Global Observer

Australians tested in the 'world's toughest' challenge

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MELBOURNE -- Described as Ironman meets Burning Man, the Tough Mudder adventure comes to Australia for the first time.

MELBOURNE -- This weekend, 21,000 Australians will be tested by Tough Mudder, a grueling obstacle course designed by British Special Forces.

"Internationally, there's a perception that Australians consider themselves to be a nation of athletic and resilient men and women," Tough Mudder Chief Executive Officer Will Dean said. “Tough Mudder is unlike anything you've ever seen before, and we're expecting Aussies to put their money where their mouth is."

Held at Victoria’s Philip Island, the inaugural Australian Tough Mudder will consist of an intensive 20-km run combined with over 20 military-style exercises.

Australian participants will be challenged both physically and mentally as they scale 3m-high oiled walls, jump into freezing ice-baths, crawl through muddy trenches, run through fire, negotiate pits of stinging nettles and get shocked by 10,000 volts of electricity.

The obstacles are all but impossible to complete individually, and the vast majority of participants register as a team. As an un-timed event, the focus is on teamwork rather than competition.

"Tough Mudder is about camaraderie, getting back to nature, not taking yourself too seriously and having a good time," Tough Mudder spokesperson Alex Patterson said. "On an individual level it’s about challenging yourself both mentally and physically and on a social level it’s about working together to make it through adversity."

Tough Mudder was initially created in response to a Harvard University's Business Plan Contest by then student Will Dean, who was bored with marathon running and wanted to create the ultimate challenge.

“The plan actually didn’t win the competition because his professors said an un-timed event would never work,” Patterson said, ”but Will was keen on bringing the concept to life and brought his lifelong friend Guy Livingston on board as the Chief Operating Officer."

The first event was held on Sunday, May 2, 2010, at Bear Creek Mountain Resort near Philadelphia. With just $8,000 worth of Facebook advertising, Tough Mudder sold out all 4,500 spaces in a record 35 days.

Generally participants are diverse in profession, 76% are male, with an average age of 29. To date, 78% of participants cross the finish line taking approximately 2.5 hours to complete the course.

“Many U.S. Marines say it is one of the toughest courses they have seen. We think that it’s definitely comparable to the world’s toughest training programs, but it’s better to think about Tough Mudder as a team challenge rather than a training program,” Patterson said.

Since 2010, Tough Mudder participants have raised more than $2 million for its official U.S. charity partner, the Wounder Warrior Project. In Australia, participants will raise money for Tough Mudder's Australian charity partner Legacy.

The 2012 Tough Mudder series includes 35 events taking place across various cities in the US, Australia, the UK and Canada.

Sydney is expected to host their first Tough Mudder in September.

Video: Tough Mudder.

Lieu Thi Pham

Correspondent (Melbourne)

Lieu Thi Pham is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. She has contributed to The Age, Associated Newspapers, Melbourne University Magazine, the Big Issue, Dazed and Confused, Indesign Group, Time Out, SOMA and Niche Media. She holds degrees from the University of Melbourne and RMIT University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure