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Madera grad named “toughest”

Courtesy of Kelsee Montagna

Madera High School graduate Christian Brown-Johnson proudly shows off his 100-mile bib after running 100 miles in 24 hours at last month’s World’s Toughest Mudder event in Laughlin. He is the ninth person in the world to reach that milestone.


Two years ago, Madera graduate Christian Brown-Johnson appeared on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.

After appearing on the show and participating in the event, Brown-Johnson found another passion — Tough Mudder events.

“I’ve been running Tough Mudders since 2013,” he said. “They have a series of events. They have a normal tough mudder you can run, which is an 8-10 mile course with 20-plus obstacles. I started running those about eight years ago. After two years, I decided to sign up for the World’s Toughest Mudder. My first race run was in 2015 in Las Vegas. It’s a 24-hour obstacle course race with an hour-and-a-half buffer. It’s a five-mile lap with 20 obstacles.”

However, this year, Brown-Johnson, a 2012 MHS graduate, a Coyote football player and golfer and a 2016 Fresno State graduate, became the ninth person in the history of the event to run 100 miles in a 24 hour period during the World’s Toughest Mudder. Not only that, he placed first his age group and was fifth overall in the event held in November in Laughlin.

“My first one was in 2015 and I’ve done it every year since then,” he said. “Obviously, last year, there wasn’t any events. I did three in Las Vegas and two years in Atlanta. The furthest I had gone was in 2019 and did 80 miles. I had a goal of 75-miles that year. Once you get 50 miles, you get a brown bib. If you hit 75 miles, you get a silver bib. And, 100 is gold. You get that gold bib and an orange jacket as a reward. Over the years of running these, I’ve built myself into an endurance athlete. I’ve gotten into triathlons. I’ve done around 50-plus Tough Mudder events in the past eight years between the regular events. They also have 12-hour races. I did two of those this year, one in Poconos, Pennsylvania and another in Seattle. We did a four-man team and we won both of them.”

This year, Brown-Johnson had a goal of running 100 miles over a 24-hour period. He hired a personal trainer to help him get to that goal.

“I already had a goal of doing 100 miles this year,” he said. “I completely changed up my training. My coach is a pro Ironman coach out of Texxas. I’ve been doing a lot of Ironman training because that’s something else I’m stepping into. I kind of molded her to upping my running, but also keeping my cycling and swimming.”

Heading into the event in November, Tough Mudder put out an elite list of runners and Brown-Johnson’s name was on that list.

“There were some names I looked up to,” he said. “My first mudder, I did 50 miles and saw these guys pass me lap after lap thinking how was that possible. I had this goal of 100 miles and got my body and mind ready. I wanted it to be perfect. I had that motivation of being elite. I have to show up and do something. I was the guy doing the lapping. I know all of these people in the community. It’s nice when you’re running out there and they acknowledge me and say they will see me again when I pass them again.”

Although most of the running was done alone, Brown-Johnson also runs with a team and all of his teammates were at the event helping each other achieve success.

“One of the members did 100 miles in 2019 and the other two guys are astounding athletes, as well,” he said. “We all pushed each other this year to follow our goals. Once we were at the event, we all had a pit stop together. It was real good camaraderie. My buddy and I did a solo and the other did a two-man team. We each hit 100 miles. The other guys that teamed took first place and broke the record for mileage. I had a solid group this year.”

On top of achieving his goal of running 100 miles in 24 hours, he also placed first in his age group and was one of the first 10 people to reach 100 miles.

“My two biggest goals in this race was to get 100 miles and there were only six people in the world to get 100 miles in a World’s Toughest Mudder event,” he said. “I wanted to be the first 10. There were a few that did 100 miles at this event, which had never done before. Some were repeats so I was the ninth person to reach 100 miles.”

After achieving his goal, he was so overwhelmed that the few hours after the finish were a blur.

“It’s been surreal,” he said. “Before the event, I had visions of crossing the finish line and breaking down in emotions. I crossed that line and my girlfriend, Kelsee Montagna (Also a Madera High School alum), my mom, my brother, my uncle and brother were all there. For them to see me hit 100 miles was incredible. The CEO of the Toughest Mudder was there and put the 100-mile bib on me. He congratulated me. I had to hold back tears for a while. I wanted to let it out, but there was so much going on and everyone around me. It all worked out perfectly. My body held up pretty well.”

Brown-Johnson said that it will take a few weeks for his body to fully recover, but is looking to his next event.

“I had a little head cold from the event,” he said. “My legs are swollen. Full recovery will be about three weeks. I’ll be back moving around soon. I’ll do a 30-minute cycle on the stationary bike to get my legs moving. To be fully back to normal will be about two-three weeks.”

For Brown-Johnson everything went right for him. From his pit stops during the race to even his mentality during the run, everything was positive.

“When I was finishing up a lap, my pit crew would be along the fence asking me what I wanted,” he said. “They would hand me a gel, pickle juice shots. Then, I started eating white rice covered in maple syrup, some overnight oats. I had a plethora of quick foods I could eat. You can rest if you want. For 100 miles, I never once sat down. Your pit crew members can follow you around the course. They can’t help you, but they can run and talk with you. My cousin was out there asking me what I needed at the pit. I let him know so they had things ready. My longest pit stop was about two-and-a-half minutes.

“A couple of these mudders, I’ve struggled to keep it together and be positive. This year, it was incredible. I surprised myself. I never had a moment where I doubted that I would make it. I never got over emotional. Usually, later on in an event like this, I would have these thoughts in my head. I kept telling myself this is exactly where I need to be and doing exactly what I need to be doing. This is awesome and I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to cross that finish line with 100 miles.”

Since he achieved his goal, he is getting ready to do a 100-mile run in the snow in the mountains of Wyoming, in addition to triathlons, including an Ironman triathlon.

“My next event will be the Drift 100, which is a 100-mile snow race in Wyoming,” he said. “I’ve never trekked 100 miles in the snow. It’s a self-supported race in the snow so I have to pull a sled behind me with my gear. They have the course marked out and you go. One of my teammates did it at the beginning of the year and told me to try it. That’s going to be the second week of March.”

As for American Ninja Warrior, he said the door isn’t closed, yet.

“I’ve contemplated doing Ninja Warrior again. I might send them another video when they open auditions again,” he said.


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