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Breaking Point

Tough Mudder has pushed endurance-challenge events into the mainstream. But what makes the toughest tick?



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As Whistler continues its quest to eliminate the much maligned shoulder season, it is events like TM that are drawing the visitors when they are needed most. The 2012 Tough Mudder weekend had 90 per cent occupancy for both the Friday and Saturday nights (the average for June overall is 44 per cent) and that target is expected to repeat this year. Mudders may not be as affluent as the participants of GranFondo or Ironman, but with 19,000 people registered plus around 6,000 spectators expected to attend, there are certainly more of them. The celebratory nature of the event also means that there is more focus on having a full weekend of fun before, during and after the event. Last year the village was packed on the Saturday night with the bars and clubs bursting with cleaned up mudders proudly sporting their orange headbands. This year there is even a Motley Crue tribute band playing at the Whistler Conference Centre to provide yet another option to keep mudders entertained in the night.

"It's such a good group of people that are coming up to the resort," says Louise Walker, VP of Marketing Strategy at Tourism Whistler

"They are working hard during the day with the event and then they're having good, honest fun at night. It's a really good celebration feel in the resort."

The official name of the event was changed to Tough Mudder Whistler (previously Tough Mudder Vancouver) after the organizers saw how well Whistler managed the influx of thousands of people.

"What we see is that people identify with Whistler," says Bodkins.

"In making that name change, it was both to try to make sure to make very clear to people about where the event was, but also we felt like Whistler very much stands on its own in terms of a location and a destination. Even when we came in February and it was covered in 12 feet of snow, it's one of those venues that you look at and immediately know it's a destination event for us. This is an event that when our participants come, they're coming for the location as much as they're coming for our event."

With well over 19,000 people running, crawling and swimming through Whistler Olympic Park (WOP) this weekend, there is potential to negatively impact the landscape. But through careful planning such impacts are being avoided as much as possible.

"The route is carefully chosen by Tough Mudder and in cooperation with our operations department to minimize damage," said Lindsay Durno, Director of WOP.

"The contract (states) that any damage will be remediated (by tough Mudder) immediately afterwards and that was done (last year)."

There is also plenty of business being generated for local contractors. Everything including the obstacle construction, earth moving, tenting, fencing and catering is being sourced from companies in the Sea to Sky. With the event returning for the second time all crews are also working more efficiently.

"It's a lot easier with one year under our belts," says Durno.

"Both TM and WOP staff know exactly what they're doing."

With a plan to have TM return to WOP for the next five years, the resort can look forward to the orange army of mudders returning to descend on Whistler to again make it one of the busiest weekends of the summer, rain hail or shine.