Why Is It That We Love Pain? A Long Hard Look At Tough Mudder

"It takes you to that primal sense of mind. Your adrenaline is pumping releasing all the good hormones"


So, why do we love pain?

Get your mind out of the gutter and put down that whip! We're not talking S&M here; this is about a different sadist pleasure pursuit – obstacle courses that you pay to attend so that you can soil yourself. And in particular, the king of them all: Tough Mudder.

Why do people do it?

Well, boredom seems a good place to start.

Most people spend the guts of their week sitting in an office, looking at a computer screen wishing the days away till the weekend. It may sound bleak but for most people that’s a reality.

So to refresh you spend 40+ hours a week staring at a screen and typing endless emails that will equate to the word count of War & Peace. For the most part you spend your day alone with colleagues that you might like, tolerate or want to poison. Basically it’s all very solitary and beige.

Let me list a few terms that may arouse you; Arctic enema, electroshock therapy, funky monkey and everest. Turned on yet? Well over one million people get their kicks when they see those word combinations. And looking at clips like this, you can somehow see why this represents the opposite to that beige existence...


Nowadays the prospect of owning a house is so far out of reach for the majority, that’s why people would rather spend their money on experiences. For example would you rather your mate tell you about their mad tales in Thailand or boast about their new car?


One of the founders, Will Dean, said the rationale behind starting Tough Mudder was because he found marathons and triathlons so boring and competitive. Life can be cut-throat enough as it is, particularly for those of us in competitive office environments – so the last thing you want to do is use your spare time stressing about your split times, or grappling for first place against a bunch of strangers you don't know.

In an interview with the Telegraph Dean says: "I was running a triathlon in the States about six years ago. The zip on my wetsuit jammed so I turned to the guy next to me and asked him if he could pull on it. He glared back at me, despite the fact it was a two-second ask. As I was cycling around, I thought it was interesting how everything is now so hyper-competitive and we constantly benchmark ourselves against each other."

"We started looking around in the States and there weren’t any events out there that were tough, about teamwork, and challenging enough that someone with a day job could train and get into reasonable shape to complete it, but not so hard that you have to give up drinking for nine months."

Will Dean

When you're grappling with the greased monkey bars, you'll need help to get across – you just can’t do the course alone, it’s all teamwork. The course is not about best time, it’s about completing it.

As Dublin based personal trainer Darren Connaughton puts it: "You put yourself through the pain because it brings out your determination and makes you graft so that you can help your teammates and people around you to get through it."


Remember the days when snooker players in Goffs would smoke a fag and drink their whiskey between shots? When kids climbed trees and fell out of trees, cried a little then climbed the tree again? When kids explored instead of having a strict after school sporting timetable?


Things have become a lot more sanitised since then, and that's why this event – and others like it – target that feeling of danger that we used to embrace, but has vanished for most of us. but for most of us the most dangerous pursuit is if we will green heart that ride on Tinder. The mud, the pain and ice cold water keep you in the moment and remind you of being a kid when adventure was your drug.

That's helped turn it into something much more than just a race – it's become a cult brand. People tattoo their logo on themselves for crying out loud! That’s intense, and it means they've stirred something in people that has been lacking up until now.

For the more hardcore folk there is World’s Toughest Mudder which is ‘designed to push Mudders to their physical and mental limits. This extreme competition puts the world's most hardcore Mudders through a gruelling 24-hour obstacle challenge with double the obstacles per mile of any other Tough Mudder event.’

Connaugton is a huge brand advocate: "I love it so much because of the sense of camaraderie. It’s a thrilling event that! You’re conquering obstacles that you didn’t think you could, it takes you to that primal sense of mind. Your adrenaline is pumping releasing all the good hormones. I’ve an aim of doing the World’s Toughest Mudder!"

Fancy giving it a go? Book your tickets here.

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