When was the last time you did something for the first time?
It’s easy for most of us to become comfortable where we’re at. We go from constant new challenges, like school, moving out on our own, and starting a career, to a settled routine in the span of a few short years. The thrill and excitement of regular change and starting from scratch can quickly be replaced with a wave of anxiety at even the prospect of doing something you have never done before.
For Los Angeles Midnight Runner Captain Joey Ta, who has had a love of adventure for as long as he can remember, it was the realization that his life was becoming more or less routine, along with a push from a family member, that made him want to try something different. After graduating with an accounting degree and getting his career as a Finance Manager with a homebuilding company in LA, he needed something new to focus on and challenge himself.
“I had pretty much gotten to the point where I had established my career and I had all of my certifications, I was on cruise control. One day my cousin asked me if I wanted to try out a Tough Mudder; it was basically a dare! I thought, why not? Why not try something new for once?”
As life and logistics tend to always throw a wrench into the most well-laid plans, it didn’t end up working out for Joey and his cousin to run a Tough Mudder that year. Instead, they joined up with a team of ten other runners for a Ragnar Relay in Las Vegas.
Joey started going for regular runs to prepare for the November 2013 event. As is often the case, Joey learned a lot about what proper training for a long-haul endurance race should (and shouldn’t!) look like during that first Ragnar Relay.
“I thought I had trained properly for it, but living in LA I ran on flats and around the beaches, but when you go to Vegas, there is actually elevation and hills! On top of that, in a Ragnar, not only do you run say, in the morning, but you essentially run again 12 hours later. My legs were not used to running the hills and I also wasn’t used to not having proper recovery time! By the time I had finished my three legs, I had run about 15 miles (24km), and, well, let’s just say I could hardly walk and couldn’t even imagine crawling up the stairs! That was a bit of a wake-up call in regards to what I needed to do to be a better runner and a better athlete.”
Despite the fact that Ragnar was much more challenging than Joey had imagined, he did not let it discourage him. Instead, he used it as motivation to train harder and with more direction, and he eventually did his first Tough Mudder in August of 2014.
In the six years since that first Ragnar Relay, Joey has collected an impressive roster of races under his belt. He has run multiple long distance races, which includes a marathon, 24 hour endurance races, and multiple Ragnar Relays, and has done so many Tough Mudders that he has now been named an ambassador for the organization. For Joey, obstacle course racing is that perfect combination of testing both his strength and endurance, not to mention his mental grit and tenacity.
“Over the last year I have become an ambassador for Tough Mudder, so I promote the brand and also try and get newbies or newcomers to come and run races with me or run a race in their local venues, whether it’s a 5k or a classic 8 miler.”
Though he is very competitive with himself, Joey firmly believes that obstacle course and endurance racing is about the community and supporting one another, not winning or setting records.
“The (obstacle course racing) scene itself has become a lot more competitive. For example, Spartan has a lot of elite athletes and races where people are running for sponsors and prize money. Tough Mudder at one point was doing all of that with their longer endurance races, but the whole mantra of Tough Mudder was supposed to be about promoting teamwork and camaraderie, that was part of the pledge that everyone says before they even go out on the course. Everyone is your teammate, even if you start off alone you will eventually meet people along the course and at obstacles and you help each other out.”
Feeling like Tough Mudder had strayed from that original purpose, Joey and some friends decided to create a challenge that would help restore the core value of teamwork and togetherness to Tough Mudder called the Assist100mudders Campaign.
The concept is that at each Tough Mudder they participate in, they choose one obstacle to stop at and help 100 other people through that obstacle before moving on and finishing their own race. All they ask in return is that you pay it forward and help someone else at the next obstacle.
In classic runner fashion, Tough Mudder athletes have embraced this movement whole-heartedly.
“Going into our third year already, we’ve always challenged other tough mudder participants, whether they’re part of the community or not, even if they are brand new to it, why don’t you just go to an obstacle, help 100 mudders, you can tell us whether you did it or not, and we’ll give you a patch. Our patches are a circle with whatever obstacle we decided to design on it for that year. It’s just to show that not only were they out on the course earning their finisher medal, they were also helping others achieve theirs.”
It’s this desire to encourage others to get out there, run, and have fun, coupled with his positive attitude and easy going nature, that made Joey a natural fit for Midnight Runners.
He first discovered the group through now fellow captain Kristine, who he had met through another run group they were both in on Wednesday mornings.
“I was already participating with that group on Wednesday mornings and just looking for another group to get some more training in at nighttime. Kristine said why don’t you just join Midnight Runners.”
Having nothing to lose, he went to try his first MR bootcamp. He enjoyed it so much, he decided to go again, and has been heading out to Venice Beach every Wednesday night since. It wasn’t long before Joey was asked to be a captain.
Though he loves the opportunity to fit in even more training sessions, it’s the social side of MR and the group’s energetic, positive, and inclusive atmosphere that sets it apart from the rest.
“There are also lots of people who don’t participate in other run groups in LA because training is intense and very performance focused. The MR are not that kind of group! MR promotes consistency, community, and fun, not just exercising and getting fitter. To have a group like that out there is a lot more beneficial and welcoming for people of all types of athletic levels.”
At first, Joey was unsure about committing to be a captain. Between being on the road often for Tough Mudder and the many personal running goals he has for this year, he wasn’t certain if taking on that leadership role was the right move. It turned out to be a great decision and he is using the positive energy from the other captains and members to keep him on track in his training for The World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24 hour obstacle course race, this November. This will be Joey’s 3rd time running it, and this year he is hoping to run 75 miles (120km) over the duration of the event. Not only will he be doing plenty of running in the lead-up to this event, but he will also spend a significant amount of time at the climbing gym to work on his strength and mobility.
Joey is incredibly grateful to be consistently surrounded by a community of uplifting and like-minded people who both believe in him and help him to believe in himself.
“I always tell others Midnight Runners is not about how fast or strong you are, it’s about whether you are determined to be a better version of yourself than you are today. There’s no short of support, especially from the captains, to encourage you to grow and improve. We will welcome you to the family, introduce you to others, workout with you, and have a conversation over a beer with you afterwards.”
Whether you are deciding whether or not to join Midnight Runners, do your first Tough Mudder, or both, Joey says you just have to go for it. Even if you are nervous, doing something that you haven’t done before and joining such an enriching community will help you to grow in ways you never thought you could.
“It’s kind of like you’re jumping to the great beyond, sometimes you just have to live a little. Who knows, maybe it will actually be fun?”