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Thousands brave Whistler's Tough Mudder

Annual obstacle course marathon will attract nearly 20,000 over two days



After driving eight hours to get to Tough Mudder at Whistler Olympic Park on Saturday, Norielle Bellis wasn't about to leave without one of those orange, trademark headbands.

"Because how embarrassing would it be if we drove eight hours from Prince George, told all of our friends and family about this Tough Mudder thing, and then didn't finish?" Bellis laughed, as her friends Lauren VanderPloeg and Megan Vassallo agreed.

"Plus there's a beer at the end, so I mean, I can't say no to that," VanderPloeg added.

So there they were at the finish line, exhausted and exhilarated, cold beers in hand, donning the orange headbands given only to the Tough Mudder conquerer.

"It's an accomplishment to say that we've done it, that's for sure," Vassallo said.

Around 20,000 people will take on the course this weekend, braving the 19-or-so obstacles along the way for no other reason than to say they've done it.

A few yards from Bellis and her friends, John Bourcet and his boss Terry Bergen were also savouring their victory beers. Both men made the trip over from Victoria to take part in their third Tough Mudder.

"It was a slog, man," Bourcett said.

"It did seem tougher than previous years," Bergen agreed.

Being repeat mudders, Bourcett and Bergen were granted access to the "experts only" Legionnaires' Loop - a stretch of the course featuring obstacles exclusive to Tough Mudder veterans.

Bourcett said the highlight was the "killer mud mile" - a 37-metre pit of mud that's "like cake."

"It was just fun," he said.

"You're here to get muddy."

And looking around at the thousands of smiling, mud-caked participants, that seemed like a pretty fair assessment.

But what's it like to be on that course slogging through the mud, diving into arctic water and getting electrocuted?

Without actually, you know, doing it?

"You need to do it," said Kate Fitzpatrick, director of community support with Tough Mudder.

"You can't really experience it until you've actually done it."

Fitzpatrick knows as well as anybody what it takes to be a Tough Mudder, having done the endurance run four times herself.

"What I love about it is you often meet people throughout the course," she said.

"You're meeting interesting people (and) you're cheering everyone on."

Ask any one of the 20,000 or so mud-splattered participants and you'll likely hear similar stories of friendly co-operation.

"Anyone can do it. It takes just a little bit of training," Bourcett said.

"And everyone helps everyone out, right? So you're not alone out there. It's not a race, it's just fun."

That, it would seem, is what sets Tough Mudder apart from more reserved events - sure you can go for the fastest time, just make sure you're having fun.

One 80's Dream Team - made up of guys going only as Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and Bret "The Hitman" Hart - seemed to get that.

"It was muddy. Very muddy," the Macho Man said matter-of-factly, taking a swig of his Dos Equis.

"It got all over us. We're dirty, but we loved it."

"Hulk Hogan", after reminding all you kids out there to eat your vegetables and do your homework, said it's all about teamwork.

"You're just constantly looking out for your friends and your family, and kind of taking it one obstacle at a time," the Hulkster said.

"It's about having fun."

Once they had their fill of mud and electric shocks, competitors were bused back to Whistler Village where a "Welcome Back Mudders" event was waiting for them at Whistler Olympic Plaza.

"We're right next to the drop-off point where they're anticipating a few hundred every 20 minutes to come through," explained Liam Peyton, festival events manager for Gibbons Hospitality.

"We really wanted to help showcase local businesses, and just be the guys saying 'Hi, welcome back to our beautiful village.'"

The Tough Mudder crowd is ideal for Whistler business - young, and exuberant.

The Welcome Back Mudders event offered local businesses a venue to showcase what they've got to offer - and Mudders a chance to unwind.

"We've got beer on site as well, " Peyton assured me.

"Always a bonus."


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