One thing that the Tough Mudder is known for is its emphasis on the team. Many of the obstacles are designed so deviously and devilishly, that you can only get past them with a little help from ones friends – I’m definitely looking at you Berlin Walls.

So I find myself in the, for me at least, highly unlikely position of training with a team. And it’s bloody weird.

In school, I was never a fan of team sport. My high school – the redoubtable Hurlstone Agricultural High School in NSW – was a Rugby Union school through and through when I was making my socially awkward way through the years, way back when dinosaurs and Rick Astley unironically walked the earth.

Soccer, basketball, tennis, hockey: if you played these it was all well and good, but it was no substitute for taping your ears down and barrelling headfirst into a particularly vicious tackle. Hell, we even had a stanza in the school song about our sporting prowess when it came to football. First division were particular admired, but even seconds and the aptly named “Thirsty Thirds” were well regarded for the sheer fact that they mucked in and got dirty and bloody and wore the school colours.

I, on the other hand – being somewhat less skilled in both sport or the art of being a social chameleon – spent my time in the library with a variety of polyhedral dice pretending to be an elf. When pressed onto the field, I put in the minimum effort, wept openly when hurt and induced a mostly hypochondriac asthma attack at the earliest opportunity. By Year 9 I was allowed to walk the cross country course instead of doing school sport, much to the relief of myself, students and teachers.

I was, in a nutshell, completely fucking insufferable.

Looking back, I often wish I had a time machine so I could head back and clip myself firmly over the ear. Nowadays, while my fear of being hurt and my dislike of exercise have firmly diminished, I’ve retained my dislike of team sport – there’s just something about a bunch of people relying on you to not cock it up that puts a cramp in my style. I even prefer to do pub trivia by myself – although, in fairness, that’s more to do with a bad memory involving a question about Beatles movies than anything else.

But now, thanks to Tough Mudder, here I am training with a team. And I’m proving bloody shit at it.

I have, for example, already missed group training three times, for the various excuses of “Avengers preview screening”, “it’s pissing down” and “I’m in Shanghai”. (In fairness to myself, all three have been true.) It’s certainly nothing the team can be blamed for – I could genuinely not hope for a nicer and more supportive bunch of people. Despite the fact they’re mostly all offensively young and fit – a pack of lean-muscled Tae Kwon Do practitioners and, God help me, instructors – no one has pantsed me once for my inability to sprint 100m in under 15 seconds, for example. I often roll my eyes at the one chap around my age, Lachlan, in the home some aged camaraderie, but he’s usually too busy sprinting ahead, busting out pull-ups like they’re about to be banned on a Federal level and preparing for the rest of the week where he rock climbs and participates in the aforementioned Tae Kwon Do.

But it’s making me want to train harder, train more regularly and, for the first time, it feels like it’s genuinely nice to be part of a larger group.

So last week I found myself running the four odd kilometres to the park where we train, doing the Mudder circuit, then “running” home afterwards. And let me tell you – it was an evening of discovery.

For one, I discovered that running in a backpack is much more annoying that I realised. I had decided to drag along a change of clothes, some protein bars and a few odds and ends, so a packed up an old backpack I had from a Panasonic Toughbook trip I took a few years ago. It also meant I could take along my Galaxy Note and use the MapMyRun+ app which hasn’t stuffed up again the way it did last time.

I’m curious: how does anyone actually ever get any pace with something like that slamming around on their back? And why didn’t anyone tell me that it would chafe my neck so badly, I looked like my old school mate Jonesy did when he ended up with hickies so bad he told his parents it was rope burn from a cadets exercise? My next step it to try one of the proper running/hydration packs and see if that makes a difference.

Secondly, on the way home, I discovered that it’s possible to jog slower than your normal walking pace. The tank was definitely empty after the first run and circuit and the pace I made returning home would have shamed an octogenarian.

Finally, we noted that Tough Mudder website has changed its training suggestions. For the moment, we’re going to stick with the original circuit suggestions as we’re on a bit of a roll… And we’ve really only just work out how to fit everything into the rather restrictive list of options available when tracking the circuit on Fitocracy. But in the coming weeks, it looks like we’ll be making a shift, which I like – I’ve always found that I all too easily fall into a rut exercise wise and shaking things up can be extremely beneficial for me.

On a different note, and in reply to the couple of commenters on my last post, I think I’ve come across to the joy of music when running. With Jabra headset on and my iPod Shuffle set to random, I managed to finally crack the 30minute mark on my 5km run, coming in at 29.15 which might seem like I’m splitting hairs, but seriously guys – it’s under 30 mins and I’m taking it.

Sadly, that run also proved that it’s time to buy running shoes that didn’t cost $30 from Kmart (that’s not even the sale price). I’m about the only person in my team who doesn’t use the weird Vibram shoe-glove thing – has anyone else had any experience with these?

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