US Navy Seal and Triathlete Mark James Runs World’s Toughest Mudder | Tough Mudder


[MUSIC PLAYING] In the world of obstacle
course racing, there is one race that is the ultimate
test: World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour grueling race that tests your
will and challenges you to the core. There is a different motivation
for every competitor. These are their stories. [HELICOPTER BLADES WHIRRING] Yeah. [CHEERING AND APPLAUSE] Make way. Make way. Hoo-rah, Sergeant James. So you guys will go easy laps. OK? You finish your easy
laps, come back in line. The guys who’ve finished your O-course,
just crunched out your push-ups, and then it’s go too easy,
and then too fucking hard. The whole thing is hard. All right. Any questions? No. Good. All right. Line it up. [MUSIC PLAYING] My best ever’s 7:02. I went 7:40 today. I didn’t break my best, so
a penalty is hit the surf. If I can’t do this
under the time standard, then I don’t deserve to be out here. It’s his years of cross-country
coaching and substitute teaching, all these different
things he did prepared him for this work to mentor these young
men in a really beautiful way. I think it’s a really important
element that he brings to his job, is that he understands
how the physiology– or what you would need to do
to train to get up to speed. And then he leads by example, by
actually doing the workouts, which is phenomenal, at his age, I think. I’m Mark James. I live in sunny Coronado,
southern California. I’m a father of three. I’m married to a great
wife for 18 years, Tanya. Do you know where my pants are? – They’re in the– they’re in the bedroom. Where are your– Oh, hi. OK. [LAUGHING] Where are your boots, honey? When I met Mark, I was in sixth
grade and he was in seventh. We’ve been married since 1999. 19 years later, 18,
whatever the math is. [LAUGHING] Tanya said you were married 19 years. 19? Well– Did you forget, or– She’s 15 days younger than me,
and I’m more forgetful than her. We were only born 17 days apart. He likes to joke that
he’s a cradle robber. [LAUGHING] 17 days younger. It’s about 19 years, yeah. We haven’t got our– I think 20 years is the Tupperware? I forget how it works. But we haven’t got our Tupperware. We’re still on paper. [LAUGHING] So. Uh– You got your keys? Sure. Sure. Where’s your keys? Wallet. Mark and I start our day at 6:00. A while ago, I decided, you know what,
we need at least one window in the day when we can talk to each other. So we get up at 6:00 every day and
we walk the dog with our coffee. But that way, we get to see
the sun come up together and the dolphins over there. It’s a really beautiful couple minutes. We tell each other what
we were dreaming about. And then one of us– we usually divide up, divide
and conquer with getting the kids to school on buses. I pour my heart into
the children, and then I get to write poetry and
then teach a poetry class. Mark is working full
time, and then he’s also one of these people who can’t sit still
and has to keep working and training. So Tough Mudder was a beautiful fit. We’re harvesting the second
part of our life dream together, which is raising the kids
and still doing what we both love. I have priorities in my life,
and number one is family. So family, and then work. How can I incorporate my training
to accommodate those two things? I work eight to 10 hours a day. Well, if I can run to work,
that’s four miles out of the way. And then that’s four
miles coming back home. So I do that three days a week. If I can swim at work, I have the ocean. I don’t have time to go
to the swimming pool. So I’ll put on maybe a wetsuit,
or if it’s in the summer, I’ll get in the ocean, and I’ll swim
a half mile to two miles, sometimes on my own. Or I’ll get a kayak during
lunch, and I’ll kayak. We try to get out as often as we can. So if we can get out on the weekend,
right after school, a day like today– it’s best in the morning,
early, six or seven when it’s flatter, with some
nice motion to the ocean, waves. But yeah, it’s paradise. I don’t know where all these came from. They’ve actually been in
a shoebox for a while. You know, when I finish
a race, I get a medal. I’ll wear it around for a couple hours,
maybe I can get a free beer out of it, and then it kind of goes
[CLICKING TONGUE] right into a shoebox. So when I open these up and I put
these all out, I’m kind of like, wow, where did these all come from? It’s like a flashback of history. It was a lot of great memories. I had a scholarship, a potential
scholarship offered to me, but in that time frame, I
decided to join the Navy. And I went to see a recruiter. And I saw this poster of these
guys skydiving and running around with telephone poles and
in the water SCUBA diving. And I want to do that. And so that was a big inspiration to do
something that was just very difficult, that not many people could do. And then I tried out
for the SEAL program. I finished I think 26 out of 150
guys finished in my SEAL class, and I did two deployments,
winter warfare. The reason I left being
a Navy SEAL was primarily because I had this other dream. I watched the Iron Man triathlon on
television, and I was very inspired. –training that these
esoteric triathletes were putting in at that time,
