On Saturday 13th May, 6 bleary-eyed Evolve-IT Consulting Ltd colleagues woke up to the realisation that the event they’d been training hard for for the last three months was finally here: Tough Mudder. As the name suggests, this wasn’t just any old fun run, no such luck, this was over 5 miles of gruelling terrain including huge hills, dense forest, 15 obstacles and lots and LOTS of mud.
Back in March the very thought of attempting Tough Mudder was terrifying. But we had good reason to sign up – our friend and colleague, Paul, had recently passed away from a short battle with cancer. At just 36 years old his passing affected the whole team and we knew we needed to carry out some kind of tribute to him. Raising money for a cancer charity was the obvious way forward, but we needed a challenge too – something that would pull the team together and make us stronger, something that would test our strength of character as well as our physical strength. So, the Tough Mudder Team was born!
After canvassing the office, Leanne, Hannah, Patrik, Duncan, Adam, Becky and Simon made up Team Evolve, and our journey began. A journey that saw us start to actually enjoy exercise (who knew!?), a journey that saw us cover miles and miles with training runs, bike rides, and swims, and one that witnessed us all getting fitter and stronger in our weekly boxing class at the office. Our team was focussed on the challenge and as time went by, the terror we felt back in March was replaced with excitement at the prospect of completing the course together, and of raising £1,000 for Hope Against Cancer in memory of Paul.
Our day of reckoning finally arrived; One team member down with an illness and another one just about standing with flu and a strapped up shoulder and knee, we arrived within Belvoir castle’s 16,000 acre estate talking about how the day was just about getting round the course. We decided our time would be irrelevant, our achievement was in being there and doing it as hard as we could as a team. Then we saw the obstacles…
Team Evolve: (L-R) Leanne Bonner-Cooke – CEO, Duncan Burns – Business Analyst, Hannah Tomlinson – Marketing & Communications, Simon Draper – Sales, Becky Willett – fellow mud runner and wife of Adam Willett – Infrastructure and Support
The Tough Mudder Map
Slightly perturbed but energised by the warm-up MC, we took our places and began the journey we were so focused on completing for Paul, each other, and every one of our supporters who’d donated. The course start took us up a slight hill and through the forest with very little mud. ‘This is alright!’ we thought, ‘No worries, we can do this!’ We ran for a mile, tip toeing around puddles and avoiding well-trodden muddy tracks, forgetting we would be neck deep in about 15 minutes time.
Obstacle 1: Skidmarked
A ten foot slanted wooden wall greeted us in the forest clearing. Without a foothold to be seen, we knew we would have to be each-others ladder to the top! So we took turns in boosting our team members to the top of the wall and helping them back down the other side. It was tough, but it was just the beginning and there still wasn’t much mud in sight.
Obstacle 2: Pitfall
What looked like a muddy swimming pool was next; just over a mile from the start, Pitfall, like most of the Mudder obstacles, did exactly what it said on the tin… We edged into the shallow muddy water, gingerly stepping forwards trying to feel our way, we held hands waiting for our first team mate to disappear down a hole. Even though we all knew it was going to happen, the temperature of the ice cold water as it rushed up to your waist was pretty breath-taking to say the least! Several pitfalls later, we made it to the other side and back onto (semi) dry land, all in tact if not a little cold and wet.
Obstacle 3: Bale Bonds
The haystack came into view soon after the pitfall, and it looked pretty easy! Plastic human sized tubes had been placed through the hay bales, so all we had to do was choose a tube and pull ourselves through the dark and damp crevice. No problem. Onwards!
Obstacle 4: Swamp Stomp
The team were looking good so far, still energetic and pleased with progress, then THIS. Basically, a disgusting bog we had to wade through and haul ourselves in and out of. It was gloriously muddy and it smelt REALLY bad! But it was very entertaining watching people trying not to go under the slippery, thick brown stuff which got absolutely everywhere. We waded through the gunge and welcomed a new member to the Evolve team; Kirsty had been abandoned by her team members and had quickly come to realise that team work was the key behind getting through the obstacles. So, we put her under our wing and pushed on.
Obstacle 5: Kiss of Mud
The 2 mile marker was celebrated by this cruel-looking task. Barbed wire stretched across a boggy mud pit with an 18” gap for us to squeeze through. One thing was for sure, this was going to be the point where we got REALLY muddy. Chest to the mud soaked ground we commando crawled under the wire, getting hair caught, cutting heads – this was serious SAS style stuff! And with a final helping hand from our team mates, we slid to victory!
Obstacle 6: The Block Ness Monster
Incidentally the best titled obstacle, we’d really been looking forward to this one. Two giant rotating rectangle blocks were positioned in 4 foot deep water. The idea was to cling onto the edge of the blocks as other mud runners continued the rotation, bringing you over the top and back into the water. Upper body strength was key for this one, and the ability to cling on for dear life! One by one we made it over the two blocks, making sure that as soon as we landed on the other side, we turned around and helped the next load of Mudders over. Brilliant fun!
