This coming weekend marks a historic moment in the eyes of Tough Mudder Legionnaires. Two of the athletes highlighted in my previous article on Mud Run Guide, The Multi-Lap Legionnaires are on the verge of hitting 100 Tough Mudders at Tough Mudder Missouri. I take an in-depth look at the Batman shirt wearing Eric Jenkins and the head painted Joe Perry as they become two members of the Tough Mudder Century Club.
Tell me a little about your athletic background prior to Tough Mudder (TM)/ Obstacle Course Racing (OCR)?
ERIC: There really was no athletic background for me. I didn’t even participate in sports as a kid. I was also never a long distance runner. Back then I thought long distance was 10 miles! I didn’t even know about ultramarathons and all those crazy people. I wanted to do Tough Mudder as I figured my upper body strength wouldn’t count against me and so what if I was slow; there wasn’t a clock. I left pride behind as I started out doing something new to me. I was really scared at first especially as I hate heights!
JOE: I've played soccer for the past 39 years. Prior to learning about Tough Mudder I had never run a race in my life. In preparation for TM, I entered a 10k in 2012. From there I've participated in some road races including a marathon in 2013 in which I qualified for Boston. I ran Boston this past spring and managed to re-qualify to go back next year. I've received a bit of negative feedback by referring to the Boston Marathon has a training run for Tough Mudder!
That’s hysterical about using Boston as a training run, but everyone has their priorities. Qualifying for Boston is an impressive accomplishment on the bucket list of most runners. Let’s go back to where it al started, when and where was your first TM?
ERIC: Arizona February 2013
JOE: Indiana in June 2012
Did you think it was going to be one and done?
ERIC: No way. I worried this would be addicting before I ever started. I was supposed to do my first Tough Mudder in October 2012 but had to transfer it as we were out of the country for an adoption process. I moved to the season pass for 2013. I planned on doing at least four events to make it worth my money. I well exceeded that!
JOE: No. Originally I was signed up to do Toronto in August with a large group of locals. A few others were unable to attend the Toronto event, so they looked around for another TM and found Indiana and asked if any of us wanted to attend. I jumped at the chance, and I'm glad I did. We had a blast. As soon as I got home I immediately signed up to do Kentucky in October.
When did you realize this was turning into an obsession?
ERIC: I registered for the 2013 World’s Toughest Mudder the morning the option went live on their website. They hadn’t even sent out an email yet. At that point I knew I was obsessing. But then when my plans exceeded doing eight different venues in just 2013 I knew I had an addiction.
JOE: When we signed up for Toronto we built a course on a farm with a variety of obstacles and would train there. I had a lot of fun preparing for TM. Then once I got onto the actual course, the deal was sealed. This was going to be my new way of life!
At the time, they announced Legionnaires and the different colored headbands, what number were you on?
ERIC: I started 2014 already maxed out at 10x+ when they introduced the Mudder Legion in 2014. I had already done 22 laps and 16 days (15 Tough Mudder days and 1 WTM).
JOE: Good question. I don't remember the exact date. Was that in 2014? In 2012 I ran 3 laps at 3 venues. In 2013, I ran 24 laps at 9 venues In 2014 I ran 33 at 9 venues. This year I hope to complete 40 laps over 10 venues to reach 100.
Eric, I noticed you have a customized 80x headband. I heard rumors of TMHQ putting out a 25x and 50x official version. Have you any insider information on that?
JOE: I'll let Eric handle that. Some people count days (including WTM). Using that math, I think I'll be at 61 events by the end of 2015.
ERIC: I haven’t heard any rumors on an official expansion of the Tough Mudder headbands. I started modifying the headbands by having them embroidered for every 10 lap increment. So I will be wearing a 90x+ headband next weekend.
Speaking of customization, have you done anything else to recognize your TM accomplishments (vanity plates, tattoos, etc.)?
ERIC: Nothing permanent. I am still currently sporting a bleached Mohawk, which I did five weeks ago for a series of 4 Tough Mudders weekends back to back to back to back. I don’t have any of my Tough Mudder memorabilia on display. All my headbands are in a shoebox except for one around my rearview mirror in my car. My wife has humored my obsession but isn’t about to change the home decor.
JOE: Even though I paint my skull for every TM, I don't have any permanent tattoos. Of course, my vehicles are decorated with TM paraphernalia. The exercise room in my barn has a display of my headbands and WTM bibs for inspiration.
JOE: It is just a number, but people like to make big deals out of numbers. The number I prefer to count is the 135 different people I've completed a lap with to earn those headbands. These don't count the people I've met at the start line or on the course. These are 135 unique Mudders with whom I've crossed the finish line. Many of these are people I would have never met if not for TM. Several of these people will be friends I'll have for the rest of my life. There's no price you can put on that. 100 laps. 1000s of memories.
ERIC: I agree with Joe that I have made a ton of new friends through Tough Mudder. I have also traveled to a lot of places I would never have traveled to. But the actual number of 100 laps means a lot to me. There were a lot of laps especially on 3 lap days when the days were long and hot, or 2 lap days when the events were really muddy and cold that I wanted to stop. Why do it again? Especially the entire course? It just doesn’t make logical sense. I had already been there. I had just done that. So why do it again? Because the number means something to me. Each lap was supposed to be hard, that’s why it’s called Tough Mudder. Taking a shortcut or an easy way out was not why I started out. I pushed through a lot of those laps with a goal in mind. Each time it was to finish one more lap.
Anything special planned for your 100x? Special dinner afterward, costume, speech, etc.?