eight hours a day or so, was still absolutely unheard of in
the rest of the world of sports. And believe me, just
a short 10 years ago, it would have been an
enormous leap of faith to imagine that now thousands
of people have actually changed their entire lives
just to be able to finish this extraordinary event. And I thought, hey, I could do this
sport, I can make a living at it. And got out of the service, and I
pursued a career as a triathlete. I got my pro license. I did the Hawaii Ironman
10 years in a row. I stopped doing Ironman
triathlons in about 2001. Tanya and I had our first child,
and training really was on a hold. Three years ago, I was
coaching a group of individuals that were trying to get
into Navy Special Warfare, and the guy I worked
with said, hey, you’re going to go up with these eight guys. You’re going to go do a
Tough Mudder in Lake Tahoe. So I toed the line with these eight
guys, and it started with a mile up a hill. I went, OK, this is a solid workout. And we stayed together as a group, and
by the fourth obstacle, I was hooked. I’ve always been big about goal
setting whenever I go into a race. I have three goals: a goal I can
achieve, a goal that I hope to achieve, and a goal that it would be
really cool if I achieved it. So my reason for doing World’s is
really redemption over last year. And this year, at World’s, the
big goals are, number one– the easier goal, the goal that I know
I can achieve, is go for 24 hours and get 50 miles. My middle goal is to hit 75. I want to go and get that silver bib. The third goal would be to
go get that silver bib dirty. At least a mile plus. Gotta go 80, win the
Holy Grail Series, which is a combination of tougher
and toughest points. There’s a lot of loyal Tough
Mudders out there, that– yeah, and I’m one of them! Hook, line, and sinker. I want it. So right now, I’m in the lead for the
Holy Grail, but it’s just that idea. I’m competitive. And that’s something that I think
that I can win, even at my age group. World’s is, in my opinion, the world
championship of obstacle course racing. It’s the big, grand-daddy event. I want to go there. I want to race with all
the people that I know. I want to do my best. I want to push myself. I want my family to see me out there. And I just want to get it done. It’s one of my favorites, Rodney Strong. This is part of my daily ritual. All right, where is the cheese grate-or? Um– These races are extremely important. I did triathlons for 15 years. I tried to make it as a pro triathlete. But I never made it, and I never really
felt truly immersed in the sport. So what do you guys think about
your dad doing Tough Mudders? It’s cool. You think it’s cool? Yeah. Have you seen him do it yet? I’ve seen some footage of him. Kelly, are you going to do a
Tough Mudder with me this year? Yeah. Hopefully soon. In So-Cal, probably? That’s about three hours or two hours
north of here, up in Lake Elsinore. Tanya said, hey, I want
to be part of this. And the kids want to be part
of the World’s experience. I don’t know if they
know what they’re in for. That’s 24 hours of dealing with Dad, who
might not be so happy, might be grumpy. But like I said, hopefully I’m
not worrying more about them than they are about me, because
it’s a long day, especially as the night wears on. Every Sunday we do a family
hike, and sometimes we’ll put our weight vests on, and
we’ll go kind of a brisk pace. And I think we’re just building. The older they get, the more
they can do stuff with me, like the obstacle course, run, swim. I almost can’t keep up with
them on the boogie boards. Yesterday they were just
getting wave after wave. So they keep me young. I try and show them a few tricks. And it’s fun. These logs probably weigh about
65, 70 pounds, a little heavier when they get wet. It’s a kind of vicarious thing of
like, family bonding time, I guess. I don’t think I realize
that I’m the age I am until I start hanging
out with some of the guys that I went to high school or college
with and seeing what they can’t do, and seeing how they’re having their
hips and knees and ankles replaced. I tell my students when they graduate– I say, hey, continue taking care of
yourself in your 20s so in your 30s you can do what you’re doing now,
and your 40s, and then 50s, and– that was my speech 10 years
ago, and I still say it today. Back when I was in my 20s, I
thought 50 was over the hill. I’d have a little walking
stick, and it would be over. But I’m still doing a lot
of the things I like to do. I still hike. I still swim. I’m still on the boogie board. There’s nothing that I’m really
not doing that I could do before. My hair fell out. I can’t see. My iPhone and my text– I got to have big text on there, but
I’m still kind of getting after it. And I want to just go into that race
just relaxed and, above all else, have fun. And that’s sometimes hard to do
when you’re being hard on yourself or competitive, keeping
that fun factor high. Mark– he’s doing what make him happy. So I would rather have him do it
to the fullest, as long as he can. And he will. I’m sure he’ll be doing these
races for as long as he can. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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