Sonya Goodwin was the first female in Europe to complete 50 Tough Mudder Events. Suffice to say she knows what she’s talking about. Here, she shares some tips and reveals what keeps her going back for more…
Sonya, you hold many records for a female at Tough Mudder, which we’ll come to, but can you remember your first time?
I completed my first Tough Mudder on Saturday 17 November 2012, an event in the north west. I have a friend who likes to set themselves regular challenges and they sent an email asking friends to sign up so we could run as a team. I’d never heard of Tough Mudder, but I 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.
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. I remember 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 third time. We worked together and helped others and I discovered that I had a fear of heights. Even after almost five 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 there was a season pass for 2013. It is still one of my favourite presents my husband has bought me.
That was four years ago, and you’re still going strong…
I thought I’d do three more. I certainly didn’t expect to still be running them in 2017! Not only did it become a personal challenge to conquer the obstacles, at each event I 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 afterwards. I started commenting on the Facebook page, answering questions from my own experiences, and at that point there were a few of us who regularly popped up. TMHQ 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 who embody the spirit and ethos of Tough Mudder.
Tell us about some of your achievements?
I was the first UK/European woman to complete over 50 events, which is incredible. It’s difficult to put into words. I’m told I’ve set many firsts for the ladies, from running double days, multi lapping and carrying a 65Kg when dry training around all the UK courses in 2014. I never set out to run 50 evens, but 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.
As a mother 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 be better and challenge myself, whilst 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 it, anyone can, and that is why I love Tough Mudder; it is so inclusive of people of all fitness levels. The obstacles are real levellers and we all have different fears, it’s how we manage that and how we assist each other to overcome them.
How did it feel to reach ‘50 not out’?
I completed my 50th in Ireland, but I had commitments in the evening back in the UK. It was a flying visit, so celebrations were over really quickly onsite though there were loads of hugs, tears and even a guard of honour to be crowned by the MVP Queen Miranda. I also had lovely messages from all over the world. In the evening sat with a gin and tonic and replied to as many as possible, hopefully inspiring others to give Tough Mudder a go.
Favourite and toughest Tough Mudder courses you’ve raced so far?
Cholmondeley Castle North West 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 an event 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-minute drive home. Dubai was the hardest course not because of the heat, but I just found running on sand really tough going. I couldn’t get any purchase on the surface, my trainers filled with sand, causing blisters, and eventually the loss of 6 ½ toe nails.
I signed up for Europe’s Toughest Mudder this year and I enjoyed every minute. I smiled and laughed the whole way round, completing four 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 my fear of heights/falling, and the current venue in Vegas has the cliff jump. I would want to be able to complete each obstacle at least once before considering the penalty alternative.
You can find plenty of training advice on www.toughmudder.co.uk. Here’s a sample of a typical week’s preperations in the final month of your schedule:
5 renegade rows
5 push ups
5 sit ups
Rest remainder of minute
1 minute jump squats
1 minute supermans
1 minute hanging leg raises
Take a walk. Stop to smell a flower or two.
20 jump squats
5 pull ups
1 minute rest
Discover your spirit animal. Challenge it to a sitting contest.