An Interview with a Mud Run Maniac: Ryan Erdei

It’s a cool autumn night a few days before Halloween. Ryan’s NIKE+ application sends an update to his Facebook status,

“I just finished my run. Distance: 13.2 miles.”

A few days later, another status update,

“(sandy) hill repeats, 4.38 miles.”

A glutton for punishment.

Ryan Erdei, 31, of the Jersey Shore, has been addicted to mud running since his first Tough Mudder, last year’s frigid Tri-State event at Raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ. The event comprised over 20 of the world’s toughest obstacles along 12 miles of icy mud, and was held during a weekend that hardly reached 40 degrees. As the Tough Mudder website states, “just finishing” was an incredible feat and for many, one 12 mile mud run was enough for a lifetime. For Ryan, Tough Mudder Tri-State was just the beginning.

In regards to mud runs/military style challenges, it’s more about finding your physical and mental breaking point…

Since that cold November weekend, Ryan has morphed into a true mud run maniac. Here’s a look at his mud-soaked resume over the past 12 months:

  • Tough Mudder Tri-State, NJ – November 2010
  • Tough Mudder Bear Creek, PA – April 2011
  • GORUCK Challenge, DE – May 2011
  • Spartan Beast Race, VT – August 2011
  • GORUCK Challenge, NYC – September 2011
  • Super Spartan Race, NYC – October 2011

And a look at his upcoming calendar:

  • Tough Mudder Tri-State, NJ – November 2011
  • Spartan Death Race (40+ mile), VT – June 2012

Why all the torture?

Each mud run is a new experience with unique challenges, which Ryan sees as an opportunity to test his physical and mental limits. The Spartan Death Race that Ryan will run next June will be the longest and most difficult of its kind. It has evolved over the past few years from an 8-10 hour course into a 40+ hour test of will and toughness.

Essentially, it is the test of a persons ‘true grit’. The purpose of the race is to find out how tough you really are. The race directors do NOT want you finishing. The race has evolved into a multi-day, 40+ hour race consisting of trail running, mental challenges, physical challenges and extended hikes while carrying heavy objects.

Mud run training for races like the Death Race is true test in itself. To prevent fatigue from getting the best of him during the race, Ryan will begin his workouts at 1:00 AM and start his running in the early morning hours. In addition to adjusting the time of his workout schedule, Ryan will also prepare with interval training, endurance workouts and running outdoors whenever possible.

…these days it seems the most effective workouts are Cross-Fit or intensity workouts, essentially pushing yourself for an hours so. Workouts should include natural body weight exercises such as pushups, pullups, squats, lunges, box jumps. In addition to these Cross-Fit workouts, get some distance in order to build up your endurance. Trail runs are best due to the change in elevation and the ground is easier on the joints than the pavement.

However, training for the Death Race is a completely different animal. Whereas most mud run events will reveal their obstacles a few weeks beforehand, the Death Race does not reveal its obstacles or challenges. Instead, participants need to prepare for the unexpected.

GORUCK or go home!

Ryan has grown accustomed to training for the unknown, a core element of the GORUCK Challenges. Led by Green Berets, the GORUCK Challenge is an 8-12 hour small team event covering 15-20 miles of urban landscape. The challenges are never revealed, as even the start time is kept under wraps until a week prior to the event.  GORUCKs are often run through the night and focus on camaraderie and teamwork. During the event each class member is required to wear a GORUCK rucksack containing a set amount of bricks, 3 bricks for individuals less than 150 pounds and 4 bricks over 150. The course, distance, and length of challenge is unknown to class members. This can also be altered depending upon how well the class works together in completing tasks.

It’s more than the test of grit and guts that has attracted Ryan to two GORUCK Challenges. The event also exposes weaknesses in its participants that must be addressed to overcome the challenge.

Someone may have more physical strength to offer during log carries or buddy carries while someone else may have better endurance and able to carry and extra brick or ruck from a teammate who might need some help. The purpose is all about teamwork….

Ryan has found a natural fit within the brotherhood of GORUCK Challenges and enjoys the inherited responsibility to test himself at every opportunity:

Once you complete a GORUCK Challenge you become a member of the GORUCK Tough group, we like to consider it a family of sorts. You are not obligated to run other races with your ruck but we like to think there is no other way to do it. Races are usually run with rucks full of ‘liquid bricks’, aka beers.

Dedicated to difficulty.

Dedicated to the life of the GORUCK and motivated to find his true limits, Ryan has made a hobby of adding an extra level of difficulty to grueling mud runs. For example, the Spartan Beast featured an obstacle where runners had to carry a 50 pound sandbag up the rocky terrain of Killington Mountain. Ryan and his team carried extra items, “coupons,” such as rocks, logs, and a pipe just to make the run more interesting and push their bodily limits to the breaking point. The Beast took over 7 hours to complete, but for Ryan, there’s still no breaking point in sight.

I asked Ryan what will finally push him to his limits.

As with any sport, especially those of the extreme kind, it’s all about progression. In regards to mud runs/military style challenges, it’s more about finding your physical and mental breaking point…. finding out what your true limit is. Each event is difficult in itself but I haven’t found that one just yet that has made me utter the words ‘I quit’.

His latest Facebook status update,

“Registered. Peak Ultra 50-Miler in Pittsfield, VT.”

Just another day in the life of a mud run maniac.

Mud Run Maniac wants to know what you think! Submit your story in the comments section below that makes you or someone you know a mud run maniac.

6 comments… add one
  • Wow, Ryan Erdei is The Man! What an impressive guy who’s toughness and inner-drive is impressive. Thanks for sharing his story and your great website, MRM!

  • This guy is an inspiration! The Spartan Death Race looks like a total Mindf***!

  • Dan Toth

    Wow… and I’m related to Ryan… he’s my cousin… one tough dude! I’m no softie, as I train in Muay Thai, but this looks pretty wicked! I may have to take him up one day on the challenge!!!

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