Mudder (TM) and the concept it promotes.  Every volunteer I worked with was a veteran of TM and had run a number of previous events...making them part of the Mudder Legion.  With different color headbands as you progressed through...like you were earning your belts in karate. The interesting part though, was that this love for TM was why so many people are so passionate about other races too, like Spartan Race.

One guy was telling me how he had been around 260 lbs a few years back before trying TM.  Since then he must have easily lost 70-80 lbs and found, like many others (yours truly included), that they couldn't just be satisfied with finishing any more...they wanted to get in better and better shape to improve their performance.  

And once people found out that I follow OCR and write about the different races, most were curious about how they compare.  Many were interested in knowing what these other races were like and whether they were more or less difficult than TM.  Even some TM people were curious.

I think this is yet another indication of the relative infancy of the sport.  Participants have gotten involved with one race or another for all sorts of reasons.  Friends, family, work...casually running across something on the Internet.  And whatever race they start with becomes their go-to race.  Now, people are starting to wonder what else is out there and whether those other races are something they would be interested in doing.  After all, how many times can you really do the same race in the same place?  Something I have asked myself a number of times.

In the end, I suppose that's the purpose of my writing,  To help people see what these races have to offer and provide some info to help them decide what other races might be worthwhile.  And yes, there are definitely differences between races...even between different venues within the same race.  In the end though, what I've found so far is that when you look for the reasons why people are doing OCR, the harder you look, the less difference you really see.

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