At first, a Tough Mudder event might sound like something Bear Grylls would do in his spare time. It requires hard training, getting dirty, enduring any outdoor climate and perhaps most of all, mental willpower. When HDD Broker sales specialist Jonathan Brown first heard about Tough Mudder and presented the idea of participating to other employees, it was taken almost as a joke.

For those who may be unfamiliar, a Tough Mudder event is like a mini marathon, only a little more interesting. In fact, according to Tough Mudder, marathon running is boring. Tough Mudder events are 10- to 12-mile obstacle courses originally designed by members of the U.K. Special Forces to test all-around strength and endurance.

But a Tough Mudder event is not a race or competition by any means. The idea is to simply complete the course while assisting fellow “Mudders,” utilizing teamwork and camaraderie. Tough Mudder hosts events all around the world year-round and they have attracted millions of participants since 2010. One of the big draws of Tough Mudder is that the proceeds benefit the Wounded Warrior Project to support injured war veterans.

Brown first brought the idea of participating in Tough Mudder to HDD Broker general manager Bob Martin after he saw a news story on the Wounded Warrior Project; the two then began to discuss the idea. Brown, who served in the Navy, said he had previously heard about Tough Mudder from an ex-Navy friend who frequently participates in Navy SEAL exercises and who has also done Tough Mudder events.

“I brought the idea to Bob’s attention, thinking it would be a good morale booster and a good team-building exercise for everyone here,” Brown said. “This company is very forward-looking when it comes to health and wellness, so they immediately jumped on board.”

It was late January when Brown pitched that original idea. By early March, eight HDD Broker employees from the company’s Naples, Fla. and Victoria, British Columbia, offices had committed to the event. Since then, the group has undertaken steady workout routines, which they have tracked on their personal blogs linked to the company website.

Martin, who works out of HDD Broker’s office in Naples, Fla., said they have also reached out to local trenchless companies to participate and/or donate money to the Wounded Warrior Project though the company’s blog, which they have billed as, “Tough Broker.”

“I started thinking, it would be neat with such a high percentage of the office participating in it, maybe we
could tie this in to the company and really help to personalize HDD Broker in the eyes of our customers,” Martin said. “And that’s a big challenge for us because we are an online company, a phone-based company and an email-based company. Personalizing the company is something we have decided to put a lot of resources into, and this led into that.” 

A Tough Course

The Tough Mudder course that the Broker group will tackle on Dec. 1 in Sarasota, Fla., stretches more than 12 total miles in length. Interspersed within that 12 miles will be 25 military-style obstacles that range from the expected to the unexpected. Climbing over walls and crawling through tubes and over nets are some of the more ordinary challenges one might expect at an obstacle course challenge. One of the more unordinary challenges is a stage called the “Arctic Enema” in which participants must jump into giant dumpsters filled with ice water, swim underneath a wooden plank in the middle and come out on the other side before becoming hypothermic. The race also culminates with one of Tough Mudder’s most famous challenges, titled “Electroshock Therapy” where Mudders have to run through a jungle of live wires, some as much as 10,000 volts, to reach the end. 

Depending on the location, Tough Mudder challenges also take advantage of the local topography and incorporate challenges accordingly, such as running up and down hills, negotiating through cold water, etc. Each Tough Mudder event involves hundreds of participants who are encouraged, but not required, to work in teams. Teams go off on the course in about 15- to 20-minute intervals and on average, it takes about three and a half hours to complete.

“The whole idea behind it is that it is a very physical and mental challenge for all the participants,” Martin said. “This is completely a personal, internal challenge. You’re not timed; the object is to complete the course.

Some Tough Training

Since committing to Tough Mudder earlier in the year, Martin and the group has endured serious workout schedules that continue to get more intense as the event gets closer. HDD Broker has sponsored the workout regimes of all the participants and both the Naples and Victoria offices have taken on a boot camp approach to their workout routine. 

“The range of physical fitness within the office ranges from people who were on a fairly regular workout routine to people who haven’t worked out in 20 years,” Martin said. “It’s been amazing to see the progress of the people who have taken it very seriously and who are starting to see the benefits of it.”

As for the specifics of the workout routine, Martin says it starts with running. In addition, he said the group has also done some workout activities relative to some of the obstacles, such as pulling a weighted sled to replicate slogging through the mud.   

“It’s easy to lose interest if it’s the same thing day in and day out,” he said. “We try to mix it up, so we’ve done a kickboxing class at a local kickboxing gym and we’ve also done some workouts on the beach. The benefit to doing it like this is that you’ve got a support network in place. Every single one of your co-workers is behind you and we really work to support each other.

“It’s just great to see the changes — not only the physical changes, but even the mental ones,” Martin said. “I would say the general feeling within the company is a lot better. We’ve actually noted a market decrease in the number of sick days that people are taking off. And that’s what the company gets back out of it. It’s a wellness plan that helps all of our employees be the best that they can be.”

Cesar Cano, marketing and freight coordinator at HDD Broker, has been training alongside Martin and said he is currently training five days a week.

“We’ve been doing a lot of upper body training,” Cano said. “From everyone we’ve talked to and from the trainers who have done [Tough Mudder], they said it’s just a lot of upper body strength. I actually just did a 12-hour nocturnal race from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and it was brutal. But the way I look at it, Tough Mudder is only three hours, so that’s a whole different thing.”

So while the last several months have consisted of an intense workout regimen, it is clear the HDD Broker team is determined to take Tough Mudder head on. Perhaps more satisfying, however, has been the opportunity to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. According to Tough Mudder’s website, the event has raised more than $3 million for the Wounded Warrior Project in the past two years. HDD Broker alone has raised $3,100 to date, with another $2,000 or so expected to come from a charity event being held in Victoria in the coming weeks.

“There are some absolutely spectacular stories about this event though,” added Martin. “Because it’s for Wounded Warrior, you get a lot of veterans who participate and really, there’s no excuse for not doing it. People say, ‘Oh that’s crazy, it’s too hard.’ Well some of the people who are running it are double amputees. If someone with no legs can run this course, you have absolutely no excuse for not trying it. There was one with a 60-year-old man in a wheelchair who was brought through with a team. Just absolutely amazing stories.”

Andrew Farr is assistant editor for Trenchless Technology.

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