By SARAH NORTON
Deanna Blegg beat hundreds of men for the chance to compete in one of the toughest physical challenges on earth – but the athlete says it was nothing compared to her long battle with AIDS.
On November 15 this year, Deanna represented Australia in the World’s Toughest Mudder (WTM) – a 24-hour non-stop obstacle course in Las Vegas.
The 45-year-old mother of two was the only woman in the Australian team of four, and had competed against hundreds of men and women to earn her spot on the team.
“135 people were picked…and we met a month later at “O-school”. O-school was a 25-hour trial in which we were put through many challenges. The first starting with a five hour run, and finishing with a five hour run,” Deanna said.
Ultimately five athletes – each with their own unique stories – made the cut. And it wasn’t gender specific.
The WTM is designed to push Mudders to their physical and mental limits. It’s an eight kilometre loop course in the Desert of Las Vegas, Nevada, with 29 obstacles per lap. The idea of Tough Mudder is to run as many laps as possible. In addition to the obstacles, you have to battle harsh elements – they fought sandstorms with winds of over 100 km-an-hour whipping their faces with sand while the wind chill factor got down to minus five degrees at night.
“The most intimidating was an 11 metre jump called ‘the Cliff’,” says Deanna.
An incredible 800 people pulled out in a matter of hours, but the Aussies continued to the end.
The team had a strong start and set a consistent pace. But late in the afternoon one of their teammates took a bad landing on the cliff jump and seriously injured himself. The extent of the damage wasn’t obvious to the team until later in the evening. By midnight, their mate was in a bad way.
“We had the choice of splitting the team and each running as individuals and potentially all placing in the top ten, or continuing on as a team. At that stage we were in contention for first in the team category. The decision to stay as a team was made and that’s we did,” says Deanna.
A strong team mentality is what got them over the finish line, but Deanna also knows the feeling of battling a course alone.
She says, “I am a mother yes. Training is fitted in and around my family. Early morning, evenings, during the day.”
The ex-triathlete takes advantage of every spare hour in her day. The training starts long before her children wake, and Deanna doesn’t waste time watching TV. “On average people watch TV two hours a day. Convert that to training,” she says.