2018 TOUGH MUDDER World Champion Hunter McIntyre
From rehab to OCR champion, really? Yes, though of course, Hunter was not an overnight success any more than any other champion at their sport. "Timing and circumstances," McIntyre answered in a recent interview when asked how he came to the sport of OCR. Hunter was two years out of college with no clear goal in mind. He was also not long out of rehab for drug and alcohol issues.
This interview is featured in the November/December 2018 issue of OnFitness - Buy a copy today.
Hunter, the youngest of a family of four boys, was diagnosed with severe ADD as a kid and was medicated with Ritalin, Adderall, Dexedrine, you name it, all to control his uncontrollable energy. As Hunter says of himself, "I only knew one approach to anything – full blast.” The family tried everything, including a brief, unsuccessful stint at a military school. Nothing worked. That was the official picture of Hunter, but his brother Garrett said the ADD diagnosis was a pretty poor picture of him at the time. “Hunter is a really, really focused person, incredibly intelligent, super at math; he just doesn’t like to sit still.” So he did not do well in the traditional school setting. Sound like anyone you know?
At age 14 he got into drugs and alcohol, which gave him some comfort, but what followed was pretty much a downward spiral. More problems at school, resulting in multiple suspensions, scrapes with law enforcement, and the brief stay at a military school in West Virginia. Nothing worked, and when a senior year prank went wrong, his parents shipped him to Montana to an outpatient facility in hopes the clean air would shape him up. Unfortunately, this did not work either, and he ended up in the stricter environment of rehab incarceration in both Nevada and New Mexico.
A logging job in Montana bulked him up, but he was still on drugs. It was on to California and a Malibu lifestyle of partying – alcohol, mushrooms, acid, girls galore, during which he managed to get some modeling gigs with Abercrombie, J. Crew and the like.
So what changed? After a booze-soaked night of partying with his Malibu pals, during which they decided on a whim to get up the next morning and compete in this local Spartan Race in November of 2012, Hunter was the only one who made it out of bed. Hungover, he downed a few beers, went to the event and came in ninth overall. He learned that he was only eight minutes behind the Spartan world champ at that time, Hobie Call, a 2:16 marathoner.
Just like that, this was Hunter McIntyre’s wake up call. “I was all in from that point on,” he says. He called his parents and said he was not coming home and quitting college. He quit the party scene, left those friends behind and set about learning all he could about this obstacle course racing sport. At 6’ 2”, he had the size, and as he began to train seriously for the fiendish combination of activities that comprises OCR, he put together the rest of the package. And he had speed! Not often do all of these advantages combine in one person, but this is Hunter McIntyre.
If you are familiar with the sport of OCR, whether Spartan Race, Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder or other series, you know it involves running, mud pits, greased walls, lifting heavy objects, maybe a javelin throw, a fire pit and throw in some hilly terrain – the perfect combination of events that combine speed and agility with heavy lifting and killer endurance. Hunter, known as the “Sheriff,” went on to master the sport. He did his research, beginning with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book The Encyclopedia of Body Building, and put on the bulk he needed. “There is a lot we don’t know as we go out on a race but tie your shoes on tight and don't fall over in the mud," Hunter said in a recent interview. The challenge clearly turns McIntyre on, and he is the 2018 Tough Mudder World Champion.
So how does he do it? Matt Kempson, a friend of five years, who met Hunter through the sport of OCR, says he thinks his friend has always been the same person; it has just "taken him a while to find a more positive and impactful way to express himself. He is still the same trash-talking, macho man self, but now he uses that reputation to inspire others to take life's challenges head-on and be their own "sheriff." Which bring up another aspect of McIntyre's personality. “I like to have a community with my competitors,” he adds, saying he is friends with most in his sport “except for a couple of jerks.”
“Hunter is not nearly as one-dimensional as many endurance athletes you meet,” says Kempson. “A typical training day for Hunter might include cliff jumping, backyard paintball matches, high stakes rock-paper-scissor, and some form of skinny dipping.” Oh, and he reads a book a week.
Tyler Patterson met Hunter in college, where in addition to partying big time, Hunter was a recruit to the wrestling team, and Patterson played rugby. Patterson described his friend as someone you either loved or hated, but "absolutely someone people knew. He hits your life with 100% interest in who you are and getting to know where your direction is, which to many is too direct an approach, often pushing them away." But they kept in touch over the years after college, as both had a real passion for physical fitness.
And here we are today. Hunter lifts four hours a day and is the top athlete in the sport of OCR, with a string of gold medals behind him. Interestingly, he puts these golds in his gym, which is tricked out to inspire him, with all the equipment he needs to be a professional. But in his room, he places what he considers his "failures," and this inspires him to keep going.
Over the past few years Hunter has had many top sponsors, including Reebok, but today he is racing for Tough Mudder, doing at least one event each month. In addition to his workouts, he travels to his sponsors to do films, interviews and other odds and ends for them. Hunter travels all over the country to compete. He does compete in other countries, but most of the races are in this country because that's where the money is. He will race again this fall.
McIntyre says he will probably retire around age 35, so he has several strong years ahead to compete. Most of the top OCR competitors, like Hobie Call, are in their mid to late 30s; Hunter is 29. Hunter benefits professionally from studying others in his sport to see what makes them great. He tells other would-be and up-and-coming competitors to find that one thing that turns them on and research as much as they can about it, and not to try and do a bunch of stuff. "Do this one thing," advises Hunter, who has not been beaten at the short course events in three years. As Hunter says, he is “all in!”
Interview by Sherry Ballou Hanson