Finally, a new blog post – my first since January. I’m going to start with a confession: Up until the week before this event, I had never heard of Tough Mudder and didn’t know anything about this type of event.
It was my friend Janet who introduced me to the world that is Tough Mudder. A friend and colleague of hers, Marianne, was taking part in the event and Janet wanted to go along to offer support and hopefully take some photos at the same time. After doing some research on the event website, Janet thought that it would appeal to me as a photographic opportunity, and duly sent me the link.
As it happened, I also knew someone taking part in event, though I didn’t know it beforehand. A colleague from work, Joe, spotted me on the approach to the Hay Bale Pyramid, one of the early obstacles. I also managed to photograph him jumping a ditch a little later, but then all but missed him running through the Firewalker. With hindsight, I would love to have caught him at the mud mile as I would have got a lot more photos at that location. Maybe next time…
It turned out that this particular event, held at Boughton House, near Kettering in Northamptonshire was the very first Tough Mudder event to take place in the UK, following enormous success in the USA and other countries worldwide. So what is Tough Mudder all about? In essence, the event consists of a twelve-mile run across country with an obstacle to overcome roughly every half mile or so.
The obstacles varied in their difficulty and their level of sadism. Some, like the Berlin Walls and Hay Bale Pyramid, provided a physical barrier to scale and overcome. Others, like the Mud Mile and Log Bog Jog were designed to sap the energy out of the competitors and test their stamina…
Other obstacles such the Funkey Monkey and Walk the Plank tested the physical capabilities of the runners in respect of their strength, balance and agility. As for the Electro-Shock Therapy, well you can make your own mind up about that one…
Many of the obstacles are designed with teamwork in mind, none more so than the Everest Wall, the last but one obstacle consisting of a quarter-pipe roughly 12 feet high which proved to be almost impossible to scale single-handed but turned into an object lesson in using team-work and camaraderie to overcome the seemingly insurmountable.
It is this sense of teamwork that sets Tough Mudder apart from many similar types of event such as Tough Guy. Tough Mudder is not a race as such, it is a challenge above all else, both a personal challenge and a team challenge. Add to this mix lots of mud and the fact that most of the entrants were also raising large amounts of money for good causes at the same time and you have the reasons why this has become such a successful format.
As a photographic opportunity, this was a great event for me and just what I needed after a long lay-off suffering from back muscle spasms. With hindsight, I probably missed some of the very best obstacles in terms of facial expressions, the Arctic Enema and the Spiders Web for instance. However, this was the first time I had tried to photograph an event like this and I think I did ok for a first attempt.
In truth, I did not know what to expect in terms of spectator access to the obstacles, which was actually much better than I imagined. Because of this uncertainty, I decided to take my old but trusty Canon EF55-200mm F4-5.6 zoom. This is a great lens for the money but doesn’t quite give that 3D effect that my regular EF80-200mm F2.8 would have given. All shots were taken with my EOS 5D (or 5D Classic as it is referred to now). One equipment decision I was pleased with was footwear. Janet and I both chose to wear our wellies and we were both very glad that we did!
One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer number of competitors taking part. 8,000 runners took part on the Saturday when we attended, and another 5,000 on the Sunday. Any attempt to photograph all those taking part was clearly futile. Even the official event photographers who had cameras located at various locations around the course struggled to get shots of everyone taking part.
Janet and I had a great day out photographing this event. Not just because it was a beautiful day weather wise but because it was such a great event both to witness and to photograph. There were times, especially at the “Everest” wall when I had to stop taking photos just to enjoy and appreciate the unbelievable effort that the competitors were making in order to complete the challenge.
We both left Boughton House full of respect and admiration for everyone who takes part in these events. The levels of commitment, dedication and teamwork were clear for all to see. Now that my eyes have been opened to this type of event, I very much hope to be able to cover more of them later in the year, hopefully in Scotland on the 14th and 15th July, and at Cholmondeley Castle in the North West on the 17th and 18th November.
***Update – December 2019*** for any runners still looking for photos from the South-East/Midlands event at Boughton House, I have now tagged all my photos from the day with your running numbers (wherever they were visible). Use the search box at the top of the Gallery Page below to check if I managed to tag your number (Saturday 12th May 2012 only):
Here’s the link to the photos I took on the day: