We’re sitting down with Nick Artis, a Tough Mudder Ambassador, to talk about how Tough Mudder inspired him to get back in shape, his mental grind on the 24-hour World’s Toughest Mudder course and how important the Tough Mudder community is to him.
TM: Can you talk about how you discovered World’s Toughest Mudder and the Tough Mudder community?
N: I started doing Tough Mudders back in 2014. One of my co-workers, Nate Wilson was talking to me and another one of my friends, Steven Mills, and was like, “Hey, I did this obstacle course, mud race called Tough Mudder. You guys should check it out and think about doing it.” So Steven was looking on like Groupon or Living Social, some crazy thing like that and he found a ticket deal. So we signed up for Mansfield, Ohio, Tough Mudder in May of 2014. From there, I went out and ran it. I wasn’t in shape because I stopped working out while I was in college, I didn’t really care. But we went out and did this event and the weather was atrocious. The temperature dropped to like 37 degrees and it rain for three days straight leading up to it. But the course was super muddy. I’m sure team HQ hated it because they couldn’t get UTVs through the course. But it was just a fun, exhilarating experience. I can honestly say I didn’t like Electroshock. I blacked out the very first time I went through it. But I just enjoyed the challenge, the course, the teamwork aspect of it, and all of that. From there, I just kept doing them and then eventually heard about this thing called World’s Toughest Mudder. I was like, “Oh, what’s that?” I watched a couple of videos and read blogs about people running it and I was like, “Well, that’s the next step. That’s what I’m doing.” I didn’t actually run one until I think it was 2017, the last one that was at Lake Las Vegas. That was my first experience.
TM: What do you love most about these events? What keeps bringing you back to competing in 12 to 24 hour events?
N: It’s a good challenge to just keep competing at. Every time I do one, I want to improve myself, my work ethic, the mental grind, the mental zone you have to put yourself into to keep yourself going for that long. You get cold, you get tired, you get hungry, you have to rely on other people at certain points. I love the community, I love the events itself. There’s a lot of things about it. So it definitely helps motivate me and keeps me trying to improve upon myself and training.
TM: Can you talk about your weight loss story?
N: When I started Tough Mudder, it was back in 2014 and I was totally out of shape. When I was in high school I was in really good shape because I played sports growing up. My sophomore year in college the wheels fell off the bus. I was fluctuating up and down in my weight, not really paying attention to my diet. So when I started doing Tough Mudder in 2014, I think it was about 230-240 pounds. As I started doing them, it just kind of inspired me to take care of myself and start working to get back in shape. From there, every year I have been constantly improving myself and I think right now I’m back down to about 200 pounds, which is lighter than I was when I went off to college. I can definitely run further and longer and faster than I ever could before in my life. So at age 37 I feel like I’m in better physical shape than I’ve ever been.
TM: What was it in college that was that switch for you that made you stop working out?
N: I guess there was nothing I was working for anymore. Being in high school, I was playing football, I was running track. So there’s always something I was chasing or fighting for. Then, when I went to college, I was no longer in sports, I didn’t care to be in sports anymore. So I think just losing that kind of motivation, I had nothing to look forward to, to working for. So I didn’t work.
TM: What was you lowest moment on a course?
N: lI think my lowest moment was during World’s Toughest Mudder 2019, so the last one before COVID, in Atlanta. I was dealing with a knee injury leading up to it and I was feeling really good all the way through the race until I hit mile 50, so 10 laps in. Then, my knee just kind of hated me at that point in time. So it became inflamed and super swollen and it was very difficult for me to get laps in. It was so bad that I actually had to have people help me down obstacles because I couldn’t land on that leg. I think that was my lowest point because I felt like I was trained up enough to hit the goal I wanted to hit and then something outside of my control affected me and that just kind of messed me up mentally for a little while. In fact, when I finished I think I ran 60 miles that year. I finished that, my 60th mile and I came off the course, I was trying to look for other people to go back out with me. But everybody else was done and I didn’t trust myself at that moment in time to be able to make it through everything on that knee. So that was definitely my lowest point for me.
TM: What about your highest moment?
N: There’s two, they’re both podium finishes though. In 2019 also, it was out first experience doing a relay. We did a 14 relay with Jonathan Broadhecker, Scott Sebastian, and and Chris Becher. I think we were a Clydesdale team. There are a lot of comments about us being there. Heavier than 200 pounds, all except for Scott because he was super skinny then, too. But that experience just running, two by two on each lap. We were actually in fourth place leading into the final lap only by like a few seconds and the third place team, kind of took too long in the pit. So we decided to just turn and burn. As we were leaving the transition area, they were jumping back on course and we just kind of we all looked at each other and were like let’s go. We just put our heads down and started moving. So we ran that last lap super hard to try to maintain that third place lead and it worked because we finished in third place and that was awesome. We actually have a couple photos of us finishing WWE style, cheersing beers and then Scott I think did the Stone Cold Stunner to Broadhecker at the end.
TM: Have the people of Tough Mudder become your family?
N: I feel like I’ve made a few lifelong friends through these events. There’s a lot of people I run laps with and we just get chatting about life and experiences and you kind of connect on that level. So it’s not necessarily like getting help on obstacles or anything like that, it’s just sharing experiences and getting to know people while you’re out there.
I didn’t meet Scott until sometime in 2018, I forget exactly where, but Scott lives 30 minutes from me, I think it’s less than 30 miles. But after we had met, he told me where he lived and I told him where I live. He was like, “Oh, we could do runs together.” So I think that next following year, we just started training together running wise and we became really good friends after that. I think it was during COVID, we were talking about events coming up, and he was like, “Hey, do you want to do two-person relay? I think we can podium. That’s my goal.” I was like, “Okay.” So, we were training all through COVID and then about six months ago, he’s like, “Are you ready?” And I was not really thinking to myself, so I decided that I should probably join him in his running endeavors and get a running coach because a big thing for me is if somebody asked me to do something, I don’t ever want to let them down. Do I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that I’m not the weak point, that I can always rise to the occasion if somebody asked that of me.
TM: Do you feel like you’re inspiring others?
N: I didn’t used to think so. But funny story. About six months ago, I actually had people come up to me and tell me that I’m inspiring them. So I do a lot of running in my neighborhood just for the sake of time, based off of when I get off of work and dealing with the kids. But I was running one day and this family stopped me. And this lady was like, “You’ve inspired me.” And I was like, “What do you mean?” She’s like, “I see you running all the time. You’ve inspired me to go back running,” and her husband’s like, “You have no idea. She sees you out here running and she comes home and she’s like, he’s running again. It’s a monsoon outside, he’s running. It’s snowing outside, he’s running. I don’t understand how he’s always running.” So I just had a couple of friends and people seeing what I’m doing on Facebook and other platforms, and they’ll message me saying, hey, man, you’re so freaking inspiring. I didn’t think that I would inspire anybody, but I’m starting to hear a lot more.