Personal accomplishment is embedded in Tough Mudder’s core values. Our obstacles and courses are designed to give a huge sense of achievement when people conquer them, but we also know that it’s not just about them, there’s so much more to it. This community award recognises that so many Mudder’s set themselves a goal, then go out and crush it, whatever that goal may be.
In the words of those who nominated them, we’d like to recognise the shortlisted nominees for this award ahead of announcing the winner. Keep smashing those goals.
- Dave Didier for beating cancer, coming back to Tough Mudder in 2019 and conquering World’s Toughest Mudder.
- Heather Olsen for going from weekend warrior to a seriously competitive athlete, achieving multiple Tougher and Toughest podiums and smashing her target of 40 miles at Toughest Mudder Twin Cities.
- Matty Gregg for quite literally running across America (5000+ miles) to raise money for charity after overcoming surgery for long standing injuries.
- Michael Bever aka ‘The Sweeper’ for working tirelessly to make 2019 World’s Toughest Mudder his best ever and challenging himself to accomplish more working his hardest and pushing to be his best.
The 2019 Personal Accomplishment community award winner is…… reality TV winner announcement level of dramatic pause ……. Martin Gemmell.
Martin set himself the challenge to get his 10x headband in 2019 after the loss of a close friend and fellow Mudder. He needed eight Tough Mudder 15K (formerly Classic) events under his belt to do it, and smashed his target at Tough Mudder North West.
It’s fair to say that some people don’t enjoy the limelight and often feel that their accomplishments aren’t in the same league as others. This award is not about comparing yourself to anyone else but acknowledging that you did something amazing, by setting yourself a challenge and smashing it in the face of uncertainty. Getting to know Martin a little more, we realise that it took a little time to sink in that he was indeed a worthy winner of the 2019 Personal Accomplishment award, so before we share what he had to say about Tough Mudder, and the award, this is what Mudders had to say about why they nominated him:
“Martin is a man who at the end of the 2018 season had completed 2 Tough Mudder 15K as well as pit crew for me at Europe’s Toughest Mudder & World’s Toughest Mudder. In early 2019 our mud brother was killed and Martin made a promise to reach his goal of getting his 10X+ headband before the end of season. This meant running double weekend’s and pushing through various different barriers (injury and mental) all while trying to deal with the loss of a friend and a true gentleman within the community. Martin absolutely crushed that goal. I can’t think of anyone more deserving. “
“We lost an amazing friend and valued member of Tough Mudder earlier this year. Martin and Gwyndaf had made a pact before he was taken from us. They discussed getting Martin to his 10x by the time he reached 50yrs old. After losing Gwyn, Martin set about not just reaching his goal but also doing it before the end of the 2019 season. Despite the odds and unbeknownst to any of us he plowed through his tally and was set to gain his 10x headband on the memorial wave at North West. He never once told any of us he was at that point… but silently went about the day (as hard as it was) with nothing but his determination to make sure everyone else was ok. He left the course last for 2 reasons: 1. so nobody knew what he was actually planning, and 2. to remain his humble self and slowly slip by unnoticed. After the finish he didn’t acknowledge anybody and simply walked up to Gwyndaf’s wife and handed his 10× headband to her. “This is for Gwyn” were his words to her. The next day he went out again to gain ‘his’ 10× headband.”
WHAT GOT YOU INTERESTED IN TOUGH MUDDER IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I’d moved to Plymouth from Scotland, with my now wife, in the early ’90s and didn’t know a soul there. I was working with this crazy, wild-eyed Cornish dude, and he and his wife looked out for us during the short time we were there. Due to a combination of circumstances we lost touch for the better part of two decades until a chance message on social media saw us reconnected; with James and Elaine Latus, long standing Tough Mudder MVP’s and Legionnaires. They came to stay with us for a holiday in 2016 and were planning on attending Tough Mudder whilst there. I thought to myself, “why not join them?”, and after chatting with Elaine I set myself up to volunteer both days. I had an absolute blast and loved every aspect of the event, especially the community spirit, there’s nothing quite like a Tough Mudder weekend! Even the miserable weather didn’t dampen people’s spirits, and I knew that I’d be back in orange and black again the next year. I didn’t ever see myself participating in any other way than as an MVP, and at that point, my confidence to do otherwise was pretty much zero.
WHAT KEEPS YOU COMING BACK?
