Originally hailing from England, US-based Kai Madden has repeatedly gone to great lengths for the bears by organizing fundraisers and events. Recently the devoted Animals Asia supporter took on the seemingly impossible challenge of running the infamous Tough Mudder obstacle course – dressed in a moon bear suit.
After turning heads for months as he trained in full costume on the streets of Tarrytown, New York, on October 13th Kai headed out to New Jersey to crawl, swim, and leap over fire for the bears. He had a huge amount of support from team members Jude Murphy, Kate Rodd, and Marisa Calin and cheering section Laura Godwin, Alice Rodd, and Jean and John Signore. Splice Photography was also there to document the event. To watch the official video, please click here.
Here’s Kai’s obstacle-by-obstacle account of his journey through the Tough Mudder, dressed as a bear:
"This consists of crawling about 20 yards through muddy water and dangling electric wires. I wasn’t entirely sure how this was going to work in the bear costume but the head just about fit under the wires. Unable to look ahead and see where I was going, I just pointed myself in the direction of my team mates on the other side and went for it. I got shocked a few times but I think the bear costume definitely helped absorb some of it."
Kiss of Mud
"Pretty much the same as the electric eel with barbed wire instead of electric shocks. Got the head caught a couple of times, but at least it wasn’t my head."
"The islands were 10 inflatable rafts strung together across a lake. The objective is to get from one side to the other without falling in the water. At this point I wasn’t even sure what would happen if I fell in the water. Would I float, or sink to the bottom? With my team members in the water ready to save me if necessary, I got on the first raft. After getting the bear costume a bit wet, I suddenly became very aware of how heavy it was getting, and by the time I reached the 3rd raft, I could do little more than flop on my face onto the next one. By raft number nine, I was completely exhausted and slid off the raft into the soothing cold water. The good news was that I didn’t sink, and in fact, I was quite buoyant. My trusty team got me to dry land and helped wring some of the water out of the costume. The snout held a lot of water and it became routine to have someone squeeze my nose whenever we got wet."
"This is a 50 yard long water filled trench with a cage on top. There are only a few inches between the cage and the water. Seemed dangerous to keep the bear head on for this one, but it was part of the challenge to wear it as much as possible. So I got in one end, went under the cage and although the head filled up with water, I had just enough breathing room to get to the other side without too much trouble."
"This one is monkey bars that go up at an angle, and then halfway across go down again. Cold muddy water waiting for you if you fall. I have difficulty with this obstacle in a pair of shorts, never mind a bear costume. I was pleased I made it about 6 bars across though before I took a swim. My teammate Marisa almost made it, about 2 from the end. Some more nose squeezing necessary after this one."
Walk the Plank
"A 20ft drop into a muddy pool. I was tempted to do it with the bear head on as it would have made a great picture. However, the words of my mother, my wife, and Jill were ringing still; “Don’t do anything stupid”. Besides, the Tough Mudder staff made me remove it, and probably just as well. So the bear head went first, and I followed it over the edge shortly after."
"Another favorite of mine. About 7 miles in and you’re faced with a dumpster filled with ice water. Climb in one end, and get out the other. Oh, and there’s a barrier in the middle so you have to put your head under the ice water to get across. I tried to get under the barrier with the bear head on but it wasn’t happening. So over it went, and I retrieved it on the other side. When your head is under the water it feels like it’s going to explode, but before you know it someone’s helping you get out the other side. I perked up a bit after this one. It’s very invigorating if nothing else."
"My team mate Jude gave a very soggy bear a piggy back for about 100 yards. Must have felt like 500."
"Run as fast as you can and leap over fire into a muddy pool. I was advised by the Tough Mudder staff to not let my fur catch fire, which was very helpful."
"I thought that getting the costume wet was bad enough. I had no idea what I was in for when it got muddy. In this one you have to wade through the mud and climb over several mud walls. It’s not actually a mile, but it sure felt like it. Somehow, the mud got into the lining of the costume and just picking up my arms and feet was near impossible. I don’t know how, but I made it through. We spent the next 10 minutes bailing mud out of the various parts of my costume. Not my finest hour."
"I could have done without this one. Weighed down with wet mud, we each had to take a large tire and walk up and down the race track with it."
"By this point, I wasn’t sure if I had it in me anymore. But I just thought of the bears and the suffering that they experience. This was two 10 foot walls with some smaller ones in between. If it wasn’t for the help of my team and fellow mudders, I would have never made it over the first wall. I think I had about five people under me pushing me up. When I got to the top, I paused to catch my breath and the crowd was cheering for the bear. It was a great moment that I’ll never forget, and it gave me the will to keep going. At which point I slid down the other side and got a nice coating of mulch as I fell over."
"My top speed at this point was about 0.5 mph. Not nearly enough to launch myself up a skateboard ramp. Nevertheless I gave it a go and surprisingly I nearly made it. The crowd was fantastic, chanting “Bear, Bear, Bear…” whenever I would try. After about 5 attempts with the bear head on, I took it off and made it up. Would have loved to have done it with the head on, but it was really heavy by this time, and I couldn’t see a thing. Plus after 5 attempts, I had made a nice muddy slick on the ramp with my face, which didn’t help. Next time though."
"Only another series of electric shocks stood between the bear and the finish line. After an initial stumble, he ran right through the wires, and over a mud wall to victory. I remember that there were people crawling around on the floor and ordinarily I would have helped them, but I was running on empty.
"Those last few steps to the finish line were all I had in me and I found that growling loudly like a bear helped me get one foot in front of the other. 11 miles and 6 hours later, my team and I had done it. We were handed a well-deserved beer and we celebrated an epic day. I think we raised a lot of awareness for moon bears that day, and I’m hoping to repeat the feat next year."
A massive congratulations and a huge thank you to Kai for toughing out the Tough Mudder on behalf of the bears! Only 78% of entrants complete each course and Kai, in his bear suit, was one of them.