The body can accomplish amazing things. But there’s really only one thing that can push it to function at its highest level, and that’s the mind.
Together, the things that the mind and body can accomplish are almost limitless.
Jody Schoffstall has explored the symbiotic relationship that exists between the body and the mind, through an ultra-competition known as “World’s Toughest Mudder.” Through the use of his mind, the Myerstown resident has taken his body to a level of fitness it’s never been before – and one to which few in the world have attained.
“The biggest thing to me is how incredible God has made our bodies, and if you train and work hard, what you’re able to accomplish,” said Schoffstall. “I’m a firm believer that God has created our minds to do amazing thing. We can accomplish things we don’t believe are possible.
“When we combine our minds and bodies, we can go to places we didn’t think were possible,” continued Schoffstall. “It’s kind of a soul-searching thing. It’s about who you are.”
It was through that soulful collaboration between mind and body that Schoffstall successfully competed in the 2019 World’s Toughest Mudder event near Atlanta, Georgia Nov. 16-17. World’s Toughest Mudder is a grueling 24-hour competition which challenges a person’s strength, endurance and will.
Through running, walking, maneuvering around and through challenging obstacles and resting, Schoffstall completed 15 circuits of the five-mile course – or 75 miles – during a continuous 24-hour period, from noon on Saturday through noon on Sunday. The course is off terrain and winds through open fields and wooded areas, much of which is watered down to create a muddy track.
“That’s part of the appeal, being willing to do something that most people aren’t,” said Schoffstall, 39. “I think most people like to challenge themselves. It breaks up the monotony of normal living. You go to work. You eat. You go to sleep.
“Everybody tries to put something in their lives to challenge themselves,” added Schoffstall. “Whatever’s your passion. If you don’t ever do that, your life stagnates. It’s a fear of normalcy. There is no such thing as a normal person. I’m blown away by how God has made everyone unique.”
By completing 75 miles, Schoffstall finished 31st out of 788 individual competitors at World’s Toughest Mudder. He also came in tenth in his age group.
Not bad for his initial attempt at a 24-hour event like World’s Toughest Mudder.
“I was extremely pleased with that,” said Schoffstall. “Some of the competitors were elite athletes who are professionals. I hit my ultimate goal of 75 miles, which was also a milestone. There are very few people at that level. I sat down and calculated lap times and planned out how fast my times should be.
“They throw unexpected things in there (on the course), so you don’t know what is coming,” Schoffstall added. “There’s a crazy amount of mud. You’re in mud for 24 hours. This is not just a running event. There’s also a strength aspect of it, and some things based on people’s fears. They try to exploit them.”
Training for 24-hour events is an ordeal itself.
Schoffstall’s preparation for the event included a personal trainer, some 10 months of regimented training and even a three-week tapering period directly prior to it. It also took about a month for his body to recover from World’s Toughest Mudder.
“You’re eating a lot of foods during the event, because you’re burning a lot of calories,” said Schoffstall. “It’s a lot of comfort foods like Oreos, bacon, peanut butter and jelly and endurance drinks. You’re looking for high calories, things you shouldn’t be eating, but you need to burn calories quickly. I ate every lap, sometimes on the run or stopped, and when I was stopped that was my break.
“The leaders are virtually running all race,” added Schoffstall. “I ran down hills and walked fast up hills. There’s no way I can run for 24 hours. The biggest thing you can do is listen to what your body tells you, and do it for 24 hours. You either go faster, go slower or go the same, but there’s no stopping. I was not stopping, unless my body had a significant injury.”
To compete as successfully as Schoffstall did, the motivation must come from within. There were few outside forces moving him, except maybe his connection with a higher power.
“The why is the biggest question, and one of the hardest to answer,” said Schoffstall. “It’s to challenge yourself to see if you can do it. One my fascinations is to see what the body can do. I did discover something about my body. I’m not a distance runner. Before I started training, I didn’t enjoy distance running. People who are getting to 75 miles in these things are faster than me in marathons.
“This isn’t a fast event,” continued Schoffstall. “You’ve just got to keep moving. It’s very much a mindset. The power of positive thinking is what keeps you going. If you go to a dark place, your body shuts down. But afterwards, when I tell my body to shut down, it just stops. This has been a long process for me. You don’t just decide you’re going to do a 24-hour event and go do it.”
During his high school days at Northern Lebanon, Schoffstall was a student-athlete who competed in track and field for the Vikings. But nothing he did as a pole vaulter could have prepared him for World’s Toughest Mudder.
“The simple answer is ‘yes, I’m in the best shape of my life,” said Schoffstall. “But it depends on how you define being in shape. This is not a young man’s event. I don’t think younger people have the mental toughness to do it. As you get older, your body changes and you gain endurance.
“The finish is definitely an accomplishment, an achievement,” added Schoffstall. “The training end of this was extreme – five out of seven days a week, and they were hard workouts. We made sacrifices to get there, which is why it’s going to be a big decision for us to do it again.”
While his pre-event training changed his mind and body, it also took a toll on those around him. Schoffstall couldn’t have done it without the support of his wife Rachael and his family.
“Before I decided to do this, my wife and I agreed we weren’t going to make a decision about next year until after the holidays,” said Schoffstall. “Primarily, just to give us a break. I’m still recovering, and we’re five weeks out. This is not a three-month training. It’s a year-long training event, in order to do it successfully, at my level. There’s a three-week taper ahead of the event. That gives you an idea of how much goes into it before the race. One of the critical things with ultra-training is rest.”
But Schoffstall has so much more to learn about himself.
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