“Will race for fancy swag” was my mantra for a long time. I love medals, race shirts, headbands, and all the blingy swag that I get when racing. But the swag you receive is just for you and the event result only shows your name. The honest truth is that you likely didn’t get there alone…there is a team somewhere. That team could have many layers, starting at home and extending to an adopted family on race day. After over two decades of endurance racing, I’ve learned that my home team, my wife and kids, is the key to success. I win when we win. True success comes when we win together.
I am a Tough Mudder because I believe that life is better when it’s less about “you” or “me” and more about “us”. The words are even in the Mudder Pledge. “I will put teamwork and camaraderie before my course time…I help my fellow Mudders complete the course.” In a world that is deeply divided, you can create togetherness in your team by changing your paradigm of success from “me” to “us”. Take the words “teamwork” and “camaraderie” and apply them at home. Create togetherness in your most important team…your family. Let’s use Mudder training as an example.
One of the biggest challenges when training for endurance events is making room in your life. For most of us, competing is a hobby so the priority falls somewhere behind paying the mortgage, providing food, serving the community, family time, going to work, mowing grass, kids’ homework, laundry, etc. One effective way to integrate training/competing into your life is to blend it into everything else you do. What if you intentionally create more overlap between family time, exercise, parenting, working, and vacation? Here are some examples of things that work for my family:
Play Time is Cross-Training
You may find that 30 minutes at a playground serves at great HIIT training and keeps the entire family moving. With some creative thinking, playgrounds become incredible resources. If you need to, learn another sport like tennis, basketball, or soccer to involve the family. Open play time allows you to focus on each family member and bring fun into the picture. The happier your team is, the less they’ll fuss on the big training days.
Invite the Family to Join In
You may be surprised when a family member chooses to train with you, travel with you, or crew for you just because you asked. Be ready to make compromises to facilitate that togetherness. Maybe your spouse doesn’t want to run 10 miles with you but can run 2 miles…create loops to enable that and enjoy your 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted time together. Maybe that means you walk the warmup or cooldown of a bigger activity. Let the kids scooter or bike along. Have your family members prep your nutrition for long days. Cook together. Fold laundry together. Invite your kids to help you plan and pack for events. Use the opportunities to teach those life skills. Remember, team > you.
Travel to Races Together
It may mean you attend fewer events in favor of staying in a nicer/bigger location and staying longer to add leisure activities that everyone else wants to do. (I did Europe’s Toughest this way…England vacay with hookups from my TM fam!) There are two categories of events, non-competitive and competitive. The non-competitive events include 5k and “Classic” which is about 8 miles. The competitive series includes “Tougher”, “Toughest”, and “World’s Toughest Mudder”, which are 8-mile, 12-hour, and 24-hour respectively. My son discovered that he likes to crew because of how we do it. Being very organized makes this easier. You will never regret making great memories.
Everyone Likes Swag; Get it for the Team When You Can
I share my shirts and typically get extras. Last year’s shirts are often on sale. I also reward my home team for major efforts with swag. My wife has her own TM DryRobe because she is always my crew chief. Maybe it’s just stickers or patches you bring home. Everyone likes gifts…share the love.
Stay Connected to Your Mudder Family
Few understand the lifestyle and challenge that is Tough Mudder. Even more so for the crazies who love World’s Toughest Mudder (like me!). Make time to meet new Mudder friends. Stay connected via social media. Spend the extra time during events to connect to racers and volunteers on the course. Then introduce them to your team! This is the adopted family that takes the field with you and adds texture to Mudder life. Mudder Nation is an incredible team that will enrich your life.
Mudder Nation is a family that includes you and your family. As you find creative ways to blend training into your life by focusing on togetherness, you may discover that your team at home is happier and more connected, not just to you, but to each other. And maybe more healthy and happy because of it. If you’re lucky, they may toe the line with you or crew at an event – mine did! When you see “Old School” at the next TM event, know that my crew and I are supporting you!
Michael Ekbundit is a Tough Mudder Ambassador and 3-time World’s Toughest Mudder competitor. He has competed in ultra-distance races for over twenty years, with many ultramarathon and Ironman finishes. When he isn’t racing, training, or working, he leads engineering design projects in local schools, plays guitar, builds things, and enjoys creating graphic art.