Obstacle races, a sport that has gained considerable popularity in the past few years, are made for a special kind of person. The Mud Hero is no different. Over either six or 10 kilometres, participants must overcome a variety of obstacles, including crossing lagoons, navigating slack lines suspended over a water pit and carrying heavy bags of sand up hills. The obstacles themselves have names that sound even more fun, like “Fenced In” and “Lobster Trap.”
Although there are Mud Hero races in six cities across Canada, most people do only one, maybe two – an accomplishment in itself. But that’s not enough for Art Noble.
This is Noble’s second year travelling across the country and attempting to complete all of the Mud Hero events. And that’s not all. He’s 81 years old.
Getting his start
He began in 2017 when he joined a group that his youngest daughter was part of.
“She’d done them for a few years and then I found out she was doing it again and I said, ‘Hey, you guys can’t have all the fun, I want to go,'” says Noble.
He found the one race so much fun that in 2018, he completed an event in every city: Red Deer, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and Winnipeg.
This year, Noble is pushing himself even more. Not only is he doing a race at every stop across the country, but he’s trying to do multiple races when they are offered — often twice in one day.
At the time of writing, Noble had completed the 10 kilometre race (called the “ultra”), followed immediately by the six kilometre race, at both the Halifax and Winnipeg events.
Each race presents a different challenge, however, and it doesn’t always work out: he tried to do the same feat in Red Deer on Aug. 10, but gravel in his shoe during the ultra led to a sore foot. Adding to that windy, rainy weather and a course that ended up being closer to 13 kilometres and the equivalent of 181 flights of stairs, according to a fellow participant’s Fitbit, and it was the most difficult Mud Hero race Noble has done to date, he says.
“It was a cold, miserable day,” he says. “The six kilometre [race] is tough enough but the 10 kilometre — that was really something.”
Noble opted not to do the six kilometre race offered that same day, but he recovered by the next day, to run with his granddaughter, Kaylah Prakash, in the six kilometre race.
That’s one of the great things about the Mud Hero races, says Noble: running with family, when possible, and having fun. Last year, he did an event with his son-in-law and grandson and this year, he plans to run with his grandson again in the Toronto events.
Fitness later in life
Noble, who lives in Onoway, Alberta, is proof that fitness and an active lifestyle can be picked up at any age, even as an octogenarian. Growing up, Noble was not into sports. Even when he ran the Mud Hero events in 2017 and 2018, he didn’t really train — other than picking cucumbers from a friend’s garden, he says.
“People want to run up and down the road and get in shape, well, that’s fine. I’ll just sit in my chair and watch a little bit of TV,” says Noble.
That’s changed a bit this year. He has started going to the gym, as he has a free membership with Goodlife Fitness, but otherwise spends his time working, where he drives a pilot truck, or playing cards with friends.
Noble encourages everyone and anyone to get into the sport of obstacle races, offering a discount code for $10 off registration to anyone who wants to enter.
“They gave me my own promo code for my friends and I said, ‘I got a lot of friends,'” he says.
Despite bloody knees at some races and getting a bad earache from falling in muddy water at another, Noble doesn’t hesitate to come up with a reason why he keeps running.
“It’s so much fun,” he says immediately.
He doesn’t limit himself to only the Mud Hero events, either. At the time of the interview, he was planning to run in the Down and Dirty 5KM Obstacle Course benefiting the Alberta Cancer Foundation in Edmonton. Despite warnings from the organizers to wear long pants to avoid scratches from thistles on the hill, Noble remained adamant that he will wear shorts in order to stay true to the event name.
“There’s no way I’m going to be wearing long pants,” he says. “They call it a ‘down and dirty’ run. There’s no way if it’s muddy I’m going to be wearing long pants.”
Looking forward, Noble wants to continue running in these events, regardless of his age. He concedes that he probably won’t do the 10 kilometre race in Red Deer again, after the challenge it presented this year, but otherwise, he’s good to go.
“As long as I’m fit, I want to keep doing it,” he says.