I ask myself this very question pretty much every time I see Electroshock Therapy looming on the horizon…There’s a sense of belonging, of shared goals and camaraderie, that you just don’t get anywhere else. Every event I’ve attended I’ve had the privilege of making new friends, new connections, and it’s the sharing of experiences, of struggling determinedly together, over, under and through mud, water, and obstacles that I guess has me coming back for more. That said, It’s more than just the taking part, it’s the giving back too, and helping others is integral to what we do, whether that’s as individuals or as part of a team. I’m proud to be an MVP, and being immersed in the atmosphere of a weekend spent camping, volunteering, and running with friends new and old is something I look forward to. In 2017 I finally plucked the courage and decided to run a Half (no 5k back then), and followed it up with a Full at Yorkshire. I also helped Pit Crew at Europe’s Toughest Mudder, travelling down with two of the most inspirational Mudders that I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet – Kevin Calder and Gwyndaf Bailey. From that day on we were firm friends, socialising, training, volunteering, and running together. 2018 saw the addition of both another Full and a Half, and also a 5k to my tally (just for the repeat offenders swag), and there was a double stint of pit-crewing at Europe’s Toughest Mudder and World’s Toughest Mudder in Atlanta too. I’d never been further than Austria before, so travelling to the States together was just the most amazing experience. The cold took its toll that year and we vowed to return better prepared. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. It’s fair to say I have unfinished business with World’s Toughest Mudder.
WHAT DID WINNING THE PERSONAL ACCOMPLISHMENT AWARD MEAN TO YOU?
I was watching a couple of live feeds from the Brunch, swapping between them as the signal fluctuated, when I heard my name announced out loud. I couldn’t believe I’d been shortlisted, quite literally dumbfounded by the truth. I was still open-mouthed when I heard Giles calmly reading out the heartfelt words that had been written about the winner, and it slowly started dawning that he was talking about me. I have to confess that I was subjected to a storm of swirling emotions. I felt embarrassed; exposed at suddenly being “spotlighted” when I’m happier hiding at the back, and ashamed that, as a ‘Big Unit’, I’m not exactly the epitome of athleticism. I honestly felt I’d done nothing more than anyone else had in 2019, and I had done it neither for me nor alone. I’d done it alongside a team of hundreds, for Gwyn.
In February that year, whilst he was out on his bike training for a triathlon, my friend and Tough Mudder mentor Gwyndaf was tragically struck by a car and killed. We were all devastated, and I was left bereft by the loss of someone who’d come to mean so much to me in such a short space of time. On one of our last training runs together Gwyn had chided me for my lack of self-belief and outright challenged me to reach the target of a x10 headband before I turned 50. The memory of this provided the impetus I needed to stop me spiralling, and it gave me the drive and resolve to do something in honour of everything Gwyn had inspired in me. Initially though, lacking the confidence I truly needed, I settled on running my tenth mudder in my 50th year as opposed to before it. But that didn’t sit right with me, and I could hear Gwyn saying “forwards is forwards” every time self-doubt reared its head. With just one season left to run eight events, having taken 2 years to do two, I suddenly went all-in. I kicked off with Midland’s running my first Tougher wave on the Saturday, pit-crewed for Kev and a few others overnight, then ran the first wave on the Sunday. It was brutal and hard going, but I did it. Encouraged by surviving my home-made “Pits of Hell” challenge, Yorkshire, Scotland, and South West soon yielded more headbands. By North West I had just one to go to get what, I’d decided, was not going to be my tenth headband (that would come on Sunday) but Gwyndaf’s. The Saturday was the double memorial wave, for both Gwyn and Nimali (who had also died that year), and the highly charged atmosphere was electrifying from the get-go. There wasn’t a dry eye in the warm-up pen after Bobbies incredibly moving speech, there were dozens upon dozens of us there, united by shared grief, and a determination to honour the fallen in a way in which we knew they would have approved – by being together as one team. I hadn’t confided my plan, for fear of failing, to all that many people, so it was easy enough to quietly pick up the magnificent orange and black headband and slip away victorious. Leanne, Gwyn’s wife, had run that day too and fighting back the emotions I handed my headband to her to keep in his memory.
Winning the personal achievement award honestly didn’t sit well with me at first. I couldn’t have achieved my goals without the help of so many others, and I guess I initially wasn’t comfortable being singled out. It took the wise counsel of some close friends to remind me that the very same people I’d relied on were the ones who had nominated me in the first place, and it was the community that was giving me the recognition for what I’d pushed myself to do, even if I couldn’t see it myself. I’ve fast come to realise that the award is a symbol of self-realisation, an acknowledgement that even in the darkness of uncertainty we can all be the best version of ourselves when we step out of our comfort zones and keep pushing. I’m humbled to have won, sincerely grateful to everyone who took the time to vote. It’s also a ringing confirmation that Gwyn was right all along: Forwards is indeed forwards.
Although originally a personal phrase used between friends to provide the support and encouragement to keep going, never have the words ‘forwards is forwards’ been so relevant to a wider community in recent times. It’s the small things that can make such a difference and sometimes we all need people to lean on. Martin certainly values that support within the Tough Mudder community, and in turn they value his. Mudder Nation knows how to look after people and make a difference in their lives which is why we launched the #HelpAHundred campaign. If you’ve been inspired by Martin and any of the other well deserved 2019 Community Award winners, why not get involved and help us reach 1 million acts of kindness.
We’ll continue to bring you the other 2019 Community Award winners over the next few weeks. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date.