Back in July we launched Mudder Woman, a programme to encourage women from all kinds of fitness backgrounds to commit to a Tough Mudder Half event and share their training journey. Over the 2017 event season we hosted an incredible selection of women who used their platform to share that message.
One of these women was Julie Creffield, the founder of blog Too Fat to Run, a motivational speaker and plus size marathon runner. Julie’s outlook on life and exercise aligned perfectly with what we were trying to achieve with Mudder Woman and we were thrilled when she agreed to take on Tough Mudder Half London South with a group of women she’d never met before.
Julie’s Mudder Woman Journey
I may not be fast, I may not be all that strong…but boy am I tough that’s for sure, tough and I guess a little stupid.
A few months ago I was asked by Tough Mudder if I would like to take part in one of their events as part of a new initiative for women #MudderWomen, oh and I could bring a friend.
My sister has been getting more interested in doing things like this with me so I asked if she was up for it and she was, so I said yes. I did have some reservations though as I did a Tough Mudder full back in 2014 (you can read the full horror story here) and it almost killed me. OK slight exaggeration but it did trigger every single fear I have…fear of being slow, fear of letting people down, fear of being lifted, fear of heights, fear of falling, fear of enclosed spaces, fear of bugs…god I could go on. And it left my body wrecked for about 2 months afterwards.
I learned a lot about myself from doing it the first time round, but I swore I would never do it again….but come on you have heard me say that before about marathons right?
But this time would be different. I do CrossFit now, I have more upper body strength. I’d be better prepared mentally, know what was coming so to speak. Plus this one was a Tough Mudder Half not a full one, so half the mileage and half the obstacles. Of course I could do it.
So my sister and I turned up on a sunny Saturday afternoon for a training day where we would meet all of the other Mudder Women, I was still recovering from my 42 mile ultra marathon so was a bit worried about making a fool of myself in front of all these super fit bloggers. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to others but its so difficult not to in these situations…I’m sure everyone thought my sister was the fitness person rather than me, simply because of her smaller frame.
Anyway we had a blast at the training day…and over lunch we discussed what we would do in the 6 weeks left we had to train.
Now I do CrossFit 2-3 times a week, but my sister does very little, so we organised some circuit sessions in her local park, and she promised me she would do stuff off her own back…she didn’t. But she was up for giving it a go either way…she is a bit nuts like me in this way. However the night before she had a bit of a family crisis and she couldn’t make it at all.
I wasn’t angry with her but I was gutted that I would be doing it alone. I posted in the #MudderWoman Whatsapp group about my fears, and a lovely PR lady Harriet responded, “There are no strangers at Tough Mudder, just friends you haven’t met yet.”
And with that I headed to the pick up point for what was sure to be a memorable day, one way or another.
Taking the Tough Mudder Pledge
There was little time for nerves, and before we knew it we were warming up, rolling around on the ground, hugging strangers and repeating the Tough Mudder pledge. And then we were off.
We had said we would pace ourselves and stick together, but in the first few minutes I realised that I was going to struggle to keep pace with the rest of the group. I am slow. My legs were sore from a CrossFit session and a 6 mile run earlier that week. The route was muddy, uneven, uphill. I couldn’t run any faster and thats when all of my insecurities started to come into play.
I don’t care about being slow or coming last when I am on my own, but when I am in a team I hate to think I am stopping someone from challenging themselves or making people wait for me. I also had to be mindful that I am due to run a half marathon at EuroDisney Paris with a team of women from my community, I couldn’t afford to get injured.
Kiss of Mud 2.0 is pretty much what it says on the tin. Crawl on the floor under some pretty scary barbed wire, with a couple of mud filled trenches for good measure. My boobs and arse put me at a massive disadvantage with this one, meaning I had to take it inch by inch to ensure I didn’t take clumps of hair from my head, or rip my leggings…I saw plenty of bare arses as a result later in the race.
I think this was the obstacle that we started to relax and enjoy it a bit more.
Hero Walls was up next. Two vertical wooden walls that we had to scale. We had already done a mini one of these earlier on with an overhang…I managed it by climbing on the supporting frame, and being hoisted up by some random people. But I knew these taller upright ones would prove more of a problem for me. I had been carrying a wrist injury on my right arm. Nothing serious but painful enough to not want to have to rely on my own strength to stop me falling off an almost 10 foot tall wall.
So my strategy for this was to help everyone else up. I knew the best way was to squat against the wall and let the other women climb on me like a ladder. So using my clasped hands I would help them up onto the wall and then they would use my shoulders for leverage to get over the top. I really enjoyed this obstacle. It felt great to be able to help and support my team, to be the strong one, the one with the strength to get them over.
Teamwork and plenty of mud
Mud Mile 2.0 was next. Now I had thoroughly enjoyed this last year…it was hilariously funny. Climb up muddy hills, slide down them and repeat. But for some reason the hills were not that muddy or slippy, instead they felt gritty, and as I slid down the first one I grazed my palms and my arse as I slid down. So instead of simply going for it, I had to concentrate and navigate them carefully as to not hurt myself. I slid down one of them quite spectacularly and ended up submerged in the mud, much to the laughter of my team as I emerged with a muddy grin.
As we finished the final hill, we found ourself in the muddiest part of the course, where mates mud wrestled each other and threw mud at each other, whilst others danced to the pumping house music, and then guess what? It started to rain and we all lifted our arms to the sky. This was the highlight I think…a real moment of pure joy and exhilaration.
Want to see how Julie and the Mudder Woman team get on with the rest of the course? Read part two of Julie’s blog now.