Meet the Man Behind the Mask: A Q&A with Mudder Legionnaire Joe Perry

Published on January 23, 2014 by Matt Alesevich

Name: Joe Perry

Age: 45

Occupation: Internet Service Provider

Hometown: Wallaceburg, Ontario

Headbands Earned: 14 (12 Tough Mudders, 2 World's Toughest Mudders)

While Joe Perry might not be a household name, it's hard to deny that he's a household face around here. His unmistakable mug has been a welcomed regular on our courses as well as our social media pages throughout 2013. It was with utter curiosity that we caught up with Joe over the holiday break to find out if the Mudder behind the mask was as quirky as his appearance.

As it turns out, Joe recently built a Tough Mudder course in his backyard, and he will soon be inducted into his hometown's Sports Hall of Fame for his performance at World's Toughest Mudder (WTM). Needless to say, we had a few questions for Joe...

First off, what's up with the head and face paint?

Yeah, I get asked that a lot. Some people think I'm a big Darth Maul fan. Others believe I'm a crazed Cincinnati Bengals supporter. The truth is pretty boring—I'm bald and need sunscreen, so why not get creative with the official Tough Mudder colors? My wife, son and daughter have all taken turns painting my head, and apparently this makes me much more photogenic. I've lost count of how many times my skull has appeared in official TM photos. In 2014 I plan to get creative with some more designs.

When asked to describe Tough Mudder in one word, your answer was “life-altering.” Could you elaborate?

When I was in my 20s I remember hearing guys say that when we turned 30, our peak athletic days were over. I actually let myself believe that. That's part of the reason I retired from soccer at age 31. I figured I'd just gradually fade away and turn into a pumpkin. So when Tough Mudder entered my life, I suddenly had a new sport. Qualifying for WTM 2012 proved that maybe I wasn't washed up after all. My team finished in 9th place at WTM, and this only increased my confidence. This entire year, my energy and confidence carried over from Tough Mudder into my regular life. Why let age define what I can and can't do?

You've completed 12 Tough Mudders and two World's Toughest Mudders. How do you compare the two events?

It's hard to imagine anything can top a Tough Mudder experience. Being on the course with all those people and feeling their energy and enthusiasm is something everyone should experience. So with that in mind, it's truly impossible to put WTM into words—it's everything a Tough Mudder is times seventy-three thousand. Pushing my body through 24 hours of WTM was the most agonizing yet rewarding experience of my life. If completing a Tough Mudder is like finding a diamond ring in a pool of mud, completing WTM is like stumbling upon Fort Knox in a mudslide.

What is the most inspiring thing you've ever witnessed on a Tough Mudder course?

Oh boy. Where do I begin with that? I've seen Mudders out there doing the course with missing limbs. That makes you dig deeper and realize how tough they are, and it makes you wonder why you ever complain about anything in your own life.

However, I think the most heart-wrenching moment I witnessed was during one of Sean’s start line pep talks. I was next to a woman who was running this particular Tough Mudder in memory of her husband who was killed in combat. There were tears streaming down her face as she listened to Sean talk about fighting through the pain. But you know what? She also had a smile on her face. Her husband was gone, but he was right there with her. She was going out there on that course with him every step of the way. That touched my heart, and I'll never forget that moment.

What advice do you have for people on the fence about doing a Tough Mudder?

You have truly not lived until you have completed a Tough Mudder. Earning that orange headband is something that makes you a better person. From that moment on you will always be known as a Tough Mudder, and it doesn't matter what your age or fitness background is. A Tough Mudder is meant to test you. It's not a race—it's a challenge to see what's inside of you, and there's always a helping hand and words of encouragement waiting for you out there. Don't let a bit of mud and pain stop you from proving to the world that you have the guts to do something hard.