The fifth consecutive Whistler Tough Mudder took over Olympic Park this weekend, with thousands of participants braving the rain and cold temperatures to climb walls, swim through mud and ice, and dodge electrical shocks before crossing the finish line.
The Whistler event is particularly special to the Tough Mudder franchise, which each year runs over 60 events around the world with obstacle courses aimed to test participants’ physical strength, mental grit, teamwork and camaraderie — without the competitive aspect of a timed race.
“Whistler’s somewhat unique in the fact that we call it a destination event,” said race director Barry Shaw. “Usually about half the people are coming from outside of the area. We’re pulling from Seattle, Portland, even California, and internationally as well.”
This year’s event drew over 8,000 participants for the Saturday (June 18) event, with more than 1,500 others braving the course on Sunday (June 19). The weekend-long event, which receives partial funding from B.C.’s Resort Municipality Initiative, brings in millions of dollars in economic activity for Whistler.
Whistler’s Callaghan Valley is a popular location for the franchise. “This is pretty epic scenery, and hilly terrain,” said Shaw. “It’s obviously more difficult, I would say, than other Tough Mudders.”
Participants were also treated to a combination of new obstacles and old favourites throughout this year’s course, which featured between 20 and 25 obstacles.
Whistler resident Renee Turpin participated in her first Tough Mudder with two friends. “Nineteen km of hilly terrain in itself is challenging and the obstacles were tough,” said Turpin. “My girlfriends and I worked together to get through all but two of the obstacles, and when we needed some more muscle, there was always someone by to help give you a boost or pull you through.”
“It was cold out there though, but that’s all part of it,” she added.
“The brand is all about teamwork,” explained Shaw. “It’s not competitive, the idea is to get out here with groups of friends, family, whatever, and really do something together collectively that you thought you couldn’t do beforehand.”
People aren’t solely drawn to Tough Mudder events to challenge their physical limits. Events like this weekend’s require about 150 volunteers per day, who, in this case, often travel to Whistler to take part in the festivities.
In addition to the obstacle course, food vendors, beer tents, DJs and spectator viewing areas contributed to Tough Mudder’s festival-like atmosphere.
Tough Mudder has grown to host several types of events throughout the years. The Whistler Tough Mudder Half, an 8 km, 12-15 obstacle course, will take place this weekend (June 25-26), with over 2,000 people registered to participate so far. The Whistler Mudderella, a women’s only obstacle mud run, is set to take place on top of Blackcomb Mountain on Sept. 24.