Rachael George’s story is one of triumph and courage. She decided to make a huge life-changing decision and have weight loss surgery. From that point, she signed up for her first Tough Mudder in November of 2015 and hasn’t looked back since (she did 10 Tough Mudders in one year). This badass woman has strength, determination, and mental grit and I am proud to share her story.
Please tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Rachael and I am a 28-year-old OCR athlete. I primarily run Tough Mudders with my boyfriend and my team The Muddy Llama Sheep. This year I am working toward Tough Mudder’s Holy Grail, reaching my 25th Tough Mudder event, and will be running my first marathon. I am a therapist by profession and specialize in working with children and teens. When I’m not working or running OCRs, I can usually be found out riding my horse, Max, or playing with my puppy, Casper. I also love to travel and spend time in Cambodia each year.
Did you always consider yourself athletic growing up?
Not even a little bit. I played a few sports but I never considered myself athletic. I always considered myself more of the “artistic” type than athletic. I never fit the physical image of what I thought an athlete should be. The fastest I ever ran a mile before my 25th birthday was 13 minutes during high school. If you had told me that going into 2018 I would have ran a 5runith a 9 minute per mile time, completed 15 Tough Mudder events, and become a brand ambassador for a company like Tough Mudder, I would have laughed at you and offered to help you find the person you had me mistaken for.
How did you first get into the sport of OCR?
In 2015 I set a goal for myself to run a 5k and then a 10k in 2016. I met my boyfriend that year and he started telling me about these Tough Mudder things he ran. Trying to be the supportive girlfriend, I told him I would come out and take pictures during one of his events. I was hooked. I decided that day that I wanted to sign up for an event and chose the 2015 TriState Tough Mudder.
I started running more and trained but I had no idea what I had gotten into. That Tough Mudder was the hardest thing I had ever done both mentally and physically. In the year and a half leading up to this event, I had lost over 100 pounds and completely changed my life (including taking up running which I will admit, is still not my favorite thing to do). I struggled through that first event and will admit I was not able to successfully complete every obstacle. But I made a promise to myself while sitting on the start line, listening to Sean Corvelle challenge each of us to push ourselves both physically and mentally, that I would give every obstacle everything I had. If I was able to successfully complete it, I was thrilled. If I could not complete it, I knew that I had given it my all and that I had something to work toward.
That night I decided I would earn my 10x orange and black headband in under a year. I am proud to say I finished my 10th full Tough Mudder exactly 364 days after that first event.
What initially drew you into the world of OCR?
My boyfriend invited me into the world of OCRs. Before I met him I didn’t even know they existed. I struggled with my weight and body image my entire life. I had never been a runner but I realized early on while trying to get into running that I lost interest too quickly with road races. OCRs were the perfect solution. They involved the physical challenge I was looking for but broke the running up with challenging obstacles.
I struggle with relying on other people to help me with physical tasks. While I lost a lot of weight, I still struggle with the idea of being too heavy for people to help. Running with Tough Mudder forced me to face this challenge head on by encouraging me to rely on other people for support and help over obstacles. It made fall in love with the world of OCR and the community surrounding these races.
What single obstacle has been your favorite and why?
Surprisingly my favorite obstacle has been the one obstacle that has made me seek medical attention on course. I loved the obstacle King of the Swingers which is, unfortunately, no longer on Tough Mudder full courses. I also really like water obstacles…as long as I don’t think about what’s in the water.
What single obstacle has been your least favorite and why?
I hate Berlin Walls and Ladder to Hell. Well really walls in general. Ladder to Hell was actually the obstacle where I discovered I have a hard time with heights. Balls to the Wall is another obstacle with which I struggle. The first time I attempted it, I did not know how to do it and I ended up falling backwards and landing on my back. These are all obstacles I force myself to complete each event. It is my way of pushing my physical and mental limits and overcome my fears and insecurities.
Is there an OCR / endurance race you would never do?
There are a few events that genuinely scare me; however, I won’t say they’re something I would never do. I don’t want to ever limit myself or tell myself I can’t do something. I spent years doing that and hated myself. When I made the decision to change my life, I told myself I would never say I can’t do something unless I’ve made an honest attempt at it. I can’t do everything but how will I know if I don’t at very least try.
What type of training do you do ito prepare for an OCR?
I run a lot. I am not fast and I’m not the happiest person when I run (I get grumbly). I also recently took up rock climbing which has been a big help. One thing I do that is not exactly typical is I go out and ride my horse Max. It is a great workout for your legs and core. Plus riding a blind, 1200lb horse is a great way to work out mentally and physically.
Do you have a nickname while racing?
I wasn’t sure on this one so I asked my team and received a few different answers. I was told that I am THE Muddy Llama Sheep and that I am Erin Lake’s Mudder Twin. I was also referred to as a Squirrel because I “run around like crazy and collect nuts to run with”
What is your proudest athletic achievement?
There are a few for me. The first would be the first time I ran 3 miles straight through without stopping. Everyone had told me about this “runners high” where you start to feel good running. As I previously stated, I am grumbly when I run so the idea of feeling good while running was a foreign concept. That day I set out to run a mile and I just kept going. I felt good running for the first time in my life. It’s not the most glamorous of achievements but for someone who had never even run a mile straight through without stopping, it was an amazing feeling.
The second would have to be earning my 10x headband with Tough Mudder in under a year. It was something I never thought I could accomplish. Having the volunteer hand me my 10x headband was a feeling I will never forget.
Is there any single person in OCR that inspires you?
There are so many people that inspire me on course. Every time I see a new person out on course that is pushing their limits to do something that scares them or challenges them to be better, I am inspired. But if I have to pick a single person, I would have to say Darth Vader. He was actually one of the first OCR names I knew when I started running Tough Mudders and I’ve gotten to see him out on course at almost every event I’ve done. I’m still not convinced he’s entirely human. He’s someone I think truly encompasses the idea of “badass”. He’s an insanely impressive, incredibly gifted athlete who is also extremely generous. He’s the first person to stop and help other people on and off course. He is someone that inspires me to push myself to my limits and then go a little further.
What does being a badass woman in OCR mean?
I had to really think about this question. I think being a bad ass woman in OCR means going out, no matter what your limitations or fears are, and leaving everything you have on the course. It’s pushing yourself to your limits and challenging yourself mentally and physically. But it’s also being an example to other people on course. It’s stopping and helping the person struggling on an obstacle or encouraging someone to keep going when they want to quit. A bad ass woman in OCR is someone who is strong physically and mentally and doesn’t understand the word quit.
With so many strong women participating more and more in OCR and endurance events, do you find yourself becoming more competitive, inspired or both?
Definitely both. I see these women who look like they just walked out of a fitness magazine running these events and easily completing obstacles that take everything in me to complete and I am inspired to push myself further. It has made me more competitive against myself but I am definitely inspired by them.
If you want, is there a random fact about you that you wish to share?
For the last 11 years, I have spent a few weeks each year in Cambodia working with a group of orphanages there. I saw a need for beds in the orphanages the first year I went over and helped start a project that builds bunk beds here in the US and sends them to Cambodia. To date, we have sent over 450 bunk beds over and have completed other projects with the orphanages.
If someone wants to reach out on social media, how can they find you?
I can be found on facebook at www.facebook.com/rachael.george.14 and my instagram handle is #muddyllamasheep