Ryan Atkins has proved his toughness over and over in 2017.
Already the winner of the west and south regional events in the U.S., the Caledon, Ont. resident came up big in Canada's Toughest Mudder at Whistler Olympic Park on June 18.
In the eight-hour span of overnight competition, Atkins completed 45 miles (72.4 kilometres) of terrain to edge Robert Killian, who also completed 45 miles, and Shaun Stephens-Whale, who made it to 40 miles.
On the women's side, Lindsay Webster bested Michelle Ford and Allison Tai as all three finished 35 miles.
Though certainly very impressive, Atkins twice hit the 50-mile (80 kilometre) benchmark. Due to a wrong turn and some wrinkles throughout the race, that feat wasn't attainable once again; however, he was still fit enough to claim the victory.
"It was a little bit less here, but we got misdirected for the first couple kilometres of the first lap so we ended up doing a couple extra kilometres," he explained. "You had to run up the ski jump starting at 4 a.m. and that added five or six minutes per lap. After that happened, I knew that the 50-mile mark was out of reach."
The climbing, crawling, running and general sloppiness of Tough Mudder was nothing new for Atkins, but the addition of the ski jump was a fresh twist on things. He added that he enjoyed B.C.'s natural beauty.
"I'd never been to the Callaghan Valley and it was a super beautiful venue with some pretty rugged running," he said. "It was a little bit more rugged (than some of the others). It was definitely hillier than the Atlanta venue I'd done, but not quite as hilly as the L.A. race. It was colder, too. That's always fun.
"The World's Toughest Mudder is like that, being in the middle of a desert in November. A lot of the things I do in training prepare me for it. I do a lot of hills."
Atkins plans to do two more events this year, the Midwest race in Chicago in August and the World's Toughest Mudder — a 24-hour edition — in Las Vegas in November.
The 29-year-old has been racing obstacle courses since 2013, seeing the sport continue to grow.
"It's still developing, especially in the elite, more competitive groups of people. It's opened up the outdoors to a new demographic of people who can do these types of events and then maybe get more into hiking or mud-running. It's just a great conduit to being active," he said.
Before starting obstacle courses, Atkins had a somewhat eclectic athletic history. He was into running, mountain biking and, halving that, mountain unicycling.
In addition to Canada's Toughest Mudder, the Tougher Mudder competition and sixth-annual Tough Mudder team event were also held, drawing roughly 8,000 participants to the park. That's down from the estimated 10,000 runners who came in 2016.
The Mudder events received $112,500 in Resort Municipality Initiative funding this year, up from $100,000 in 2016.