60 Years Tougher, est 1954
By Dr Max Gowland (Founder of Prime Fifty)
Early September was slowly catching up on me as I approached my 60th birthday. What would I do to celebrate this year as my birthday this time was going to be an extra special landmark?
My good wife of 37 years, Kath planned a super evening do with all our friends in a nearby hotel, which was great fun…but this wasn’t the end!!
I have three huge six foot four-plus sons (25, 29 and 32 years old) who have always looked after their health and have been regular exercise freaks but who would guess what they had in stall for me. No, not a nice extra special birthday cake…or a trip to Paris…or even something close…
“Dad…we’ve bought entry tickets to this year’s ‘Tough Mudder’! We will be team Gowland and as a team we will be able to complete the course together with no problems…don’t worry.”
Most youngsters will have heard of Tough Mudder...basically a course designed by Marines and supposedly to be one of the toughest endurance events on the planet. It’s a world-wide phenomenon and its now big in the UK with the fitness junkies. Definitely for the younger guys…
Basically this event is a half marathon through very deep mud and with an additional 25 challenging obstacles. Some of these so called obstacles are quite horrific, whereas others are just plain difficult and stress the body to its limits.
These include a range of very weird activities such as crawling under barbed wire in deep mud, wading through foul smelling liquid mud up to your neck, swimming across cold rivers, running up huge curved (and slippery) wooden and so on.
Cleverly, many of the events are impossible to complete without the help of others, instilling a real sense of genuine brotherly teamwork. Luckily I had my three sons, without whom I would have been a gonner!
Other events that really did alarm me a little, were those like the ice bath, which was basically a huge skip of iced water (with ice floating on top to keep the temperature around 3C) with a middle wall which forced you to swim underneath to emerge at the other side…5 seconds in that water and you could hardly move, as your muscles just seemed to become useless!
Another event I remember was the dreaded cage crawl where you had to lie back in muddy water with a wire cage directly one inch above your face making it very claustrophobic and difficult to breath and also slowly pull yourself along the water for a 30M or so.
Of the many obstacles, the one everyone remembers is the final and much dreaded ‘Electroshock Therapy’. This challenge was running through a muddy, slippery and uneven area, jam packed with hundreds of hanging wires, all charged to 20,000 volts. I remember this one very well when one of the wires touched my back and jolted me to the ground like someone giving me a big thump on the back…This was more serious than I thought!
There were more obstacles….and more….and more, all designed to tire you out, on top of the running in mud too, up and down the side of hills….anything to cause more agony.
Eventually, we all managed to cross the finish line after having been just jolted by the electric shock therapy...received our orange Tough Mudder headband (worn proudly) and also got our free pint of beer too, all part of the Tough Mudder ‘ceremony'.
I have to say that this was one of the best days in my life spending some real quality time with my sons, doing what we all love best and having a great fun as a family too.
For me staying fit throughout my whole life has always been a way of life. It’s just what I do and it’s just part of my normal day to day life. But the Tough Mudder was an exceptional day for me, as this really did show me what even a 60 year-old can do when he rises to the occasion.
Yes, I was probably the oldest in the event that day, but that was part of the satisfaction….to be able to show to myself and others that just being 60, was not a block to entering or finishing such a gruelling course.
Yes, of course it’s designed to be a fun event but it’s also pretty fearsome in places and to complete this event was a real personal achievement for me.
So as I keep saying, 60 is just a number. It has little relevance to anything else and age should never be seen as a barrier to avoiding what you want to do in life.