JOE: Uh… I don't think so. I paint myself and look ridiculous at every TM, so this will be just another case of that.
ERIC: My wife and five kids will be there to welcome me across the finish line. I couldn’t be happier that I can hit this milestone at home! But honestly there won’t be a big celebration. I have to go to work that night for 12 hours. A bunch of friends are coming to my house as Missouri is my home event, and I can host them. More of the party will be before the event. But the gathering isn’t centered around it being our 100 lap weekend. It is just a bunch of Mudders getting together and having fun.
As the first two members of the Tough Mudder Century club you guys have anything special planned to welcome any future centurions? New Facebook page with just you two? Secret decoder rings?
JOE: I don't have any special plans. Maybe Eric will adopt them and take them home with him.
When will this stop? 1000x? When you can't, walk anymore?
ERIC: I have been amazed how big the hardcore Legionnaire group has become over the past 2 years. I know many others will hit this benchmark. None of the legionnaire groups are meant to be exclusive. The more 10x+ people I see out there the happier I am. So the more 100x+ people there are, the better.
JOE: I'm in the best shape of my life right now. TM is the reason for that. Why give this up? I imagine there are more incredible people I've yet to meet, and this is where they will be!
Was 100 always a goal or did it just kind of come up as a nice benchmark as your got closer?
JOE: I had 60 at the end of 2014. I did some quick math and realized 40 was possible in a year if I pushed myself. Along the way, I was concerned if I could get in enough laps at some of the smaller venues but so far I've managed to stay on pace.
ERIC: Towards the end of 2014, 100 laps became a big goal for me to reach in 2015. I had 22 at the start of 2014, and I did 47 that year bringing the count up to 69. I wanted to hit 100 this year. At the beginning of the year, I had committed that I wasn’t going to run any Sundays this year. But I ended up losing four events that I wanted to do due to scheduling conflicts, so I had to add back in some Sundays to reach the goal. I am very appreciative to my wife for the support she gave in this big goal of mine.
JOE: Funny you should ask, my wife is driving us to Michigan TM as we do this interview. She and my son will be doing a lap with me on Sunday. My wife is very much aware of my issues, and she has learned to deal them!
ERIC: My wife said, “ I’m awed at the dedicaton Eric has put into his Tough Mudder career. He is a very driven individual. He has loved every challenging aspect of these courses, both physical and mental. He’s also a very social person and has loved meeting people from all over the continent. I won’t pretend it hasn’t been extremely difficult having him gone so much. But I figure this isn’t going to last forever. And it’s something he loves. If our situations were reversed, I would hope he would do the same for me.” She has never run a Tough Mudder. A friend and I are currently in negotiations to get her to run one in Australia.
Do you do other OCRs too? Or just TM? And why?
JOE: I did a Warrior Dash once so I could do an OCR with my kids. Yawn. Never again. TM is where I belong. It's all about teamwork and bonding. We aren't trying to out-do each other. It's us against the course and its obstacles. WTM is the only “race”, but even then we help each other. We are a family….not opponents. That said, I will be attending OCRWC this year that is a competition. But the main reason I'm going is to hang out with my crazy friends!
ERIC: As mentioned before I have run World’s Toughest Mudder twice. I love that event because even though it is the championship event of the Tough Mudder series it is still based on teamwork and camaraderie. I have never run any of the other OCR’s. I will be doing OCRWC this year but not with the intent of winning anything. I want to just go and experience the event. I am excited to see what the obstacles are like. I would also like to try BattleFrog next year but it is mostly because a bunch of my friends are doing them and I feel like I am missing out. However branching out into more events isn’t the best plan to wean myself from my addiction.
Anything else you want the OCR world to know about you or Tough Mudder?
JOE: How much space do you have?? I can ramble on and on about how TM has changed my life. Because of it I've done more than I ever thought possible. I get to rub elbows with some of the best athletes on the planet. Mudders inspire me. I'm told I inspire them. It's contagious. I love seeing people conquer fears and accomplish new goals. WTM is the ultimate carrot dangling ahead of me. It's why I train hard. It deserves my best, and I will give it my best. Last year's result means nothing. I'm always looking to improve myself, and TM gives me plenty of opportunities for that.
ERIC: No I am not independently wealthy. Yes, I have a job. I average 60 hours a week. Yes, I am married. Yes, she is the best wife ever. Yes, my kids know what I look like. Those seem to be the answers to the most common questions I get, or better yet the comments I hear people saying as we start out in a wave together. But in all seriousness, if I hadn’t chosen to get out of my comfort zone I never would have had so many amazing experiences and met so many amazing people. Don’t be afraid to come out and give Tough Mudder a try even if you are an elite OCR racer or on the opposite end of the spectrum and are extremely out of shape. The event is meant to attract everyone. Yes, that means you! If you ever see me out there make sure to say hi!
And if you are up for your next big challenge join us at World’s Toughest Mudder. I mentor a group of first-time World’s Toughest Mudders to give back to this awesome community that has given me so much. This year’s group currently has over 100 members doing WTM for the 1st time! You are also welcome to follow along as I continue my OCR journey on Facebook at www.facebook.com/worstbirthdate or Istagram @worstbirthdate
Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down and talk to Mud Run Guide. I always appreciate people taking this sport to new levels with accomplishments like this. It has been fun seeing you guys at some Tough Mudders over the past year, and I hope to see more of you in the future at both Tough Mudder events and maybe even some other OCRs.
Editor's Note: The first reach this milestone was Da Goat, Jim Campbell, who did it at Austin at the start of the year.