Meet Natalie Starkey. On 20th July 2019, Natalie will take on her 100th Tough Mudder, in the same course that changed her life: Tough Mudder Ireland.
Why Tough Mudder Ireland?
This is a meaningful event, and not just because Natalie will be achieving the coveted 100th headband. Tough Mudder Ireland holds great memories for Natalie, including meeting her fiancé back in 2015, him proposing there in 2017 and getting her 75th headband in 2018.
Here’s Natalie’s story, or as we like to call it, a Tough Mudder Fairytale (prepare for choruses of ‘aww’).
Road to 100 – My Tough Mudder Journey
I experienced my first Tough Mudder back in September 2013 at Tough Mudder South West in Wales.
I was not prepared for the challenge that lay ahead and at the time struggled with the 12-mile distance. I also faced my fear of walking the plank, plummeting into ice cold water and being electrocuted for the first time.
On completion, earning my first ever orange headband I felt on top of the world and wanted nothing more than to repeat the whole experience!
The Ultimate Christmas Present
That Christmas all I wanted was a Tough Mudder season pass, which led onto my 2014 journey. That year was the introduction of the ‘Legionnaire Status’ up to the 10x headband.
This was my new challenge: to complete my black and orange headband in a year. It was on my 9th event that I decided to travel abroad for my first Tough Mudder and fly to Ireland.
In October 2014, Tough Mudder Ireland was held at Punchestown Racecourse. I dug out an old green ‘Ireland’ cotton T-shirt and applied green stripes to my face to look the part. The course was fairly flat to what I had experienced previously, however, the obstacles were equally as challenging (especially the mud) and the atmosphere was electric.
Little after the event, I became the face of Tough Mudder Ireland too for the Rugby Six Nations featured on discounted emails (not looking my best with muddy hair and no make-up!).
Getting that Black & Orange 10x Headband
I finally gained my 10x headband at the last event of 2014 at London South, where I was honoured to be called to the front by Gil (Tough Mudder MC), alongside a fellow legionnaire at the start to be crowned whilst also being filmed by the BBC as they were making their documentary at the time.
The obsession and passion for Tough Mudder continued to grow into 2015. I started to travel even more as I began to meet people and make friends with Legionnaires.
Tough Mudder Ireland
With a new location of Tough Mudder Ireland at Loughcrew, I couldn’t wait to go back. This time I signed my Dad up for his first Tough Mudder! On the Saturday I introduced my Dad to the mud and realised how equally fit he was to me, which lead to a bit of friendly competition.
On the Sunday, I returned to run a second day at Tough Mudder Ireland, whilst my Dad was my support crew and photographer.
I was about to run second to last wave, when Gil suggested I wait for the last wave as that was when Charlie (another Tough Mudder MC) was set to run his first event. I waited 20 minutes and chatted in the meantime until the final wave came forth. We said our pledge and I was off leading the crowd alongside Charlie.
A little into the first mile, we were closely followed by Adam (warm-up guy) and Paul, whom I had never met before, so I assumed it was Adam’s friend. We decided to continue running the course together, especially as we were all running at a similar pace and 3 of us knew each other.
I would never have imagined that this mystery man would eventually become my husband!
The four of us completed the course together, with muddy hugs and smiles we exchanged our goodbyes.
As for the mystery man…
He gave me his team contact details, known as ‘The Assault Course Mafia’. I personally didn’t think I would see him again on course, but little did I know… Looking back at photos taken on the Saturday, him and another member of the team also met on course together that day both overtook my Dad and I on Sewer Rat on course!
At the next event at Tough Mudder South West, I decided to run first wave and by the time I had got back to the village to freshen up for a second lap I was tapped on the shoulder by Paul. It was spooky, as we hadn’t agreed to meet up. He introduced me to The Assault Course Mafia and it was here I became part of the team.
The Assault Course Mafia & World’s Toughest Mudder
Joining The Assault Course Mafia opened up a world of opportunities for me, allowing me to make even more friends and travel the country to more events. There was also talk between the team of going to World’s Toughest Mudder too!
Paul and I grew closer and in October 2015 became official.
2016 was the year of training as three of the team signed up and devoted training to World’s Toughest Mudder. The miles grew and so did the passion for obstacle course running. We flew as a team to Las Vegas in November 2016, participating in the most memorable event and toughest challenge of our lives. After 24 hours and 38 minutes on course, we earned our 24-hour headband, completing 55 miles. I held the highest female miler for the UK!
Becoming a UK Ambassador
In 2017, I was chosen as a UK Ambassador to the brand, sharing my experiences of Tough Mudder and training tips for WTM.
I also gained a new teaching job as Lead for PE. Here I influenced my students, allowing them to get creative and design their own mud run as part of my road to The Obstacle Course Racing World Championships which I had qualified for after running WTM. My students were in awe of me speaking about my Tough Mudder ventures and sharing video footage of the obstacles.
Tough Mudder Ireland took an unexpected turn in 2017, where Paul proposed on the Saturday evening.
In excitement on the Sunday when returning to the event, Gil made Paul re-enact the proposal at the start line and then again at the finish in electroshock therapy before posing on Kong trying to kiss in mid-air, earning us the ‘#toughlove’ slogan.
The following week I gained my 50th headband in Germany, becoming the second female in the world to achieve this. I returned in 2018 to Ireland where I became the first female in the world to achieve the black and silver 75th headband.
So after running in the UK, Ireland, Germany, America and Dubai, completing 99 events of Tough Mudder Full (Classic), 18 laps of Half, 3 Toughest Mudders, 4 5Ks and 1 WTM, I now plan to return to Ireland in 2019 to gain my 100th headband and become the second female in the world to achieve this.
Tough Mudder Ireland 2019
I have chosen Ireland to receive this as it means so much to me and I adore the atmosphere and tough mudder love at the event.
Paul and I have also decided to get married in Ireland in 2020 too. Obviously, the wedding colour is orange!