Tough Mudder competitors test their limits

Swinging over pits of water, climbing up slopes as you struggle to gain footing on a slippery surface and jumping into a bath of ice might not seem like the most enjoyable way to spend a weekend.

But for those brave enough, or maybe crazy enough depending on your viewpoint, to endure those grueling obstacles and more at Tough Mudder, it’s the best way to spend a weekend.

“It was a great experience,” said Daniel Pearson, a Navarre resident who was participating in the event for the first time. “The course was tough but it was exactly the way I expected it to be. I did a lot of training leading up to it.”

For John Hollandsworth, Tough Mudder is a big part of his life. He has participated in more than 20 during the last few years, including the Toughest Mudder in Las Vegas.

“Once you’ve done one, it becomes infectious,” Hollandsworth said. “This course is pretty good. It’s a lot of fun to go through the different obstacles.”

Hollandsworth traveled from Panama City to participate but stayed overnight in Crestview as he planned to run the course four times during the two-day event at Ates Ranch just outside of Milton.

“I love doing it,” Hollandsworth said. “It’s a good way to train for the Toughest Mudder.”

The Gulf Coast Tough Mudder kicked off the season, which will feature 34 events in both the United States and Canada. The entry fee for the Gulf Coast event was $139 if tickets were bought in advance. It was $220 for those who paid their fee the day of the event.

Spectators paid $20 to walk a route and watch the intense competitors navigate the rugged 10-mile course that featured 21 obstacles, including the Block Ness Monster, Everest 2.0, Quagmire, Ladder to Hell and Electroshock Therapy.

Director of event operations Barry Shaw said roughly 6,000 participated this weekend but the majority came from within the state of Florida.

“About 80-85 percent are usually from the state it’s in and about 15-20 percent are out of state, but here, it’s probably about 75-25 because of the location of this one,” Shaw said.

A year ago, about 4,200 were nonresident participants and roughly 10,000 came out to watch says Jodi Kovacs who works public relations for Tough Mudder.

Shaw said four to six months of planning is involved in getting set for Tough Mudder and noted that there are advantages and disadvantages to having an event in the same location each year.

“It’s good in the sense that we know the property but it’s bad that we sometimes lose the opportunity to rethink things for the next year,” Shaw said. “We try to make sure we are always rethinking everything and this year the course is definitely different than it was last year.”

Saturday morning started off a little chilly but the temperature rose as the day wore on. Getting through each obstacle requires endurance and mental toughness and competitors displayed that as they made their way through them.

But because the course isn’t timed, competitors are willing to help each other get over obstacles and that is part of what makes the experience an enjoyable one.

“People are willing to help each other out. It’s great to see the teamwork involved in it,” Pearson said.

Hollandsworth echoed those thoughts.

“The camaraderie is awesome,” said Hollandsworth, who is retired from the Army. “I love that people work together to get through this course.”

And Hollandsworth is right on about Tough Mudder being infectious. Pearson, after all, is already planning to come back for next year’s event.

“I had a great time and I’m already planning to be here again next year,” Pearson said. “I can’t wait.”


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