Mud run a way to cut loose from the boardroom
Corporates have embraced the country’s biggest mud run event, helping boost participation to a record this year.
The Tough Guy and Gal Challenge series, which has just wrapped up for a tenth year, saw more than 11,000 people run and crawl through mud and swamps for the aura of toughness.
Event creator Murray Flemming says popularity among white-collar worker has seen the series buck trends of all other outdoor events throughout the country.
“The majority of them are [seeing corporate participation] decreasing quite dramatically,” he says.
It may seem surprising the office warriors are choosing this event for their team building fix, when you consider what the course demands: mud pits, swamp crossings, a mud crawl under barbed wire, a rope bridge, horse jumps, hurdles, an A-frame spider rope climb – mixed with lots of paddock running and some native bush trails.
But the trend is in keeping with the growing number of obstacle events around the world attracting professionals keen to get out of the office.
Tough Guy and Gal is the closest thing in this country to the UK’s Mud Runner and the Tough Mudder – a 10-12 mile obstacle course designed by British Special Forces – held across Australia, Canada, US, Europe, South Africa and Japan.
Thankfully, organisers of the local version say there are no plans to replicate the Tough Mudder’s fire and “electroshock” therapy obstacles in this country.
But new obstacles are added each year, to keep the course fresh.
Tough Guy and Gal had seven events this year (compared with five last year) in Auckland, Rotorua, Palmerston North and Wellington. All offer a 6km or 12km course option.
It seems participants are there for mud, not distance. Most opt for the 6km event, with only a very small number taking up the 12km option, which means you navigate the course twice.
Dressing up is encouraged – organisers call it the Wellington Sevens of running events.
If you want to see how people dressed as Smurfs, rosters, super heroes or brides hit the mud, take a look here.
The mud run’s original home in Rotorua still attracts the biggest numbers and added a sell-out third event this year.
Mr Flemming says the Rotorua course is popular with Aucklanders who travel down and make a weekend of the event.
The Lakes Ranch course also provides a special-feature hot, thermal pool to relax in at the end. With hundreds of muddy bodies, it was more like a mud bath – but most people don’t care after the events of the morning.
The series is also run at Woodhill Sands Equestrian Centre in the Woodhill Forest in Auckland, Linton Army Camp in Palmerston North and had its first year in Wellington this year where the course at Wainuiomata Boys’ Brigade Camp has the biggest mud pits of the series.
Fastest times recorded at the series finale in Rotorua last weekend were:
6km: 37.24 (male) 45:24 (female)
12km: 1:04:08 (male), 1:21:48 (female)
Some of the larger corporate participants in Tough Guy & Gal this year included Air New Zealand, KPMG and Pernod Ricard.
Dory Fisher, senior manager in the audit team at KPMG Hamilton was one of 15 participants from his office, who ranged from junior staff to managers.
He says the muddy challenge was lots of fun and was thoroughly enjoyed by the team of accountants who spend most of their week behind a desk. Most travelled up together and enjoyed a night out afterwards.
“It’s hard when you’re running and you wonder, why am I doing this again? But it’s a good sense of achievement.”
Mr Flemming runs the series with just three full-time staff at his company Event Promotions.
Registrations ($60 for earlybird) have rocketed from 420 entries when the event launched10 years ago.
Venue hire is the biggest cost and finding sponsors is also hard. Waikato Draught was the naming right sponsor from the events inception, but was replaced by bread brand Burgan this year.
Which meant muddy participants did not get offered a beer when crossing the finish line.
They were handed a Big Ben pie instead.