Obstacle 7: Everest
We have a confession – we didn’t ALL make it past this one. Looking back it’s easy to see why: The slick quarter pipe was over 15’ tall, with a recurved top to make it extra hard to get that handhold. Ropes hung down in several places and other mud runners were positioned at the top, beckoning more runners to go for it. You needed to run hard and fast, but as soon as our feet hit the obstacle we were slipping and sliding all over the shop! Duncan was first to make it to the top – nimble as a whippet he grabbed that rope like a hero and hauled himself up, helped only at the last minute by random mud runners. Then Adam powered himself to victory, and Simon too, then all three guys stayed up there motivating their team mates and fellow mud runners. Alas, the ladies could not quite get a handle on Everest and after countless attempts, admitted defeat and carried on to obstacle 8 and mile 3.
Obstacle 8: Creek Crusade
Another boggy mess lay before us at the Creek Crusade and by this time, we had all sustained some minor skin injuries, which when immersed in a gooey pit, didn’t half smart a bit! We waded, we pushed and pulled and we laughed our way through the creek and out the other side. Trainers emptied of brown stuff, all team members looking bedraggled, we realised just how heavy we all felt! The weight of the water and the mud in our clothes and on our bodies really made a difference when it was time to run again. We’d come this far and we were not giving up that easily!
Obstacle 9: Hold Your Wood
This is a GREAT obstacle for those under 5 foot 7. Teams are instructed to pick up a pretty heavy tree trunk, place it on their shoulders and carry it as a team around a large lake. At 5 foot 5, I desperately wanted to take some of the weight but we had some tall fellas in Team Evolve and unfortunately for them, they took the strain! One full lap with our wood and we disposed of the dead weight and got a move on.
Obstacle 10: Devil’s Beard
In terms of ease, this one wins – A cargo net stretched over some hay bales was the ticket here, and lots of mud runners keen to help as they held the net aloft for others to scurry under. ‘Piece of cake!’ we all said, and then saw the MASSIVE hill we were about to run up!
Obstacles 11: Hero Carry
After a gruelling up-hill run the last thing you want to do is give a colleague a piggy-back. But with Hero Carry, that was next! We paired up and off we went along a slippery track, trying not to face-plant into the mud as we went. It’s difficult to remain pleasant to the colleague on your back when their weight is causing your knees to buckle, but we swapped over half way: payback.
Obstacles 12 and 14: Mud Mile
Tough Mudder really came into its own with obstacle 12. With more mud than we’d ever seen piled high and trenches filled with the familiar thick brown water, the mud mile demanded more teamwork and effort than the rest of the course so far. And not only that, we noticed the route brought us back through it before the end! It was tough going, and without a foothold to get up and over the mud hills, we relied heavily on each other to get through it all. We have to admit however, it was a lot of fun sliding down the mud piles…!
Obstacle 13: Hero Walls
A big old wall at 9’6 and no in-built footholds, we improvised and offered up shoulders, knees and heads to get the team to the top. By this point, the 5 mile sign was in our sights, but the mud mile had just about finished us off and we were really feeling it. We reminded ourselves of why we were there, got our last man over that hero wall and mustered up all the remaining energy we had for the last leg.
Obstacle 15: Pyramid scheme
After powering back through the mud mile once more we approached the final obstacle and realised it wasn’t going to be a quick finish. This obstacle took time and logic to work out the best way through it; a large sloping surface was before us, the objective was of course to get to the top, but unlike the earlier Everest, there was no rope… The only way to conquer the slope was to arrange your team mates so as to form a human ladder to the top, then climb up them! After many uncompromising positions that colleagues really shouldn’t commonly find themselves in, Simon, Becky and Duncan made it to the summit and lent a hand to many other mud runners, as did Hannah, Leanne, and Adam at the bottom of the slope. Although some of us didn’t get up there ourselves, we gave some strangers the boost they needed so we were happy with that!
Then the home straight lay before us; a marker in the ground shouted “100m to go!” we’d made it! We were cut and bruised and absolutely done in, but we’d made it. As we crossed the finish line together, Tough Mudder Officials adorned us with sweatbands and T-shirts, and handed us energy drinks, cider and health bars to re-fuel. The feeling of accomplishment was amazing and as we posed for our official end of the race photograph, we all knew we wouldn’t have made it without each other. Our teamwork brought us through every obstacle and over every piece of ground. The leg ups, the pull ups, the 3 months of training had all paid off for this victorious moment. And not only were we happy to be home and (sort of) dry, the sponsorship money we’d raised had topped our target at around £1,350.
If our Tough Mudder experience taught us anything, it was the importance of teamwork. Doing it with colleagues was a brilliant way to tighten the bonds we already had and encouraged better communication, trust and respect for one another. In fact, we loved it so much that we signed up for 2018 straight away! So here’s to a full year of training and a lasting positive teamwork ethic for Evolve.
We thank all our supporters, sharers, and donators from the bottom of our muddy hearts.
If you didn’t get the chance to support us with a donation before the event, you can still do so at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/evolve-consultantsfundraising Thank you.