With World’s Toughest Mudder just around the corner there’s a lot of buzz surrounding the top athletes and the $100k prize for the first team to break 100 miles. To keep an eye on all these athletes and to ensure a safe, fair competition for all, over 100 volunteers will be on hand. One volunteer in particular, Mike Jones, aka The World’s Toughest Volunteer, will be there for all 24 hours (and then some) cheering on the athletes with his trademark sombrero. Volunteer HQ reached out to Mike to find out what on earth drives someone to volunteer for that length of time.
Volunteer HQ: I remember meeting you in 2015 at WTM and distinctly recall the sombrero you were wearing. Why the sombrero?
World’s Toughest Volunteer: I wear the Sombrero for two reasons, it is the greatest sunblock ever created and I stand out in a crowd.
VHQ: Makes perfect sense. You’ve been an MVP for a few years now. When was your first event and how many times have you volunteered with us?
WTV: My first event was in September 2013, at Lake Tahoe and I have volunteered between 15 and 20 times: I’ve lost count.
VHQ: Have you always volunteered, or did you run a few TM’s and then find out about the MVP
WTV: I first heard about TM from an ad on Facebook and it looked like fun. But I wanted to check it out before running it, so I volunteered. I did a 12 hour shift in Tahoe, then came back the next day and did it again. I was hooked. After a few more events, I convinced my brothers to run with me at the L.A. TM in 2014.
VHQ: What is your favorite part of volunteering?
WTV: My favorite part of volunteering is the family; my fellow volunteers and the runners have become family to me. We see each other at different events and it’s always big hugs and lots of love.
VHQ: What about motivation? You clearly aren’t an one and done volunteer.
WTV: My motivation to volunteer is to see my family and the discount entry doesn’t hurt. But I truly enjoy volunteering more than running.
VHQ: I can get behind that. When did you first volunteer at WTM?
WTV: I first volunteered at WTM in 2014, I had signed up for night ops but got there really early so they put me to work as an ATV Medical driver. I was evacuating hypothermic runners during the now famous sand storm. At the end of my shift, I was ready for more, I met Erin Evans in the checkout line and we decided to stay on another shift together. Finishing that shift Erin and I made a pact to volunteer for the full 24 hours in 2015. In March of 2015 Erin broke the news that she wouldn’t be volunteering, because she would be running. I can’t be upset at that. So, November 2015, I was on the WTM course volunteering for 28 hours straight. I saw every runner run every lap, and gave more hugs than I can count. And of course I will be there again this year.
VHQ: Can you explain the energy you get from being on course at WTM?
WTV: The energy at WTM is amazing. It’s hard to explain. The energy is like a rock concert mixed with the Super Bowl blended into a family reunion.
VHQ: That’s quite the apt description and would be one hell of a family reunion. What’s it like being a part of WTM even if you’re not running it?
WTV: Being a part of WTM without being a runner is awesome! Being right there working with world class ultra-athletes is a unique experience. What other sport does this? I’ll never be on the field at the World Series or the World Cup, but WTM, there I am.
VHQ: Love it. Do you have a favorite WTM moment, or which moments stick out to you?
WTV: My favorite WTM moment doesn’t happen on the course. I’ve seen this community come together to help people through some really difficult times. Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of inspiration on the course, between the runners laughing in the face of physical disability and Jon Copper playing the pipes at 3am to keep his daughter focused. WTM is the definition of inspiration.
VHQ: Will you ever run WTM?
WTV: I get asked all the time if I’m gonna run WTM. Nope. I run the regular events, but I feel that I accomplish more as a volunteer at WTM than I ever would as a runner.
VHQ: It takes something special to come out and volunteer for the entire event. While we won’t say everyone should come out for 24 hours, what advice would you give to anyone thinking of coming out to volunteer at WTM, or for that matter, any type of Tough Mudder event?
WTV: Anyone thinking of volunteering should know that they will only get out what they put in. If they just stand there and hand out water cups they’re going to hate the experience. But if they are hugging and high fiving everyone they will love it. Bottom line if you’re not dirty from muddy hugs and you still have a voice at the end of your volunteer shift, you didn’t get the full volunteer experience.
There you have it folks. Straight from the mouth (keyboard) of the World’s Toughest Volunteer. You can see Mike and his sombrero all event long at WTM 2016 giving muddy hugs and words of encouragement. If you fancy joining him, you can sign up HERE.