As we grow older, we remind ourselves that “age is only a number” more and more frequently. However, few of us actually put this mantra into action. Joe Perry is one of these few.
A few months ago, we did an inspiring Q&A with Joe Perry, a Hall of Fame Mudder--literally. Last year, Joe was inducted into his town’s Sports Hall of Fame for his Tough Mudder accomplishments. Inspired by his Q&A words of wisdom, we asked Joe to share the tale of his Mudder journey.
Here is what he had to say:
February 29, 2012. That's the day my life changed. The importance of that date ranks right up there with my marriage, the birth of my children and even my very own birth. It's the day I discovered Tough Mudder.
It started with a simple email. It was a request from a guy asking if my business would be interested in sponsoring a team that was running Tough Mudder Toronto that fall. Of course my first question was: "What the heck is Tough Mudder?" However, after clicking the link, it took me less than 30 seconds to decide that I would indeed sponsor the team under one condition: I become part of it.
On the Tough Mudder site, I watched the video of 45-year-old Mustache Man’s impressive workout, helping me realize that my 43-year-old body might not be ready for an old folks' home after all. For the past decade I'd been retired from competitive soccer, and I was just staying in half-decent shape playing in recreational leagues. My main motivation for exercising was to not be embarrassed on the field by kids one-third my age. This Tough Mudder concept gave me a blast of adrenaline. Maybe I could do some of the cool stuff Mustache Man could do, I thought. The opportunity was too good to pass up.
A group of about 30 of us from the area started preparing for Tough Mudder Toronto. Among the gang was a guy who owned some farmland with a creek, trees and perfect training terrain. We proceeded to build some simulated obstacles, including a 12-foot Berlin Wall. Every weekend we'd be out there running through neck-deep water, flipping tires, jumping over hay bales and baffling deer who couldn't quite grasp why we were having so much fun.
For a few of us, August couldn't come soon enough, so we signed up for June’s Tough Mudder Indiana. I don't think I smiled so much in my life that day. I had such a blast running through that soupy mud. How could I have gone so many years without knowing such happiness? As soon as I got back home I immediately signed up for another event.
When our group finally got to Toronto, four of us broke away from the rest of the crowd and pushed ourselves as hard as we could go. The hills were nasty, but we finished up in pretty good time. In fact, our time was good enough to qualify us for the 24-hour World's Toughest Mudder (WTM). Yes, running a 24-hour race in late November in New Jersey was extremely intimidating, but it also sounded like too much fun to miss.
This Tough Mudder concept gave me a blast of adrenaline.
My three friends and I entered our Defiance of Tyranny team in WTM 2012 and dedicated every waking hour to training, collecting gear and planning for the test of our lives. I could write a novella on our experience but for the sake of brevity, let's just say it was cold, painful and exhausting. Our team completed 40 miles in 24 hours and finished 9th in the team standings. The experience was so rewarding that as soon as the race was over, I immediately dedicated the next 12 months of my life to getting back to this very place to do it all over again.
In 2013, I attended nine more Tough Mudder venues. Prior to Tough Mudder, I had never run a race in my entire life. However, for additional training I entered races of various lengths: 5Ks, 10Ks, 10-milers, half marathons, 30Ks, and a full marathon. In my one and only marathon I managed to qualify for Boston, but that meant little to me. It was all about preparing for WTM. I worked out constantly. To best prepare, I built my own obstacle course at home including a Berlin Wall, Just the Tip, Balls to the Wall, Tire Drag, Funky Monkey bars, Hangin' Tough rings and a Twinkle Toes balance beam. In my exercise room, my orange headbands inspired me to keep training harder and harder.
Finally, this past November, I made the trip back to Englishtown, New Jersey for WTM 2013. None of my 2012 teammates made it back, so this time I was competing solo. Fortunately, during the course of my Tough Mudder journey, I met a large group of fantastic fellow Mudders, so I had plenty of allies. I was determined to improve on the previous year’s result and refused to pit any longer than absolutely necessary. I would not stop.
My bone-headed stubbornness paid off. Again I lasted the full 24 hours, but this time I nearly doubled last year's performance, covering 75 miles and finishing 36th of 857. More importantly, of the 35 ahead of me, only one was my senior. Clearly, I have room for improvement, but this means I will be back for WTM 2014 and every other WTM until this old carcass stops moving.
Shortly after I got home from WTM, I received word that I was to be inducted in my town's Sports Hall of Fame for my Tough Mudder achievements. Yes, it's quite an honour to have that plaque, but it's nothing compared to the endless joy Tough Mudder gives me. I love the challenge. I love the environment. I love the people. I love the camaraderie. When I show up at a Tough Mudder, I get high fives and hugs from some of the greatest people on this planet. We aren't trying to defeat each other. We are all Tough Mudders. We help each other. Earning an orange headband makes us special. It makes us better people.
In 2014, I plan to attend as many events as I can. I live for these weekends. I have no plans to slow down. At 45, I'm stronger and faster than I've ever been. I have the best friends I've ever met because of Tough Mudder. In short, life is good, and I shudder to think of what type of person I'd be today if I never opened that email on February 29, 2012.
If, like Joe, you’d like to tell the tale of your Mudder journey and consider being featured on our blog, hit us up at [email protected]