Thousands of people around the world have come through the Tough Mudder Volunteer Program, and we’re thankful for every single one of them. But there’s one Mudder who has gone beyond the call of duty for the past two years, spending countless hours of her free time to ensure that no Mudder gets left behind, in every sense of the term.
She’s found people much needed rides and much needed friends and has dished out more hugs and hand pounds than she could ever count. She’s Maria B., aka Mudder Hen, the Tough Mudder legend who alongside all her ambassador accolades, has run three Tough Mudders...while undergoing chemotherapy.
Yeah, we had some questions for her too.
Tell us about how you first found out about Tough Mudder?
My brother ran TM Melbourne, Australia in 2012 and was so excited after finishing. He told me about all of these crazy obstacles and running through miles of mud. The event sounded intriguing to me, so I Googled Tough Mudder. Two weeks later, I was a Tough Mudder finisher.
What inspired your transition from participant to volunteer?
I injured my ankle before Tough Mudder Toronto 2012 and was at less than 50-percent. I really wanted to run, but startline emcee Sean Corvelle was concerned for my safety and suggested that I spend the event with him at the start line. This seemingly unfortunate event turned out to be my Tough Mudder blessing in disguise. Seeing Mudders from this perspective opened my eyes to how fun volunteering can be. There is such an array of people at the startline, from nervous first timers to confident legionnaires, and they’re all there for their own reason. Volunteering is so rewarding.
Who coined the term 'Mudder Hen' and how do you uphold this title?
When Tough Mudder had an online chat service on Mudder Nation, I was very parent-like to anyone searching for a team, looking to share their story or in need of gear, fitness or injury assistance. If someone doubted that they’d be able to finish or was undecided about signing up, I would tell them that if I did it, so could they. Many Mudders came back to thank me for my support after finishing, and that’s how I got the nickname. I am privileged that people have faith in me to open up and share their stories with me.
You ran three Tough Mudders undergoing chemotherapy. What inspired you to do that?
I call the chapter of my life when I was battling cancer “The Challenge.” At that time, I reviewed a bunch of Tough Mudder's promotion videos, and I was drawn in by startline emcee Sean Corvelle's voice. He made me feel like I could overcome all fears. Listening to him empowered me to brave the unknown and enlist in my first Tough Mudder. I felt resilient and confident, and that adrenaline from my first event carried me through two additional Tough Mudders and also through chemo.
Tough Mudder became my little kernel of "happy” in an otherwise tsunami wave of stress.
How does Tough Mudder parallel with your battle with cancer?
Tough Mudder helped me realize that while I appeared to be alone in my fight, I really wasn’t. I read success stories of friends and other Mudders, and through them, shared in their victories. Tough Mudder became my little kernel of "happy” in an otherwise tsunami wave of stress. By surrounding myself with all of the positive people in both the Tough Mudder and Hoorah2Heroes communities, I got a significant morale boost that helped me tackle and beat cancer.
What are some of the most inspiring things you’ve seen on course?
Anyone getting out of their comfort zone is inspiring. It’s also inspiring to just be around the energy, passion and camaraderie unique to Tough Mudder events. Then there’s the Wounded Warriors, elite runners helping those who require assistance and people with sentimental personal messages on their uniforms. On a personal level, it’s inspiring when someone comes up to me after the event and says, “I did it because of you.” That might be the most inspiring thing of all.
For those who have never been to a Tough Mudder, can you explain what the energy is like on course?
It’s like butterflies and jet fuel combined in one big fireball. The headband going on your head at the finish line is great and the adrenaline that comes with conquering a Tough Mudder lasts for days. There is a natural camaraderie on course and even if you registered alone, everyone you see is your teammate. I have completed many road races but one thing that stands out at Tough Mudder is the people-- like-minded individuals willing to help out anyone.
What is something you get from the event as a volunteer that you don’t from being a participant?
The chance to pay it forward. Putting a headband on a first timer is such a memorable experience. Additionally, there’s helping someone overcome a fear or giving that timely high five or hug that means so much. Emotions run so high at Tough Mudder, and it’s truly awesome to see so many happy and muddy people. But being an ambassador extends beyond the event. When someone writes me and says “someone told me to reach out to you,” I’m so glad to make a difference by listening and being able to assist them.
What can volunteers expect to experience on course?
They’ll get an up-close view of how people can overcome obstacles as a team. They’ll see strangers banding together to help each other. They’ll see high fives everywhere. Volunteering will make people want to be right in the action as participants. The bonus to volunteering is that Tough Mudder gives volunteers an opportunity to run the course at a drastically lower fee and looks after you by providing lunch and parking/bag check. There are so many benefits to both volunteering and participating in the event.
Sean Corvelle has called you “the heart and soul of Hoorah2Heroes.” What is Hoorah2Heroes?
Hoorah2Heroes is about recognizing the everyday heroes all around us-- the soldier who protects our freedom, the person who works at a homeless shelter in his or her free time, the cancer patient who refuses to give up. At Tough Mudder, there are these type of heroes everywhere and our goal is to honor them with the hope of empowering and inspiring others to find the hero within themselves.
For more information on Hoorah2Heroes, volunteering or starting your Mudder journey, contact Mudder Hen directly via Facebook.