Obstacle cause

Fitness instructor Heather Morgan puts Tough Mudder entrants through their paces. Picture: Daryl GordonGetting burnt, frozen and shocked has never been popular. But now it’s something almost 20,000 Australians pay for. Daniel Tran discovers why men and women put their bodies on the line for challenges like Tough Mudder.
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Rod Currie doesn’t like a shock. But this weekend the Langwarrin resident will have no choice but to face 10,000 volts of electricity as he takes part in the Tough Mudder challenge on Phillip Island.

Believed to be one of the world’s toughest events, Tough Mudder is a 20 kilometre obstacle course in which participants navigate their way through a field of fire, muddy trenches, curtains of live wires and more than a dozen other hazards.

Developed by Harvard graduate Will Dean, the course has an average time of about three hours and only about 80 per cent of participants are able to finish.

The first Tough Mudder was held in 2010 and had 5000 participants, but since then the event has taken the world by storm.

In Australia, about 20,000 people have already signed up. The goal is not to get the best time, but to finish the course.

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would pay to have their senses assaulted by the elements, both natural and man-made. But for Currie, a Woolworths store manager in Glen Waverley, taking part in Tough Mudder is about making a positive change to his life.

‘‘For me personally, it’s turning my fitness levels around,’’ he says. ‘‘When I was younger, I used to be a lot fitter. I’ve let myself go. But this is the beginning of turning that around and just maintaining a good level of fitness.’’

In order to prepare himself for the gruelling event, Currie and his team of seven friends have been working with Heather Morgan from Seaford’s Health in Motion Fitness.

Twice a week the team gets together with Morgan, who puts them through their paces.

‘‘We’re all at various fitness levels. Most of us are a bit overweight and need to get fit. Heather’s been really good, she just knows what parts of the body to work and train to get certain goals. When we first started we could not run five kilometres or even think about it. But the body parts that she’s worked on has allowed us to build them up and lose weight. We’ve gone from running five kilometres now to running nearly 10 km,’’ he says.

Currie has already lost 15 kilograms and one of his team members has lost almost 20 kilograms.

‘‘If it was something we did individually, we probably wouldn’t have come as far as we have in such a short period of time. The team really drives you. You don’t want to let the other guys down.’’

Currie has no doubt the team will be finishing the course. ‘‘We’ve got determination,’’ he says.

‘‘The only part I’m worried about are the electrical wires. I think the rest of it — the ramps, the mud — we’ll get through. We’re a pretty tough group of blokes. If we get through this one, we’re also seriously considering the Sydney one in September and the Tough Mudder in Western Australia next year.”

But Kilsyth’s Jason Nichols is putting his body on the line for a much simpler reason. He just wants to see if he can do it.

‘‘It’s all about having a bit of fun and getting your teammates across the line,’’ he says.

Nichols, 41, runs the Sakura Karate Club and Tough Mudder will merely be a mental and physical test for him and his team.

‘‘We haven’t done anything like this before in terms of the obstacles and the running.

‘‘It’ll be true test of where we’re at,’’ he says.

‘‘Whether or not we do it in hours is another thing but I’m sure we’ll all get over the line at some stage.”

For Berwick’s Andrew Arnold, Tough Mudder is less about fitness and more about setting an example.

Arnold, 43, is a Cranbourne chiropractor. His entry into Tough Mudder is about being an example to his patients.

‘‘I talk about getting people to really strive, particularly when it comes to exercise and health. If I’m prepared to go there then I’ve got integrity when I ask people to do the same thing. I really wanted to show patients that I’m prepared to put my money were my mouth is.’’

Although Arnold has a strong background in fitness, he has also been turning up his training to prepare himself for the event. But even he is unsure that he’ll be able to complete every obstacle.

‘‘Some of the stuff is quite daunting, like going through a pipe submerged underwater. I’m going way beyond what I’ve ever done in the past.’’

Despite his apprehension, Arnold’s resolve is unwavering.

‘‘I think I should be ready to go. I could definitely do more but I think I’ll be ready. I’m going to be walking past the finish line.’’

Tough Mudder Melbourne is on March 31 and April 1.