Serious fun in the mud

After a tough couple of years of lockdowns and restrictions, this year’s annual Mudder event attracted a record-breaking number of participants.

The event, which was cancelled last year due to COVID-19, has been running since 2015 at Kylie and Andrew Stewart’s Rangitikei Farmstay near Marton.

This year’s Mudder was held on 24 September and was the biggest so far, attracting 1,000 participants from around the country.

“It was also the muddiest one we’ve held due to all the rain,” says Kylie.

Participants run through natural and human-made obstacles on the sheep and beef farm covering a 3km, 5km or 8km course, with most people dressing up for the occasion.

Promoting wellbeing through exercise

Kylie says following COVID-19, people were extra keen to get out and attend events.

“We just wanted everybody to get out have fun and they did, and it was epic. Tickets were in high demand and sold out early.”

Kylie, a former health and PE teacher, says The Mudder attracts rural and urban people of all ages and from all walks of life.

“We want to help people connect the dots between mental health and exercise. We created this unique event to promote the wellbeing benefits of exercising and to help people connect and have a great time,” she says.

“And we’re delivering that wellbeing message in a really fun way.”

She says they get a lot of people sharing their mental health stories.

“People are really open about what they’ve been through, which is amazing.”

Giving back to the community

Kylie says The Mudder event helps put Rangitikei on the map.

“We really wanted to do something for the community and the greater good and bring people together with a wellbeing focus.

“Even though it’s a big logistical mission running it, it’s totally worth it and very rewarding when you see how much fun everybody is having.”

Some of the income generated from The Mudder is given back to charities and the local community.

“Each year we donate money to a charity of our choice to give them a helping hand.”

She says the support of sponsors and the local community makes the event possible.

“It wouldn’t happen without all the individuals and businesses who help us out each year.”

Preparations are already underway for next year’s Mudder, Kylie says.

 Embracing the Five Ways to Wellbeing

Clinical psychologist and Farmstrong champion Sarah Donaldson gave a talk at this year’s Mudder.

“I’ve been involved for the last four years and it’s such a fantastic community event that brings everybody together,” she says.

Sarah, who is also the Area Coordinator for the Wairarapa Rural Support Trust, says events like The Mudder are great for people’s wellbeing.

“The Mudder embraces the Five Ways to Wellbeing so I spoke about that link and about how it’s really important to exercise, connect with others and have a break off the farm.”

She says the event was a lot of fun and it was fantastic to see people getting out and having a blast, particularly after the last couple of years with COVID-19 disrupting so many events.

“There’s a real sense of readiness for people to get out and have some fun. The last couple of years have been pretty tough and dreary.”

Cranking up feel-good hormones

Sarah says the link between physical exercise and mental wellbeing is backed by scientific research.

“There’s proven research showing a neurological shift in the brain when you exercise that gives you a lift and cranks up those feel-good hormones,” Sarah says.

“Add in something new and fun and you get an extra lift. People also have a real sense of achievement on completing the course and crossing the finish line.”

Sarah says Kylie and Andrew are to be commended for running the event.

“Hats off to them. It’s a huge logistical event and it was so wet this year, but they are so committed to the cause to create a community event that helps people’s wellbeing,” Sarah says.

“This year’s event was mud galore because of the weather… but if you’re living in mud, you may as well have fun in it.”

Sign up for the Farmstrong newsletter