Sports

Tackling mud for sport

Justin Gilbertson will be competing in the Tough Mudder World Championships on Nov. 17 in rural New Jersey.   - Sharron Ho
Justin Gilbertson will be competing in the Tough Mudder World Championships on Nov. 17 in rural New Jersey.
— image credit: Sharron Ho

A local Shirley man will be competing in the Tough Mudder World Championships, an event that has been touted as, “probably the toughest event on the planet.”

Justin Gilbertson, 31, was invited to participate in the Tough Mudder World Championships on Nov. 17 after participating in the Whistler event this May.

In the Whistler event, Gilbertson, along with 17,000 other participants, trekked through muddy mountains, jumped into glacier waters, ran through electric wires charged with 10,000 volts, and crawled underneath barbed wire.

He completed the 18 kilometre distance course in one hour and 47 minutes, earning him a qualifying spot at the Tough Mudder World Championships. Only the top five per cent of competitors are selected.

“One of the reasons I actually like Tough Mudder is even though it’s a sporting event, it’s not meant to be competitive, you’re meant to be helping one another,” Gilbertson said. “It’s the only event I’ve ever done where you can actually be disqualified for not helping a fellow competitor.”

The hogde-podge of  physically demanding obstacles is also what entices Gilbertson to challenge his body and “mental grit.”

Although the hardcore sporting event may be harrowing for some, Gilbertson did not find it insurmountable.

“I honestly didn’t find it as difficult as I thought it would be. It’s supposed to be one of the most extreme events that you could possibly do. That being said they do have to make it so that people who aren’t as physically fit or athletic can complete the course,” he said, adding that some obstacles, however, were “ridiculously challenging.”

Gilbertson, who located to the Sooke area about seven years ago, said the region is perfect terrain to train for the Tough Mudder events.

“I’m lucky that I live out in the Sooke area. I live out in Shirley so... where I live basically is what a course looks like -- there’s cold water, there’s forests, [and] there’s mountains to run up and down.”

He has been training for the World Championships for the past six months. The event takes place in rural New Jersey, and will last over a 24-period.

The event will search for the “toughest” man, woman and four-person group in the world.

Individual competitors vying for the top title will have to complete the most laps of a 13 to 16 kilometre course within the allotted time frame.

The course is not unveiled until the day of the event, but Gilbertson expects the typical obstacles like running through fire, climbing suspended cargo nets and ice-water courses.

Gilbertson, who works as a traditional blacksmith by day, said he has always been athletic. At one point, he even played golf professionally.

“I’ve been involved in athletics since I was young,” he said. “I’ve always just continued to do sports no matter where I’ve been in the world.”

He is also a vegan athlete, and has been an activist on behalf of vegan athletes for the past 10 years.

“I’ve done vegan activism in 50 countries the last 10 years and one of the things I talk about is that this diet doesn’t really restrict you from being athletic or doing anything of that nature,” Gilbertson said.

Going up against some of the “toughest mudders” in the world at the championships, Gilbertson said his goal is to complete five to six laps.

 

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