Tough Mudder Yorkshire was a milestone event as we saw the 3 millionth Mudder cross the finish line and receive their headband. But for Sonya Goodwin, dedicated Tough Mudder Legionnaire, it held even more importance as she received her 50X headband – making her the first woman in Europe to do so.
We sat down with Sonya to find out how she felt after such an impressive achievement and what keeps her coming back to Tough Mudder year after year.
When was your first Tough Mudder and what made you do it?
I completed my first Tough Mudder on Saturday 17th November 2012, North West event I have a friend who likes to set themselves regular challenges they sent an email asking friends to sign up so we could run as a team. I’d never heard of Tough Mudder, I followed the link in the email and immediately signed up. I’d ran several half marathons in the past but had started getting lazy when it came to exercise. I had always been fairly active and ran around after my two young boys but I needed something to focus on. With the promise of a huge team to work together to complete the course, I was looking forward to a new challenge.
My good friend Anna signed up, we spent a long time talking about how we were going to get fit for it, but we never actually got around to doing any training and turned up on the Saturday morning having met our other team member earlier in the day a friend of the friend who introduced us to Tough Mudder. Our huge team was 3 but that didn’t dampen our spirits. It was a cold weekend, but we laughed and chatted our way around the course only losing our sense of humour after fully submerging in the freezing lake for the 3rd time. We worked together and helped others and I discovered that I had a fear of height or falling (I still am unsure) at the top of Walk the Plank, I jumped off and the sense of achievement was overwhelming although stomach churning. Even after almost 5 hours the moment I crossed the finish line I knew I had to do it again. As soon as I was home, I was on the website and saw that there was a season pass for 2013, Birthday and Christmas sorted, it is still one of my favourite presents my husband has bought me.
Why do you keep coming back to do more?
Although I knew I wanted to do another and buying the season pass I thought I’d do 3 more I certainly didn’t expect to still be running them in 2017, 5 years on. I ran my 3 rd event on my own and not once did I feel alone, I was spoilt for choice running up to Hero Wall a 5ft 7ish 10ish stone woman looked easy to throw over after seeing teams lift men that looked like prop forwards over the top, I was like a rag doll. Not only did it become a personal challenge to conquer the obstacles, at each event ran I met new people, I heard inspirational stories and I started to recognise people and them me.
The events felt different to just running a marathon where people tend to drift off once competed. I started commenting on the Facebook page, answering questions from my own experience, what to wear, or not to what some of the obstacles were like the same questions that is till answer to this day but at that point there was a few of us who regularly popped up. Through TMHQ they put us in touch with each other and I found my Mudder family, a bunch of people from all walks of life, from all over the UK that not only enjoyed the challenge of a Tough Mudder but embody the spirit and ethos of Tough Mudder.
What did being the first woman to acheive 50 Tough Mudders mean to you?
Being the first UK/European woman to complete over 50 events has been incredible, it’s difficult to put into words. It’s believed that I’ve set many first for the ladies at Tough Mudder, running double days, multi lapping as well as carrying a 65Kg when dry training dummy around all UK courses in 2014. I never set out to run 50 event I’m over the moon that I have as I don’t consider myself an athlete, I’m a real person, I’m slow and although I’m fairly fit, I don’t go to the gym, I don’t watch what I eat although it is fairly healthy apart from a weakness for cake, I walk lots in my work and that helps.
As a mother and being over 40 I want to be a good role model for my boys who are now 11 and 8, they have seen me continue to strive to better and challenge myself, whilst always putting others first. They have watched me run and have seen me pull men double my size and weight up Everest, over Hero Walls and hero carry. I give everything a go even when they know I find some obstacles difficult either mentally or physically. I think if I can do this, then anyone can and that is why I love Tough Mudder as it is so inclusive of people of all fitness levels, yes it is easier if you are fitter, however the obstacles are real levellers and we all have different fears it how we manage that and how we assist each other to overcome them.
How did you celebrate the achievment?
I completed my 50 th in Ireland but I had commitments in the evening back in the UK so it was a flying visit, celebrations were over really quickly onsite as after lots of hugs tears and a guard of honour to be crowned by the MVP Queen Miranda. Miranda and I had to run through Dublin Airport to catch the flight home. I’m sure the security staff had a good laugh it was like a scene from a comedy film, that or we’ve both been banned from entering the airport again. Once home my Facebook, Instagram and Messenger went crazy, I had lovely messages from all over the world. And sat with a G&T and replied to as many as possible, hopefully inspiring others to give Tough Mudder a go.
What’s your favourite Tough Mudder course? What’s your favourite obstacle?
I love all the venues that Tough Mudder events are held in the UK and Ireland, they truly are spectacular sites, however Tough Mudder North West at Cholmondeley Castle will always be my favourite, partly for it being my first but also there has been no other venue that can compete for the amount of mud or the quality of mud. I also love Yorkshire and have even planned a family holiday around me running a Tough Mudder up there in the past. Henley is my home venue so that is special, ridiculously hilly even compared to Yorkshire but it’s nice to have a 20 min dive home.
Dubai was the hardest course I ran not because of the heat, I didn’t find that a problem as I kept well hydrated, I found running on sand really tough going ad I couldn’t get any purchase on the sand, and my trainers filled with sand causing blisters and eventually the loss of 6 ½ toe nails. My favourite obstacle was always Arctic Enema especially after completing multi laps however I love Block Ness Monster for the teamwork element. I am overcoming my fear of heights and falling and am slowly enjoying Kong now I’ve completed it, Funky Monkey – The Revolution remains my nemesis and I will complete it one day.
What’s next in your Tough Mudder journey?
I signed up last minute for Europe’s Toughest Mudder this year, I was so late I’m not even on the official t-shirt, I didn’t train and was really nervous the week before, however on the night I was totally relaxed and enjoyed every minute, I smiled and laughed the whole way round, completing 4 laps = 20 miles and lots more penalty miles. I will continue to run events in the UK and I expect that WTM will be on the cards at some point, I’ve completed 24 hour events in the UK so I know I have the stamina, but I need to work on height/falling fear and the current venue in Vegas has the cliff jump and I would want to be able to complete each obstacle at least once before considering the penalty alternative.
What do you have to say to those who don’t think woman can or should do Tough Mudder?
There have recently been reports in the press regarding women taking part in Tough Mudders, the injuries they have received and that they have put themselves up against men trying to tackle the same obstacles and distance. I always considered myself an individual, and I don’t compete against anyone at Tough Mudder only ever myself, I do like to challenge people’s expectations and for those that know me well on course know that if you’re 17st I can carry you and will, I can take your weight and hold you by one arm on Everest, I might not be able to pull you over the top by myself but I can hold you there until other people assist and we pull you over the top together.
I know my own strengths and weakness, and I am working on getting stronger all the time and at each event. I’ve had injuries, and earned my obstacle kisses (bruises) but I signed my waiver and I take responsibility for my own behaviour – note to self don’t jump whilst running up Everest. Tough Mudder is a great leveller when it comes to obstacles, there is no reason why a female should not take part. Its great fun first and foremost and even after 50+ events I still find I laugh till I cry and my cheeks hurt at every event due to the friendships I have made through Tough Mudder and I always learn more about myself at each event. It is far more than an obstacle race, a mud run, I have met some of the most inspirational people who have triumphed over adversity, and those running because like me, a friend asked them to sign up and run one. I will always encourage anyone to sign up to a Tough Mudder, and even though I’m self employed having completed a Tough Mudder is great for job interviews, it is a perfect example of team work, even when you run alone.