What’s the appeal for the huge crowd of people who will voluntarily leap through fire, crawl under barbed wire, scale massive walls and wade through ice-cold waters during a 10-mile run at Whistler Olympic Park this weekend?
Perhaps the reasons vary for the approximately 16,000 folks registered for the Canadian debut of the Tough Mudder, taking place over Saturday and Sunday (June 23 and 24). But for Whistler’s Jordan Glasser, it’s simply the challenge of taking on an event with friends that has quickly become an international phenomenon in just two short years.
“Looking at the fine details, there will be some elements of the course that will be distasteful,” laughed Glasser, owner and operator of CrossFit Whistler. “But overall, it’s something to do as a group where it’s not necessarily very competitive. We’re there to help each other out, (get past) some obstacles and go for a long run in the woods in our own backyard. That’s what appeals to me.”
Glasser said there are close to a dozen locals who train at his fitness studio that will be participating on one of the two days this weekend. It’s recommended that athletes register in teams because many of the obstacles require cooperation to overcome.
A field of live, 10,000-watt wires, dark tunnels, greased-up monkey bars and a couple of mystery obstacles that won’t be revealed until race day are among the other challenges awaiting Tough Mudder participants.
Although the top five per cent of finishers will qualify for the World’s Toughest Mudder — taking place in New Jersey in November with cash prizes on the line — organizers emphasize the challenge of the event rather than billing it as a race. Just completing the course is an accomplishment in itself, as nearly one-quarter of all participants drop out before reaching the finish.
“We’re excited to see just how tough Canadians really are,” said event spokesperson Jane Di Leo.
Since holding the inaugural event in Pennsylvania two years ago, the Tough Mudder has expanded to include 35 events in four countries in 2012 with plans to grow even further next year.
Di Leo said that Whistler was an ideal location to stage Canada’s first Tough Mudder because Whistler Olympic Park provides a great venue and a setting with excellent natural terrain and beauty.
“We love when we can put our events on in the mountains,” said Di Leo. “It makes it that much more difficult… because you’re adding in altitude, you’re adding in steep climbs and our obstacle designers love that.”
Meanwhile, officials with venue operator Whistler Sport Legacies (WSL) love that the Tough Mudder approached them with the idea of hosting the event.
“We’re always on the lookout for new and unique third-party opportunities,” said Whistler Olympic Park director Lindsay Durno, who’s hopeful that the offseason event will showcase the venue and the Sea to Sky corridor to a whole new group of people.
“As they say in the sport business: ‘You’re only as good as your last event.’ So, we’re hoping that this event will go a long way in (furthering) our standing. Just the exposure of 15,000-plus people coming to the venue —probably people that we could never hope to entice here — is second-to-none.”
Di Leo said that Tough Mudder officials can’t yet confirm they’ll return in 2013, only that they like to work with previous partners where possible. WSL would like to see Whistler Olympic Park become an annual location for the Tough Mudder.
“We’re hoping they’re going to come back next year,” said Durno.
The first wave of participants will begin at 8 a.m. each day. Spectators are welcome, with tickets running $20 in advance at www.toughmudder.com or $40 at the gates. Check out the website for more info about the course design and participant start times.