For this interview we welcome Darren Hogwood into the spotlight. Darren [aka the Gandalf of Mudstacle] is well known in the community for his selflessness and yet we see a very different side of him at The Unknown. For the first event in 2015 he didn't even intended to sign up, but was given a free place for being a hero at a Judgement Day event. Now he can't seem to break himself away from it!

If you'd like to know what The Unknown is, check out this video first.

Are you looking forward to the Unknown, or are you dreading it?

Both. It's a bit like having a dental appointment on Christmas Day. For the most part I am right up for it and if it was this weekend I would be delighted. The fact that I've not completed either of the two that I've attempted and the thought of it becoming zero for three weighs a little heavy, but the key for me is turning that around to motivation.

How has your training been going?

My head is in a good neutral place. Not cocky, not self doubting. I know I could have done more but my Work/Family/Training time has to be in balance. One thing that is important for a man of my age is to pick your fights and not try to be on it all the time. I had a three month intense training period at the beginning of the year then a wee slump but am building towards September/October very nicely.

Physically I am built for stubborn resistance. I think the fact that I have had, at best, average ability in just about every sport or leisure pastime I have ever enjoyed actually helps, because it teaches you that a little bit of extra effort goes a long way and that what you think is your limit, isn't.

Why does the Unknown mean so much to you?

Because I am, for the most part, a happy go lucky individual with a safe cosseted life. The Unknown provides a hostile, testing and uncomfortable place for me to test my mettle and asks questions of me that no other event on the calendar ever could. But ultimately I get to do it and ask those questions in a safe environment with friends.

The kinship is also a huge part of it for me and seeing how people I know and love perform under pressure. I find it fascinating.

Describe your performances at the Unknown over the last two years?

Zero for two. Lessons learnt. Sorry that is all you are getting for this question. The only performance that is important is the next one. I promise you chapter and verse on that one.

Tell us about the bonds that you’ve made with other people thanks to the Unknown?

It is actually hard to convey, hence the use of the phrase "those that know, know".

I like to think that fellow Numbers and Staff know that my very heart and soul goes into not only my weekend but every other person there. I have a lot of new friends who might struggle to know my name on a list but would instantly know me as number 19.

Then I have an inner few who can literally call on me for anything and vice versa. They know who they are.

Finally it's having a ready made list of people who share your inner crazy. Two examples I can think of are a weighted walk on the Fan Dance route between Christmas and New Year planned and executed with 2 days notice and also frequent last minute decisions to wear boiler suits or carry signature TU items on OCRs. All done with a sense of joy that only TU participants understand.

You spoke on last year’s video about how you take on a different personality at the Unknown to every other event you do, why do you think this is?

TU is such a different environment to what I am used to and the character and personality traits that I exhibit in daily life can be counter intuitive to the environment created by a TU weekend for example:

1) I have a smart mouth and a liking for the last word. Not a good idea on TU where you are a number, Staff can make life difficult for you and, more importantly, your fellow numbers. When I take on my #19 persona I stare ahead, button my lip and am respectful to staff, straight to the point and nothing else.

2) My natural inclination is to have fun, use humour and smile as much as possible. I am set up for a sunny disposition which makes me an open book. . #19 laughs on the inside and is economical with his words. He also shouts more than I do.

3) I always seek to be part of collaboration and co-operation and like to be the centre of things or at least near it. But on TU the last thing I want to be is the centre of attention. #19 likes to help those helping themselves and takes great pride and solace from the co-operation given to others in the past BUT realises that if I am left to my own devices I do it to excess and to my detriment.

4) Staff and organisers are often good valued friends of mine so #19 puts an air gap in that allows the weekend to play out and things to be said and done that can be 'left at the circle' for the rest of the year if that makes sense? I actually think sometimes it's hurting Staff more to put us through it without showing us support than it is for a number to go through it. I don't think I could be Staff.

What are your thoughts on Staff K saying in an interview with us that 80% will fail this year? Does this put you off?

It reminds me that the game is afoot and to stay switched on.  It doesn't change my mindset and preparation in the least, the only way it could would be a negative one, and finally, perhaps most importantly it gave #19 a semi.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yeah bring your soft filters this year and work on the editing. You made me look like an old wrinkly burst bag of Sh*t on last years film. #19 says his best side is his backside so try to keep up.

Darren rolling

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