Stefanie Bishop overcomes obstacles, wins world title

Stefanie Bishop ’04 won the 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder championship.
Stefanie Bishop ’04 won the 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder championship.
Stefanie Bishop ’04 won the 2016 World’s Toughest Mudder championship.

Stefanie Bishop ’04 is the World’s Toughest Mudder. That’s not Brooklyn-ese for saying she’s a mom you don’t want to mess with — it’s an actual championship in one of the newest and fastest-growing endurance sports.

Featuring mud pits, walls, barbed wire, electric shocks and other obstacles that the word “insane” doesn’t seem adequate for, the Tough Mudder course is to be feared and respected. Bishop earned the 2016 title by outlasting her competition and completing a five-mile obstacle loop 17 times in 24 hours.

“I wanted to do this back in 2011, but I was busy with life and earning another degree,” Bishop says. “When 2015 came, I got Lyme disease and couldn’t train for six weeks. Then I went back to training, injured my foot and couldn’t run for four months.”

After graduating from Binghamton, she started running and entering triathlons to feed the competitive beast. Wanting to do something “off road,” she found her way to more extreme events. She’s a three-time winner (once outright, twice in the female division) of the Death Race in Vermont, an event with no set distance or time limit.

“At the Death Races, I learned that I excelled more once we got 12 hours in,” she says. “My longest one was 65 hours! I’ve just always liked adventures and doing things people told me I couldn’t do.”

She balances her work in finance with traveling to races, training and preparing to defend her World’s Toughest Mudder title this fall.

“You need to maintain a lot of grip strength. I drive to the mountains and do vertical training. On a lot of these races, I need mountain legs. I like to keep my body guessing, so I put myself through random movements, so I can be versatile.”

As mud and obstacle races increasingly find favor with thrill-seekers looking for more than the average road race, Bishop encourages these people to give them a try, but to refrain from shifting into full warrior mode.

“You don’t need super-fancy equipment,” she says. “Just go to a park or a playground. You can find fitness anywhere. Build up your running slowly. Do a little at a time, and don’t try to go from zero to hero.”

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