The tagline for a Tough Mudder competition is “Probably the toughest event on the planet” and according to Sleepy Eye native brothers, Nathan and Loren Marti, they would venture to agree.
Tough Mudder events are 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. Tough Mudder is not a race, but more of a personal challenge — the goal is simply to complete the course.
The interest to enter the Tough Mudder competition began for Loren in the spring of 2011 when he saw a Facebook post by a friends that included a link to Tough Mudder with the comment, “this looks interesting.”
Loren forwarded the link to another friend and asked if he was interested. He signed up one week later.
Three months before Loren’s first Tough Mudder competition in Austin, Texas, during Oct. 2011, Loren began training by running three miles.
“It took me almost 34 minutes and almost killed me!” Loren exclaimed.
Overtime, Loren made progress and lost 20 pounds in the process.
“I did the first Tough Mudder to prove to myself that I could,” Loren said. “After my first event, I was hooked. I hadn’t felt so alive in years.”
About that time, Loren said, there was hype for the very first World’s Toughest Mudder competition. This was a 24 hour event with 32 obstacles. Loren signed up for four more regular events with the plan to try to qualify for World’s Toughest Mudder, which meant he needed to finish in the top five percent of competitors. In Jan. 2012, Loren came in the top five and qualified for the World’s Toughest Mudder.
While Loren has completed four Tough Mudders, he convinced his brother, Nathan, to run the Minnesota event with him in hopes of Nathan qualifying and being able to compete in the World’s Toughest Mudder with him.
Unfortunately, Loren ripped his left pectoral major muscle from the bone attempting a second lap at the Dallas Tough Mudder on March 31 so he was unable to run the Minnesota event. Nathan ran it alone and also qualified.
Loren said it didn’t take much convincing to talk Nathan into competing with him at the World’s Toughest Mudder event.
For Nathan, the journey was a little different. He began running in January for the first time since college to train for the Minnesota Tough Mudder competition to be held in May. Nathan said he used a half-marathon program he had found online.
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At the end of February, Nathan realized he had always wanted to run a marathon when he was in shape in college, but never did so. He switched gears and signed up for both a half-marathon in April and Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth in June. He said training was going along pretty uneventful until Grandma’s Marathon.
“I finished in the time I wanted but was fairly injured. I couldn’t train without pain,” Nathan recalled. He said it took a week before he could go down steps and had several months of physical therapy to work on his running gait and strength before he did a trail marathon in September.
In spite of the setbacks, Nathan, who ended up running the Minnesota Tough Mudder by himself, also finished in the top five percent of competitors making him eligible to compete with his brother in the World’s Toughest Mudder competition.
Neither brother trained together, per say, until the time of the event. Nathan lives in Courtland and Loren lives in Springdale, Ark.
Even though they would not get the chance to be together until the competition, their strategy was to outlast people during the overnight stretch of the race.
“Specifically for this event we tried to think of every possible weather obstacle challenge we might face and then plan accordingly,” Nathan said.
That meant running in frigid temperatures when the weather allowed (which, Loren said, was easier for Nathan in Minnesota than for himself in Arkansas.) And at times, running or walking long distances while soaking wet, and doing weighted runs and hikes.
In one instance, both in their respective states, they did a training that involved walking for 36 miles to see how their bodies reacted and if their clothing choices were good.
“(After the long training session) I found myself getting extremely tight and almost didn’t make it home,” Loren said. “I relayed that to my brother and we discussed the idea that we should try to mix in some running and/or stretching to stay loose or we could potentially crash early in the event,” Loren said.
Their training sessions were also important to see how their gear and equipment was going to withstand the 24 hour, 50 mile competition.
“We learned some very important lessons during those long training events and made some changes here and there,” Nathan added.
The brothers reported back their findings or suggestions by e-mail or phone.
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“For mental training I listened to what other competitors I’ve met had to say and I took notes,” Nathan said. “I’ve learned from other experiences in my life that you can do way more than you think you can initially if you just apply yourself.”
“World’s Toughest Mudder isn’t a speed event, it is an ultra-endurance event so the ability to run fast was pretty much meaningless,” Loren added. “We knew that going in...We knew all but the world’s elite were going to crash after two or three laps if they attempted to run the whole time, which is exactly how things played out.”
Loren said the event was a lot more than training. He said that they researched clothing options and what caused people to not finish in the previous year.
“A lot of (people) thought they were going to go out and run for 24 hours and that they didn’t need a full wetsuit,” Loren recalled. “There was even one knucklehead dressed up as Spiderman wearing tights. We saw him in the medical tent half way through the first lap.”
In this event, 32 obstacles were spread out over 10 miles, some obstacles requiring competitors to complete twice per lap.
To the normal, untrained person, the obstacles would seem unsurmountable, however Loren said for him, all the obstacles took strength and determination. If he had to choose, he said, the rings obstacle sticks out in his mind as one of the toughest.
“The obstacle,” Loren explained, “included a series of rings spread out over water. In the normal Tough Mudder competitions, the rings are two feet apart. At the World’s Toughest Mudder competition they were four feet apart.”
“We ended up calling it the “fall into the water and get wet” obstacle. It was one of the penalty obstacles which meant we had to do a penalty for failure,” Loren said.
After nearly 24 hours of competition, Loren said the last two miles seemed the hardest as that is where the long water crossings, electrical obstacles, mud mile and tire obstacles were.
According to Nathan, the obstacles began to ice up by 9 p.m. which made the competition more interesting when competitors are physically tired.
“The good news was the ice grounded out the electric shock obstacles,” Nathan added. The most memorable obstacle for him was when competitors had to swim through a swamp with smelly water and mud up to their armpits.
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“Every competitor will forever remember that smell!” Nathan said.
The brothers finished five laps (50 miles total) in 22 hours and 24 minutes placing 62nd and 63rd.
“My brother and I played ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ to decide who would cross the finish line first between the two of us,” Loren said. “His paper covered my rock so Nathan got 62nd and I got 63rd.”
However, of all the 40 year-old and above competitors, Loren placed fifth in his age group.
Loren and Nathan are the sons of Roger and Marsha Marti of Sleepy Eye.
Loren is a Director of Analytics for Conagra Foods in Bentonville, Ark. Nathan is a large animal Veterinarian and resides in Courtland.